Conservation International Awards Indigenous Leaders on the Frontlines of Climate Change, with Fellowship to Advance Study


Indigenous Peoples from Peru, Kenya and Brazil Receive Fellowship to Demonstrate Application of Traditional Knowledge In Conservation; Fellows to combine traditional and scientific solutions to address climate change impact

Arlington, VA — Today Conservation International announced Zenón Gomel Apaza from Peru, Ikal Angelei from Kenya and Diana Nascimento from Brazil as the new recipients of its Indigenous and Traditional Peoples Conservation Fellowship. This is the second group of fellowships for indigenous leaders granted by Conservation International (CI) and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD), since the fellowship was launched in 2010.

"Indigenous people have first-hand knowledge of the direct impacts of climate change on their way of life," said Kristen Walker Painemilla, Vice President of Social Policy and Practice at Conservation International. 'Zenón, Ikal and Diana have an opportunity to work with their communities and use traditional knowledge to demonstrate solutions to the impacts of climate change and the threats to their lands, communities and livelihoods."

Over the course of the year-long program, these fellows will design projects that incorporate their traditional knowledge to address the effects of climate change and biodiversity loss. They will work on issues related to water scarcity and management, climate resilient agriculture and restoration of traditional lands. In addition to receiving funding for these projects, each fellow receives funding for professional development that will in turn increase the knowledge base for their communities.

The 2011 recipients included four fellows from Fiji, Guatemala, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They completed projects ranging from research on traditional land management practices to climate change adaptation techniques in semi-arid regions to alternative livelihoods for coastal communities. The 2011 fellows included a recipient of the prestigious 2006 Equator Prize, awarded every two years for excellence in sustainable development by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

"Conservation organizations are great at seeing the big picture, but sometimes their missions do not always address the immediate needs a community or person has to survive," Angelei said. "Conservation International’s fellowship program allows myself and the other fellows to take our traditional knowledge and combine it with scientific information in order to show the benefits for which comes from conserving healthy biodiversity."

Ikal Angelei is an indigenous activist from the Lake Turkana region of Kenya. Through her volunteer work on community development, she developed a strong interest in sustainable development. In November of 2008, Angelei left her previous job in the banking sector and founded Friends of Lake Turkana, a Community Trust that promotes Environmental Justice, Resource Rights and Community Rights within the Lake Turkana Basin.

A farmer from the rural community of the Pucara region of Peru, Zenon Gomel Apaza is also a PhD student in natural sciences for development and is the only Peruvian to win the Rolex Award for Enterprise for environmental issues. He founded the non-profit organization Asociación Savia Andina Pucará (ASAP) 15 years ago, which works to develop measures to strengthen the capacities of indigenous peasant communities in Andean agriculture and to protect the biodiversity in the region.

Diana Nascimento is an indigenous student from the Paraná state of Brazil. She is currently completing her degree in Environmental Management, with a focus on coastal environmental management at the Federal University of Paraná. She was awarded a seat at the Federal University of Paraná-UFPR, which offers seven seats for indigenous students from all over Brazil.

"It is essential to support indigenous peoples in their efforts to address the impacts of climate change," Walker said. "They feel the strongest impacts and their solutions now can provide lessons for us later."


About Conservation International (CI) — Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, CI empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity, for the long term well-being of people. Founded in 1987 and marking its 25th anniversary in 2012, CI has headquarters in the Washington DC area, and 900 employees working in nearly 30 countries on four continents, plus 1,000+ partners around the world. For more information, please visit at, or on Facebook or Twitter.