Congratulations to the 13 winners of the 2020 Climatelinks Photo Contest!
This year’s theme, “Healthy Forests for a Healthy Future,” focuses on nature-based solutions to climate change such as active reforestation, plantations, agroforestry, and natural regeneration. The winning photos tell the stories of individual and community change agents for sustainable development, forest protection, and a climate-secure future.
This year’s winning submissions will be featured in Climatelinks communications, highlighted on the website’s topic pages, and showcased in the Climatelinks photo gallery.
Do you have a photo that you would like to add to the photo gallery? You can submit your photos for consideration at any time.
Conserving Mangrove Forests in Guatemala
Submitter: Danilo Valladares
Project: USAID Biodiversity Project
People living in coastal zones, like the woman and child pictured, depend on mangrove forests for their livelihoods and household needs. Mangroves protect nursery habitats for freshwater and marine species, provide a source of income from tourism, and supply timber for construction. Mangroves also store more carbon per unit area than any other major forest type in Guatemala — equivalent to nearly 900 tons per hectare. However, mangroves currently occupy less than 30 percent of their original extent nationally and declined by more than 25 percent between 2010 and 2016. During the dry season, mangroves are susceptible to fire from illegal land clearing, while they are permanently threatened by sugar cane plantations and shrimp farms. USAID’s Guatemala Biodiversity project works with the National Council of Protected Areas, local authorities, and rural communities to protect mangrove forests by preventing and controlling forest fires and monitoring forest cover. The project generates weekly monitoring reports on fire status and climatological information that is used to prevent and control fire. They are also helping community members establish guidelines to create a new governance model for a multiple-use protected area.
Credit: Danilo Valladares
Saripakha Multiple Use Water System
Submitter: Bimala Rai Colavito
Project: iDE Nepal
Kamala Magar, a farmer from the disadvantaged indigenous Magar ethnic group in Nepal, is a user of the Saripakha Multiple Use Water System (MUS). The MUS provides piped water from a spring source to 20 families for domestic use and vegetable production. The new system saves several hours of labor a day for women and girls who are traditionally tasked with carrying water. The MUS community management plan includes planting trees and building fences to protect the area around the spring. The new trees stock carbon, while piped water reduces the need to burn wood to purify water, thus reducing greenhouse gases. Montview Church, an organization in Denver, Colorado, supported this MUS and iDE—with support from USAID, DFID, the EU, and others—has developed 500 MUS in Nepal, serving 80,000 people.
Credit: Bimala Rai Colavito
Reforestation and Beekeeping, the Perfect Alliance to Rehabilitate Ecosystems
Photographer: Jorge E. Martínez Santamaría
Project: Artisanal Gold Mining Activity
The 338,000 newly planted acacia trees in El Bagre in Antioquia, Colombia, transform 304 hectares of land that previously resembled desert as a result of illegal gold mining. Acacia trees not only bring life back to eroded soils, but they provide an all-year supply of floral nectar for bees that populate apiaries recently established with 114 families in El Bagre. Not only does apiculture contribute to their incomes—they sold 1.3 tons of honey from their first harvest and expect to raise that number to 6 tons this year—its impact on local ecosystems contrasts strongly with gold mine production that these families previously depended on. The trees also help mitigate climate change and store more than 250 tons of carbon dioxide per hectare. USAID’s Artisanal Gold Mining Activity worked with local communities, the Colombian government and the private sector in the departments of Antioquia and Chocó to rehabilitate 17,000 hectares of degraded mining land, while simultaneously strengthening livelihoods and contributing to the health of the environment.
Credit: Jorge E. Martínez Santamaría
Bosques Sanos, para un Futuro Sano
Submitter: Proyecto Cadenas de Valor de Café
Project: USAID Coffee Value Chains Project
A Guatemalan farmer plants tree seedlings on his coffee farm to reforest and diversify his livelihood. The Feed the Future Guatemala Coffee Value Chains Project in Guatemala’s Western Highlands provides technical assistance to members of poor rural households working in the coffee value chain and horticulture. Through improved soil conservation, agroforestry, agricultural best management practices and coffee processing, farmers sustainably increase the value of harvests from existing fields. They also increase tree cover by increasing trees outside of forests, which reduces the need to harvest timber and wood fuel from forests. The resulting reduced rates of deforestation and forest degradation will help mitigate the contribution of forest carbon to climate change.
