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Sudanese climate researcher awarded top UN environment prize

April 28, 2008 (LONDON) —The UN Environment Programme last week awarded its top environment prize to Sudanese scientist Balgis Osman-Elasha for her work on climate change in Sudan’s Darfur region.

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Balgis O. Elasha

Balgis Osman-Elasha, a senior researcher at Sudan’s Higher Council for Environment and Natural Resources, was presented with a ’Champions of the Earth 2008’ award at international award ceremony on April 22 in Singapore, along with six other awardees from Bangladesh, Barbados, Monaco, New Zealand, United States and Yemen.

Balgis, the winner for Africa, also a leading member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), carries out research into how communities in Darfur could cope with drought.

She has worked on a range of research projects in her native Sudan, including Darfur demonstrating to vulnerable communities the feasibility of adapting to climate change and extreme weather events.

The Sudanese researcher said her commitment to educating Sudanese students and communities — particularly farmers — is slowly paving the way for people to adapt to climate change.

"I am trying to convey the message of climate change, to simplify the message, to make it reach the people who are going to be impacted" she said.

Her work has included expanding the use of traditional rainwater harvesting and conservation techniques, and building windbreaks to protect rangelands from degradation.

It comes at a crucial time for Sudan, as the connections between climate change and conflict in war-torn Darfur have become a major concern

A leading author of the IPCC reports, she has produced groundbreaking work on global warming - the defining challenge of our era - in Africa, with an emphasis on northern and eastern Africa.

Osman-Elasha’s emphasis on global warming and adaptation in Sudan is vital given the strong interlinkages between climate change and conflict in the country. Her work as a prominent researcher on climate change makes her a true role model for women in Africa.

Over the past seven years, Osman-Elasha has travelled to 45 countries and given over 100 lectures.

(ST)