The prestigious Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation has revealed the three inspiring individuals selected as winners of the 2023 Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity. The esteemed recipients, Bandi “Apai Janggut,” Cécile Bibiane Ndjebet, and Lélia Wanick Salgado, are being recognized for their remarkable leadership in restoring and protecting vital ecosystems worldwide.
Chaired by former Federal Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, the Jury carefully evaluated 143 nominations from 55 countries to identify the deserving awardees. These three individuals stood out for their unwavering commitment and decades-long efforts to restore critical ecosystems, including forests, landscapes, and mangroves. Moreover, they have championed land protection for the benefit of local communities, reflecting their dedication to safeguarding the planet from the impacts of climate change.
Cécile Bibiane Ndjebet – Advocate for Gender Equality and Community Rights
Cécile Bibiane Ndjebet, a dedicated campaigner and agronomist from Cameroon, has devoted more than three decades to advocating for gender equality and securing land tenure for women. Her vision extends beyond empowering women; it aims to revitalize essential ecosystems, eradicate poverty, and combat climate change. Through her efforts, she has played a pivotal role in transforming communities and fostering sustainable practices.
Apai Janggut – Guardian of the Rainforests
Bandi “Apai Janggut,” an esteemed elder and customary leader of the Indigenous Group of Dayak Iban Sungai Utik Long House in Indonesian Borneo, has been at the forefront of the fight for recognition of traditional land rights for over 40 years. His tenacity and advocacy led to the Indonesian government granting legal recognition and ownership of 9,500 hectares of land to the Dayak Iban community in 2020. This landmark achievement secured the future of the rainforests in the region.
Lélia Wanick Salgado – Champion of Environmental Restoration
Lélia Wanick Salgado, a remarkable environmentalist, designer, and scenographer from Brazil, co-founded the Instituto Terra in 1998. This visionary institution is dedicated to restoring the Atlantic Forest in Brazil. Over the years, it has been instrumental in planting over 2.7 million trees and restoring 700 hectares of degraded land. Through collaboration with smallholder farmers, an additional 2,000 hectares have been reforested, recovering 1,900 water springs, ensuring a brighter future for the ecosystem.
Positive Climate Action
The Jury believes these recipients will continue to inspire and drive positive climate action worldwide. Their efforts align with the Global Biodiversity Framework’s goals, emphasizing the urgency of halting biodiversity loss, restoring natural ecosystems, and safeguarding indigenous rights on a global scale.
Each of the three winners will share the €1 million Prize equally, providing them with crucial funding to scale their efforts or initiate new restoration projects. The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation is proud to support these remarkable individuals in their mission to protect the planet and humanity.
The Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity, now in its fourth year, is bestowed upon individuals and organizations leading the charge to tackle the most pressing challenges of our time – climate change and nature loss. Recognizing their outstanding contributions to climate action and solutions, the Prize aims to inspire hope and possibility, creating a brighter and greener world for generations to come.