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Celebrating 20 years of the St Andrews Prize for the Environment

by Emma Ahmed

The Mountain Institute, Peru works in communities in the Andes to restore ancient water technologies and mountain ecosystems.

  • The winner of the 2018 St Andrews Prize, and recipient of $100,000, is The Mountain Institute, Peru, which works on restoring ancient water technologies.
  • This year’s runners-up, each of whom receives $25,000, were TEDs in Malaysia and Net-Works.

On April 26, this year’s finalists, trustees, screening committee and delegates gathered at the University of St Andrews in Scotland for the 20th St Andrews Prize for the Environment award ceremony. The St Andrews Prize for the Environment is an initiative between ConocoPhillips and the University of St Andrews that was established in 1998 to recognize significant contributions to environmental conservation.

group photo
The 2018 finalists receive their awards following the April 26 award ceremony. From left: Dr. Nicolas Pilcher, TEDs in Malaysia; Doris Chavez Osorio, The Mountain Institute, Peru; Lord Alex Broers, chair of the trustees; Dr. Jorge Recharte Bullard, director of the Andean Program, The Mountain Institute; Dr. Nicholas Hill, Net-Works; Professor Sally Mapstone, principal and vice-chancellor, University of St Andrews; and Terri King, president, ConocoPhillips U.K.

“Protecting terrestrial and marine plant and animal species and ecosystems is essential for ConocoPhillips’ operations and is a key component of our sustainable development commitment, position and actions,” said Terri King, president, ConocoPhillips U.K. “We also recognize that fresh water is a limited resource in some parts of the world, and its availability may change in the future. This is why sponsorship of the St Andrews Prize for the Environment is so important to ConocoPhillips, with all three of the 2018 finalists playing a part in directly supporting marine conservation or improving water security, thus supporting livelihoods while protecting ecosystem-wide resilience.”

The prize is managed by a group of trustees with a variety of interests and backgrounds. The trustees review the entries and identify entrepreneurs who display innovative solutions to environmental challenges worldwide. ConocoPhillips supports the prize as part of its charitable contributions program and has employees who serve on the screening committee. 

“For 20 years the St Andrews Prize for the Environment has shone a light on hundreds of the brightest ideas and projects across the globe dedicated to tackling environmental problems, empowering communities and creating a more sustainable way of life,” said Professor Sally Mapstone, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of St Andrews. “Our ongoing partnership with ConocoPhillips is an example of the way academic institutions, by working with industry and wider society, can change lives for the better. The University of St Andrews is home to world-leading research on environmental issues, and we are committed to playing our part in addressing global concerns and reducing the environmental impact of our own activities.”

Over the past 20 years, the prize has received more than 5,400 entries from people and programs spanning more than 100 countries worldwide. The 20 winners and 40 finalists have received approximately $2 million to support programs on biodiversity, land use and maintenance, recycling, renewable energy, sustainable development, urban regeneration, and wildlife conservation.

2018 awards

The winner of the 2018 St Andrews Prize for the Environment, and recipient of $100,000, is The Mountain Institute in Peru, which works on restoring ancient water technologies. The project integrates 2,000 years of indigenous knowledge of water management in the Andes with contemporary science and technology to create hybrid solutions that improve water security, support livelihoods and increase ecosystem-wide resilience in mountain communities.

Replenished lakes in Canchayllo

Healthy mountain ecosystems help buffer the impacts of climate change for local communities, wildlife and downstream populations worldwide. People living in the mountains rely on their surrounding environment for water, food, pasture and the raw materials that are the foundation of their livelihoods. Further downstream, towns and cities depend on mountain water for drinking, agriculture and industry. Efforts to manage, conserve or restore natural environments can help people adapt to climate change by taking advantage of a healthy ecosystem’s natural resilience.

In 2013, The Mountain Institute, Peru began working with communities in the Nor-Yauyos Cochas Landscape Reserve affected by increasing water scarcity. They discovered the existence of a vast, complex and partially abandoned hydraulic system to manage water in the alpine high-plateau, or puna.

Based on the experience and evidence gained, the group proposed to reduce the vulnerability of mountain communities to increasing water scarcity by restoring ancestral hydraulic systems and principles. Their objective is to increase the availability of tools, case studies and information to build and strengthen the capacities of networks of scientists and indigenous organizations so they can design and implement the restoration of this ancestral water system.

“The Mountain Institute is honored to be the 2018 winner of the St Andrews Prize for the Environment,” said Dr. Jorge Recharte Bullard, director of the Andean Program. “The award is recognition of the urgency to find solutions that, rooted in local cultures, secure mountain peoples’ water and livelihoods. Our project will expand now to cooperate with dozens of communities in the Andes to restore ancient water technologies and mountain ecosystems.”

This year’s runners-up, each of whom receives $25,000, were TEDs in Malaysia and Net-Works.

The Marine Research Foundation’s TEDs (turtle excluder devices) in Malaysia project works to conserve turtles by providing TEDs and brokering relationships between leading hotel chains and shrimp fishers to catch turtle-free shrimp.

turtle swimming out of net underwater
A juvenile turtle escapes through the web opening on a TED.

Net-Works improves the lives of marginalized coastal communities living in biodiversity hotspots by redesigning global supply chains to create sustainable and scalable solutions for reducing marine plastics and increasing fish stocks.

Two men hauling seawood from nets into boat
Net-Works has built an inclusive business model around seaweed farming that delivers more fish and less plastic.

To learn more about the St Andrews Prize for the Environment, or this year’s winner and runners-up, visit www.thestandrewsprize.com