Credit: Proyecto Cadenas de Valor de Café
Young Man Heading Home
Photographer: Omar Lucas
Project: USAID Pro-Bosques Activity
This young man from the Indigenous community of Junín Pablo in the region of Ucayali, Peru, makes his way home after a day's work in the forest. Over 450,000 families in the Peruvian Amazon depend on forests for their livelihoods. Many of these communities are seeing their forests lost to illegal logging and the expansion of smallholder farming. As these activities degrade forests and threaten forest biodiversity, they also release carbon from the nearly 7 billion metric tons stored in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest. USAID Pro-Bosques works to advance sustainable forest management by strengthening forest sector governance; promoting the legal timber harvest and increasing forest sector competitiveness, as well as empowering Indigenous communities, like Junín Pablo, through sustainable forest practices that can improve their livelihoods.
Credit: Omar Lucas / USAID Pro-Bosques Activity
Submitter: WFP / Badre Bahaji
Project: USAID Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance and United Nations World Food Programme
USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance is working with the World Food Programme to change the lives of rural communities in Malawi through a range of environment and development interventions. Since 2017, farmers in the Usi village, Machinga District, have planted more than 1,800 trees. These plantings, along with the adoption of natural regeneration practices, have contributed to an 80 percent increase in biomass and forest cover in the catchment area. Meanwhile, farmer adoption of water harvesting measures and production practices raised the groundwater table by 35 cm and increased crop yields by 60 percent from an average of 500 to 800 kilograms. USAID’s sustainable landscapes programs in Malawi have supported community land management plans and the Government of Malawi’s Nationally Determined Contribution and its Forest and Landscape Restoration Strategy.
Credit: WFP / Badre Bahaji
Linking Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Livelihoods in Papua
Submitter: Mohamad Ridlo
Project: USAID LESTARI
“Mangrove Forest Guardians” help protect the extensive lowland swamp forests and mangrove ecosystems that surround the Keakwa Village in the Mimika District, the southern part of Indonesia’s Papua province. Mimika mangroves are the most biologically diverse in the world and provide a wealth of natural resources, most notably fish and crabs, for local livelihoods. They also harbor up to 4,680 tons of carbon dioxide per hectare—some of the highest stocks found globally. As these mangroves are facing a significant threat of forest and land use conversion, they are rapidly emitting large amounts of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. USAID’s LESTARI helps conserve these unique ecosystems and enhance livelihood resilience in the Keakwa Village and nearby communities to develop secure, stable, and sustainable livelihoods. LESTARI supports village clusters to develop co-management agreements to improve forest and mangrove management that include mapping, sustainable management of natural resources, and conservation monitoring activities.
Supporting Sustainable Forest Management in Northern Ghana
Photographer: Foster Mensah
Project: SERVIR West Africa
Technical staff of A Rocha-Ghana and a community women’s group member collect field data in the West Gonja District in Northern Ghana to help plan forest restoration activities in areas degraded by charcoal production. This work is part of an effort by the Center for Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Services (CERSGIS) and SERVIR West Africa to help local, regional, and national stakeholders develop a tool based on earth-observation technology to identify and monitor charcoal production sites and survey tree cover density change. The resulting maps serve as a useful advocacy tool for engaging stakeholders and decision-makers at the district, local, and community levels in designing climate change mitigation interventions and addressing behavior change. Charcoal production degrades forests in many African countries, and successful programs to reduce this degradation either by preventing it in the first place or reforesting degraded land can yield valuable lessons for other geographies facing similar challenges.
