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[SINGAPORE] A Sudanese climate researcher has been honoured by the UN Environment Programme in recognition of her work on climate change and adaptation in conflict-stricken Darfur.

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 this week (22 April), along with six other awardees from Bangladesh, Barbados, Monaco, New Zealand, United States and Yemen.

Osman-Elasha, 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 said her commitment to educating Sudanese students and communities — particularly farmers — is slowly paving the way for people to adapt to climate change.

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 (see UNEP: climate change behind Darfur conflict).

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

"We should act now and curb climate change," she told SciDev.Net. "We can do it if science, governments, businesses and the communities come together and address this pressing issue."

Other award winners were Atiq Rahman, the executive director of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies; Liz Thompson, the former energy and environment minister of Barbados; and Abdul-Qader Ba-Jammal, the secretary general of the Yemen People's General Congress.

All have spearheaded outstanding initiatives in different areas, from environmental policy to cutting-edge research, with a particular focus on sustainable development and the fight against climate change.

"Our winners for 2008 light an alternative path for humanity by taking responsibility, demonstrating leadership and realising change across a wide range of sustainability issues," said Achim Steiner, UN under-secretary general and executive director of the UN Environment Programme, in a press release.

"These include more intelligent and creative management of natural and nature-based resources from waste and water, to biodiversity and agriculture."

Champions of the Earth is an international environment award established in 2004 by the UN Environment Programme.

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