Building peace in the minds of men and women

ESD Prize Blog 2018


© UNESCO/Nora Hougenade

In this blog, the laureates of the UNESCO-Japan Prize on Education for Sustainable Development give us regular updates on their projects, experiences and intiatives. It was started in November 2015 by the three winners of the 2015 ESD Prize, and continued later by the laureates of 2016, 2017 and 2018 who are writing in turns every month.


December 2018: Reflection & Gratitude for Human-Doings

by Angela Beer, Kalabia Education Program  (Indonesia)

Terima kasih – Thank you, or, literally translated from Indonesian, we “receive your love”. Having the honour of receiving the UNESCO-Japan ESD Prize on behalf of the Kalabia Education Program in Paris consolidated my belief that this program is truly special and incredibly important. Although it was lovely to get kudos and praise for the program itself, it was being amongst such inspiring company as the other 2018 Laureates that was most affirming… not to mention awe-inspiring and completely humbling! Although our programs are in starkly different ecosystems and engage participants and communities on entirely different scales, the passion and commitment to ESD and belief in the possibility of making a difference was striking. Finding that commonality was inspiring and hopeful. These programs are instigating action and transforming human-beings into human-doings.

Having a few days in Paris with the other laureates and the accomplished ESD team from UNESCO also made me realize that the ‘big deal’ about winning this prize isn’t necessarily the prize itself, but in the larger commitment that it represents and the network of partners to which we are now connected. We look forward to working with them more into the future.

While the Kalabia hopes to use the prize money to provide capacity-building opportunities for the Papuan Educator team as well as develop and publish a new educational story-book series for distribution in constituent communities, most significantly, we hope the funds can be used to leverage additional funding for program expansion. The West Papua government is in the process of declaring itself Indonesia’s first “Conservation Province” and we hope Kalabia will be at the core of that transformation and that Papuan communities will have access to a tailored Kalabia-type Environmental Education program within the next few years. After all, we feel deeply that education underlies the path to sustainable development and a sustainable future.

Access to ESD is very important in a rapidly-developing, predominantly-coastal nation such as Indonesia, and we envision that Kalabia could catalyze a commitment to ESD throughout the nation, and thus motivate a paradigm shift in education which equips and empowers citizens with the knowledge, understanding and love for their environment that leads to responsible choices for a sustainable future.

Reflecting on the experience and award after a few months and as the year draws to a close has made us even more grateful. We broadened our network of committed individuals and organizations who love and respect the planet, and that more than anything, gives us hope for the coming year and beyond. With dreams of peace and love for our shared world, wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season and inspiring start to 2019!

November 2018: Learning by doing!

by Merili Vares & Eva Truuverk, Let's Do It Foundation (Estonia)

We as part of Let’s Do It! World movement have always believed that education is the key to success in sustainable development. This year’s UNESCO-Japan ESD Prize winners are the best example of how versatile that learning can be. From very local hands-on learning experience in Namibia to joyful and engaging storytelling on the Kalabia boat in Indonesia, we all give people a chance to learn by doing.

For Let’s Do It Foundation, the prize was in many ways very important. First of all, when we found out that we won the prize, we were just preparing for the biggest action we have ever organized, World Cleanup Day on 15 September. It gave us a lot of confidence and power to coordinate the actions in 158 countries with 17 million people participating. World Cleanup Day 2018 was the biggest peaceful civic action against waste.

Secondly, there have been many doubts about the effectiveness of the cleanups, whether they put too much responsibility on people and at the same time make no difference. Our 10 years of experience in more than 150 countries have shown that cleanups are a fun and positive way of engaging people in local communities to learn about waste problems, change their mindset and behavior. The prize appreciates and recognizes all those millions of people who have participated in cleanups and feel proud of themselves. In fact, the first bit of the prize money was spent on organizing a thank-you event to our volunteers and partners.

The rest of the prize money will give us an opportunity to continue with the implementation of our follow-up project, Keep It Clean plan. It states the overarching principles and vision for the management of resources and waste, meant to support any community wanting to improve its waste situation.

And last, but not least, the prize gave us a reason to visit one of our favorite places – Paris. We would like to thank all the wonderful people we met in Paris at the award reception. The meetings were very inspirational and gave us many new ideas how to improve our practice and actions. We are looking forward to cooperating with UNESCO and all its partners, specially our friends from Namibia and Indonesia. Kohtumiseni!

