Feature Story

Leonidas Nzigiyimpa, a conservation champion in Burundi, has devoted his life to protecting his fragile country’s natural wealth. Driven by a passion for change, he led the rehabilitation of forests, the protection of chimpanzees and rare species, and the empowerment of indigenous communities adjacent to the Bururi forest reserve. It is for these efforts that Leonidas is a recipient of this year’s National GeographicBuffett Awards for Leadership in Conservation.

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With over 20 million of visitors per year, the exceptionally well-preserved Southeast Asian trading port city of Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is left with the gargantuan task of disposing of 27,000 tons of solid waste per year.

In 2016 alone, over 21 million tourists visited the city of 120,000, or 175 tourists per resident annually. The booming tourism industry produces approximately 75 tonnes of solid waste per day. Problems relating to insufficient collection and improper disposal of this waste had been festering for years.

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It’s illegal to cut down mangroves to make charcoal in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Everybody knows it.

The problem is, in a country where more than 4.6 million children are acutely malnourished and over 90 percent of people don’t have enough food to eat, many people simply don’t feel they have a choice in the matter.

Cutting down mangroves means money or light or heat for cooking. Cutting down mangroves means survival.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

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Takorayili, a village in the Northern region of Ghana, is sprinkled with bare, scorched hills and rocky arid terrains. The soil is not able to retain rain water. It is not fertile enough to sustain the growth of plants. As the rain water runs off downhill and drains into channels that dry up as quickly as they are filled, it washes away the top soil and its nutrients.

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Coastal fisheries are a primary source of livelihood and an important source of protein for many coastal communities in Viet Nam.  However, in a number of provinces in the early 2000s,competition over resources, compounded by environmental degradation, led to near-depletion of some higher-value fish species.y.  As a result, many small-scale fishers were forced to abandon their operations seeking other sources of livelihood. 

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For more than two decades, Steward Siapalala was known for poaching wild animals in the Kafue National Park, one of Zambia’s embattled reserves and the fifth largest National Park in the world.

"I had a killer instinct... I could shoot down a buffalo with just one bullet,” he says, pointing at a mock target with an imaginary rifle.

Farming had been Siapalala’s main livelihood, but poor yields due to unsustainable agricultural practices and climate change pushed him into poaching.

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The act of drinking tea is a key part of many of Vietnam’s social rituals and interactions. As a commodity, tea is also one of the country’s most important exports. But in recent years, unpredictable, heavy downpours and overuse of agrochemicals have led to poor quality crops, low yields and a decline in the reputation of Vietnamese tea within the global export market.

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In 2017, a serious drought across the Horn of Africa threatened water security, ruined crops, and worsened chronic hunger in Kenya, Somalia, and South Sudan.

Even Africa’s breadbasket – Uganda – wasn’t spared; the country’s lush pastureland and verdant fields were replaced with browned fields and dry red clay, leaving over nine million Ugandans in need of food aid.

Dry riverbed.

The drought underscored the urgent need to bolster resilience and improve lives and livelihoods.

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“Rain has become my enemy. When it rains, my heart sinks,” says Jane, an entrepreneur who runs a village grocery shop in the Isingiro District of Western Uganda.

Over the years the forests in the Isingiro area have been transformed into farmland. This has resulted in the land failing to retain water during heavy downpours causing floods damaging homes, crops and businesses, including Jane’s. It has also led to nutrient runoff from the soil, contributing to water pollution. Furthermore, water from wetlands is no longer clean for human or livestock consumption.

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