Wangari Maathai Forest Champions Award 2019

Activist from Burundi receives top forestry award

©IUFRO/Rodolfo Bührer

30 September 2019, Curitiba, Brazil - Burundian forestry activist Léonidas Nzigiyimpa was today awarded the 2019 Wangari Maathai ‘Forest Champions' Award in recognition of his passionate commitment and outstanding contribution to improving forests and the lives of indigenous peoples, women and youth in his country.

Mr. Nzigiyimpa is known for his tireless efforts sometimes at risk of his personal safety to boost food security and living standards of local populations in his country. He was also instrumental in improving education for children in such areas as ecology, restoration and sustainable forest management.

Among other achievements, Mr Nzigiyimpa led the first effort in the history of Burundi to involve indigenous peoples in sustainable forest management. 

The winner of the 2019 Wangari Maathai Forest Champions Award was announced during a ceremony at the 25th World Congress of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) in Curitiba, Brazil, on 30 September. 

Accepting the award, Nzigiyimpa said: "I decided to embark young people by connecting them to their nature, educating them, influencing them and finally changing them:  as the youth is the future of my country, planting trees is also planting for the future."

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Since 2012, the Wangari Maathai Award recognizes the work of inspiring individuals who have helped preserve, restore and sustainably manage forests and improve the lives of people who depend on them. It was established by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) to honour and commemorate the impact of Nobel Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai, an extraordinary woman who championed forest issues around the world.

The Wangari Maathai Award is an initiative of CBD, CIFOR, CITES, FAO, GEF, ICRAF, ITTO, IUCN, IUFRO, UNCCD, UNDP, UNEP, UNFCCC, UNFF and World Bank, all members of the CPF.

Watch a video interview with the winner


Léonidas Nzigiyimpa, winner of the 2019 Wangari Maathai Forest Champions Award, talks about why it is essential to involve local communities and women in the conservation and restoration of forests.