October 2018: "An inspiration to continue our work and to adapt to changing times"

by Viktoria Keding, Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust (Namibia)

“Congratulations!”, “Amazing”, “You really deserve it!”- these are some of the many comments that we have been receiving from around the world after being one of the three winners of this year’s UNESCO-Japan ESD Prize. On 24 October we will be celebrating NaDEET Centre’s 15th anniversary making the UNESCO-Japan ESD Prize all the more special for us in 2018. When we first started this little centre in the middle of the Namib Desert we had no expectations of what it would become - we simply knew that it was needed.

Here a photo of the Centre in 2003 and Dr Claudia Harvey, Director of the Windhoek Cluster Office who officially opened our humble Centre at the time:

One of the things we quickly learned was to be persistent; and to become as adaptable as the desert flora and fauna, if we wanted to not just survive. NaDEET Centre grew organically, and with input and the hard work of many interns, volunteers and eventually paid staff, it flourished. Only three years later we had a major set-back as the main building of the Centre burned down for unknown reasons. In a strange twist of fate, this event in 2006 was the impetus for NaDEET Centre to grow into the place it is today.

When we had started NaDEET with our focus on practicing sustainability it was not common in Namibia. One of the most exciting developments that have taken place during the same time is the explosion of programmes, policy and interest in sustainable development in Namibia and around the world.

Meeting the other prize winners in Paris was inspiring and exciting. We found so many areas where our work is complementary and discovered that similar activities are taking place in completely different ecosystems with similar powerful results. We will make sure to connect one of our partners, the Recycle Namibia Forum (RNF), with the Let’s Do It Foundation to link up Namibian clean up campaigns with this international movement. We are eager to learn from the Kalabia how they are monitoring changes in the communities they work with and comparing this to our Namibian context. The days spent at UNESCO were such an inspiration to continue our work and to again adapt to changing times, attitudes and opportunities.

August/September 2018: Inclusive music project with traditional instrument

by Lama Khatieb, Zikra for Popular Learning (Jordan)

For the past few months Zikra has been busy establishing its “Bait Al-Nai” (“House of Nai”) project. Nai is a traditional wind instrument made of reed, popular in the Levant area where it has been a common instrument for Bedouins, peasants and shepherds for thousands of years.

Although Jordan is home to the same reeds used by ancient Egyptians, local knowledge of how to make the Nai has been lost. The vast majority of public schools in Jordan do not offer music classes, while private music lessons can range between US$20 to US$30 per session, which is costly for most Jordanians. Music has become exclusive, which is conflicting with the roots of traditional Jordanian music, where entire villages would dance, drum and play music together.

“Bait Al-Nai” provides the opportunity for community members to explore the Nai and other local musical instruments made of reed such as Yarghoul, Mejwez and Shabbaba through Nai making workshops, music lessons and performances. The project provides the opportunity for traditional local musicians from across Jordan to share their art and knowledge with other community members, and to take part in concerts across the country to raise the profile of the instrument. “Bait Al-Nai” reaches out both to Jordanians from marginalized neighbourhoods and villages and to Westernized Jordanians from upscale Amman who may feel distanced from their culture.

June/July 2018: Continuous transformation

by Sibanga Ncube, Sihlengeni Primary School (Zimbabwe)

I just want to share with you some developments that Sihlengeni has experienced since the time we won the UNESCO ESD Prize 2017. Soon after receiving the award we started embarking on and expanding the already existing projects on Permaculture.

The latest developments have included “face-lifting” of the institution; planting more fruit trees and ornamental duranta trees; opening an ICT Lab for functional literacy; multiplying the Jojo tanks and water reservoirs for water harvesting; erecting more water points; putting on roof gutters (for water harvesting); fencing of the nature park to protect road-runners; introducing goats. More layers have been purchased to enable us to collect at least 7 trays of eggs daily. Our pig population has increased from 15 to at least 30 with an expectation of a further 20% increase in production in the next 4-5 days. The increase in piggery and poultry sections has necessitated us to construct more fowl runs and pigsties, respectively. To cap it all, the school took part in the 2017 Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (Z.I.T.F) in which we came in 3rd position, representing the Ministry of Primary and Secondary education.

May 2018: Blazing a trail - the Guatemalan change-makers

by Mark Edwards, Hard Rain Project (United Kingdom)

I enjoyed the third meeting of the UNESCO Global Action Programme (GAP) conference in San José, Costa Rica in April. It was an opportunity to meet practitioners in education for sustainable development from around the world and learn how UNESCO is meeting the Education 2030 Agenda


My invitation came because Hard Rain Project won a 2017 UNESCO-Japan Prize for education on ESD. The conference was also a great chance to meet previous laurates, and it took me tantalizingly close to Guatemala, the headquarters of SERES, one of the 2015 winners. 

