The Equator Prize, organized by the Equator Initiative partnership, hosted by the United Nations Development Programme, is awarded biennially to recognize outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of nature.
The Equator Initiative website describes Baltistan Wildlife Conservation and Development Organization (BWCDO) in the following words:
“Tackling acute human-snow leopard conflicts in Pakistan, Baltistan Wildlife Conservation and Development Organization (BWCDO) protects Baltistan’s snow leopards by providing economic incentives to local farmers in 17 villages through insurance schemes and financial compensation against livestock losses following snow leopard attacks. Damages are paid after verification through joint decisions between BWCDO and Village Insurance Committees established for this purpose. Communities have also set up predator-proof fencing, and received training to improve herding techniques. Vaccination campaigns protect both livestock and wildlife. BWCDO’s achievements have reduced economic losses to farmers. An educational program raises awareness and provides opportunities for girls, proactively engaging youth in conservation and development.”
They have received a prize of US $ 10,000 in a high profile ceremony in New York on 17th September, 2017. BWCDO started working in 1999 in Skardu with the local villagers on snow leopard conservation. The project was a brainchild of Dr. Shafqat Hussain, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Trinity College in Connecticut, USA. Community based livestock insurance scheme was introduced in just one village of Baltistan back in 1999. Later, it was expanded to 17 villages. Dr. Hussain received Rolex Award for Environment in 2006.
Rina Saeed Khan, an environment journalists, met senior officials of BWCDO to know more about the project. She writes in Dawn, “In this mountainous region, local farmers have a meager annual income of around $500 on average. Therefore, an attack by a snow leopard on a farmer’s livestock threatens the entire family’s livelihood (a snow leopard can kill up to 20 or 30 goats at a time). In the past, farmers killed snow leopards after their herds were attacked. Now, damages are paid after verification through joint decisions between BWCDO and the Village Insurance Committees established for this purpose”.
It would be pertinent to mention here that there were over 800 competitors for the coveted prize, and only 15 winners. It is a big achievement for BWDCO, and for us all Pakistanis. We, at Pak NGOs, would like to congratulate BWCDO for this wonderful achievement, and the extra ordinary work they are doing.