In May 2008, Jean Wiener, director of FoProBiM, Haiti’s only non-governmental marine conservation organization, was presented one of the world’s top prizes for grassroots nature conservation – a Whitley Award – for his work to protect his country’s coral reefs and mangrove forests.
Mr. Wiener, 43, was one of 11 people honored at the ceremony, held at the Royal Geographical Society, London, by The Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) – the UK-based charity which administers the international awards program and which this year celebrates its15th anniversary.
The award to Jean Wiener recognized his work among coastal communities where the knock-on effects of wide-scale deforestation, poor soils, and flooding are damaging the marine environment on which many Haitians depend. It takes a practical approach - raising awareness, offering training, rallying volunteers for restoration work, building partnerships and acting as a mediator. Recent initiatives include producing an abridged version of fishery laws, to make them easier to understand, and observe; building an artificial reef, to improve fish stocks, and installing mooring buoys to reduce anchor damage to corals. Along the shore, mangroves are being replanted to reduce flood damage, and alternatives to Haiti’s main fuel, charcoal, are being explored.
Speaking before the results were announced, the fund’s founder, Edward Whitley, said: “The aim of the Whitley Awards is to find and support the environmental leaders who are helping to build a future where nature and people co-exist in a way that benefits both. Once again, this year’s finalists have risen to the challenge. They have impressed and heartened us by telling us their conservation success stories, and by demonstrating what can be achieved when vision, passion, intelligence and determination are brought to bear. An added bonus is that they give us hope. The example given by people like Jean Wiener is an inspiration for us all.”
Mr. Weiner expressed his desire for a “long future of collaboration with IUCN” and is anticipating participating in the World Conservation Congress held in Barcelona in October 2008.