SERES has been working since 2009 with the youth of Guatemala and El Salvador to give them the tools they need to bring about positive change through sustainable development, and I suggested a short visit to see if I could take pictures that might show the scope and impact the project is having.   

A short flight from San José, a night in Antigua, an astonishingly beautiful colonial town, and off at the crack of dawn to San Andrés Osuna. Two bumpy hours from Antigua is Guatemala City as it is for most of its people, a community dependent for survival on their own efforts. Here SERES trained a youth leader and together with 19 young people, have focused on dealing with rubbish and sanitation by leading cleaning campaigns and garbage disposal around the village.

They go beyond just cleaning parties to use theatre performances to take the message into the hearts and minds of the community. They offer a tremendous presentation. 

This is protest at its best; funny, moving, unexpected and serious all at once. Maria Fernanda Calvilla delivers a blazing performance that cuts through the stilted language of sustainability academics to bring alive the issues about our place in the world. If she had been born in Spain, she would no doubt have been on stage and screen. Here she is transforming a smaller audience; her talent is not wasted.

She reminds us that without the arts, education for sustainable development is a dull intellectual exercise that may be worthy but won’t bring about the change so urgently needed in the world.

Over the next couple of days, I got to see young people planting trees, teaching forest classes, setting up income-generating schemes and tackling plastic litter. SERES has created a multiplier effect by training leaders. This is changing communities across Guatemala - a quiet revolution whose time has come. 

March/April 2018: Creating an alternative model to big business through traditional produce

by Lama Khatieb, Zikra for Popular Learning (Jordan)

Jameed, a dried goat yoghurt made by farmers in rural Jordan villages, has been used in traditional cuisine for decades. So when huge, cheap and poor quality industrial imports of jameed flooded the market the Zikra for Popular Learning team, working to promote sustainable local culture, decided to do something about it.

© Zikra for Popular Learning

Zikra, winner of the 2017 UNESCO-Japan Prize on Education for Sustainable Development, works to use traditional culture in response to social, economic and environmental challenges. Since the beginning of the year it has been active in a village in Al-Karak (rural area 175 Km south of Jordan’s capital Amman) known for its distinctive Jameed.

For decades, families in rural areas in Jordan worked closely with local shepherds to make their own household supply of jameed. However, massive scale imports of the distinctive yoghurt from Turkey and Syria, have threatened this traditional product and the livelihoods of those who make it.

So, in early 2018 Zikra established The Jameed School aiming for localized economic change and resisting a consumer-based culture that drives people further from their local resources and identity.

The project has three dimensions, firstly it provides workshops for urban and rural community members on how to produce jameed and its related products such as white cheese and butter; how to identify the best milk to use and how to grow and use the herbs that flavour the products.

Secondly, it provides high quality, locally-made products for the Jordanian market. And finally, as an added element of Education for Sustainable Development, it spread knowledge about the importance of preserving local culture by organizing trips for school students where they learn about how to make jameed and meet the local families in Karak who produce it. The project, although in its early stages, already provides income for three to four families.


January/February 2018: “Winning the Prize has been a life-opener and a driving force to work even harder now”

by Sibanga Ncube, Sihlengeni Primary School (Zimbabwe)

It’s amazing how time flies. The UNESCO-Japan Prize on ESD, which was held in Paris-France at the beginning of November 2017, is as if it was a month ago. What a memorable occasion and a life opener it was. The brief stay in Paris was awesome, more business-like and hard to forget. The warm welcoming and hardworking officers responsible for this function kept us on focus. We also had the precious time to meet with other Laureates and share great moments and good practices that we do, which we will always remember.

For the first time I personally saw and took photographs of the attractive historical structure, the Eiffel Tower. We had such an experience from this pleasant stay in Paris. We had the chance to set our eyes on the UNESCO Headquarters, where each and every member state has its national flag ever flying. The visit was climaxed by the awarding ceremony, what an experience! more so, for me who broke the ice on the stage.

The winning of the Prize money was given as the impetus to even work harder. It should be born in mind that our permaculture project seeks to mitigate land degradation and deforestation of which the prize money sets us to continue doing more. Our goal is to expand the existing projects we have and introduce new ones i.e. introduction of fisheries and roadrunner chickens. This is possible as we work together with the valuable parents’ participation.

The community has never been so excited, it is on cloud nine. Numerous visits from schools around the province and other neighbouring ones are now an order of the day to see what Sihlengeni Primary is like.

Winning of this Award is now a driving force in fulfilling our SDGs and extending good practices through ESD and partnerships which will benefit everyone.