Agroforestry for Economic Opportunities in Palawan
Submitter: Jessie Cereno for USAID Protect Wildlife Project
Project: USAID Protect Wildlife
A woman from the Quezon municipality of Palawan Province in the Philippines brings home durian tree seedlings to begin her agroforestry venture. Despite having wealth in forest resources, Palawan’s Indigenous communities are often economically impoverished. Without viable options to build economies based on sustainable natural resources use, community members often resort to activities that harm forests, such as wildlife trading, poaching, and extending rice farming into natural areas. These and other unsustainable activities have helped make Palawan province one of the highest emitters of forest carbon emissions in the Philippines, releasing 5.26 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually between 2013 and 2017. USAID Protect Wildlife demonstrates how improved management and zoning of forests and protected areas, in addition to the adoption of nature-based livelihoods, can stimulate economic benefits while restoring forest cover in critical watersheds. By supporting adoption of agroforestry practices over 1,000 hectares, Protect Wildlife will help sequester an estimated 31,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year.
Credit: Jessie Cereno for USAID Protect Wildlife Project
Increased Income for Farmers, and Reduced Emissions from Supporting Sustainable Forest Management and Acacia Plantations
Submitter: USAID Green Annamites
Project: USAID Green Annamites Project
A farmer waters young acacia trees during the dry season in Tien Phuoc, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam. USAID's Green Annamites Project provides support to the Quang Nam and Thua Thien Hue provinces to increase carbon stocks by conserving and strengthening existing carbon reservoirs and reducing emissions from changes in land use practices. The Project promotes the development of sustainable acacia production and has collaborated with cooperatives and the private sector to provide environmentally friendly seedlings and improve technical and managerial capacity. Project participants planted more than 7,200 hectares of FSC-certified timber plantations that sequester more than 323,000 tons of carbon dioxide and have increased household income by 10 to 15 percent.
Credit: USAID Green Annamites
Newly Seeded Mangroves Planted by Residents of Gbongboma, Sierra Leone
Submitter: Edudzi Nyomi
Country: Sierra Leone
Project: West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change (WA BiCC)
Sierra Leone’s coastal areas provide a vital source of livelihoods for communities through fish and oyster production. In addition, the country’s almost-1,500 square kilometers of coastal mangrove forests protect against extreme storms and are carbon-dense, storing 194 tons of carbon per hectare. Yet these benefits are eroding as rice fields and other land uses displace the forests. Forest area has decreased by approximately 25 percent over the past two decades in four primary coastal mangrove regions of Sierra Leone. USAID’s West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change program (WA BiCC) engages community members to restore lost mangrove forests. WA BiCC’s ecosystem-based mitigation and adaptation activities are helping conserve and restore these mangroves, increasing community resilience and carbon sequestration.
Efficient Irrigation System
Submitter: Watershed and Development Initiative-WADI
Reem Al-Zubaidi went against social norms and left her village—Om Hussein, Jordan—to work at the Sabha Community Nursery to grow different Mediterranean native plants such as saltbrush (Altriplex halimus) seedlings. The U.S. Forest Service, in partnership with The Hashemite Fund for Development of Jordan Badia, implemented the USAID-funded Sustainable Environmental and Economic Development (SEED) project, which provided Reem with intensive technical and soft skills training that made her a star at Sabha Community Nursery. As native seedlings like Mediterranean saltbrush develop, they go through a “hardening phase” that helps them endure the harsh conditions of the desert and attain a survival rate as high as 85 percent. Rangeland seedlings absorb and store carbon dioxide due to their quick growth and comparatively rapid reproduction rate. Reem’s contribution, along with those of other SEED beneficiaries, sets the stage for a landscape reforestation process that will provide essential ecosystem services and help mitigate climate change as seedlings lock carbon in their fiber.
Credit: Watershed and Development Initiative-WADI
Photographer: Moniruzzaman Sazal
A woman harvests her jute crop in Manikganj, Bangladesh, where local households make income from this fibrous plant. Research on 170 farms across six villages indicates that using better production practices and new crop varieties can improve the livelihoods of marginal landholders. In addition to contributing to farmer livelihoods, jute removes a surprising amount of carbon from the atmosphere as it grows: a single cultivated hectare may stock 5 tons of carbon dioxide. Jute growers can also benefit from emission reductions through revenue from the sale of certified emission reduction credits.
Credit: Moniruzzaman Sazal