Since 1895, Nobel Prizes have been awarded each year to individuals or institutions around the world in order to recognize discoveries, research or contributions to all of humanity. But, although most of us have heard of the Nobel Peace Prize, or the Literature Prize, we may not be aware that there is also a Nobel Prize in Ecology.
This award, whose real name is the Goldman Environmental Prize, was created in 1990 by Richard N. Goldman and his wife Rhoda H. Goldman, two American philanthropists and activists. This year, the recognition has been taken by a Latin American: the Mexican Jesús León Santos; a 42-year-old man who for 25 years has been working to reforest his region of Oaxaca.
León Santos is an indigenous peasant who, when he was 18 years old, and at the same time that many of the young people his age chose to leave the region in which they lived, decided to change the desolate landscape that surrounded him for a place full of lifetime.
In the upper Mixteca, called the “land of the sun”, the land is arid and it is difficult to access water and firewood. In that region, shared by the states of Guerrero and Oaxaca, more than 50 thousand hectares were losing height due to soil erosion caused by overgrazing, the lime production industry and intensive cattle raising.
Other factors, such as the intensive felling of trees also contributed to aggravate this situation, resulting in a landscape very similar to that of a desert.
Faced with this reality, Jesús began, together with other settlers, to develop pre-Columbian agricultural techniques to make those arid lands green and wooded areas suitable for cultivation. It was here that he found the key piece to fulfill his objective: to reunite the local community.
This is how it brought together 400 municipalities and created the Center for Integral Development of the Mixteca (Cedicam). With no money involved, and together, they dug trenches to retain rainwater, fertilized the land and planted nearly four million native species.
Thanks to this intense and dedicated work, today the area is green, there is food, trees, and life! But this was not the point of arrival, since thanks to the joint work they developed a sustainable agriculture system, sowing one of the varieties of corn most adapted to the conditions of the region.
Even the neighboring areas also became infected with this positive example, planting trees in their community.
At present, in addition, Jesus promotes the fight against transgenics, and continues to fight desertification, as do many activists, and others such as Berta Cáceres and Jairo Mora Sandoval did, to whom this fight cost them their lifetime.
These experiences should serve as a positive example to replicate in all regions of the world, and to become aware, after all, that the earth is ours and we are of the earth.