Africa Wins Conservation Awards. (Environment)

Article excerpt

The largest award in this year's annual BP Conservation Awards went to a project in Kenya. Other African countries also featured strongly. Stephen Williams attended the awards ceremony.

The annual BP Conservation Programme Awards, an annual event and joint initiative between BP, BirdLife International and Fauna & Flora International, were presented in London on April 19. In total, almost 300 projects were appraised and 19 awards totalling [pounds sterling]125,000 ($180,000) were made. The awards, celebrating their 12th year in 2002, are open to students worldwide and are judged by an international panel of scientists and conservationists. All the projects placed a strong emphasis on the involvement of local communities.

Many environmentalists, however, find it difficult to accept the idea of the involvement of BP, Britain's largest company and a major oil-industry and petro-chemical player, in the role of sponsor for conservation projects. This matter came to a head recently at the company's April ACM when a resolution was put forward by WWF (formerly the World Wildlife Fund). The resolution, filed on behalf of a number of European and American investors, asked BP to disclose the risk to shareholder value from its drilling in environmentally sensitive areas. The company opposed the resolution, and proponents were overwhelmingly defeated by an 88.9% vote against.

Renewable energy

Nevertheless, BP is arguably the most progressive and environmentally aware of the multi-national oil companies. Since the 1990s, the company has invested heavily in the development of renewable energy sources, and is a world leader in photovoltaic-cell technology to harness solar energy. BP estimates that their solar powered community lighting, pumping systems for drinking water and refrigeration for storing vaccines has benefited more than 1m peoples world-wide.

Four African entries received BP awards this year - including, from Kenya, the Kikuyu Escarpment Outreach Project (KEOP) of 2002. A previous winner, the KEOP received the largest award. The project leader, David Kuria, accepted a [pounds sterling]20,000 ($29,000) 'Follow-Up' award from Baroness Young of Scone, Chief Executive the UK's Environment Agency. This will allow the project to continue work for at least a further year.

KENYA

The Kikuyu Escarpment Forest is situated 38km north-west of Nairobi in central Kenya. It is considered an Important Bird Area (IBA) and listed by NatureKenya as highest priority ('critical') for conservation action. …