Louise Mabulo at work on the farm.
A chef for the earth
Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - October 6, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A Filipina chef won a prestigious United Nations award for boosting farmers’ income through climate-resilient cocoa.

Louise Mabulo, founder of the Cacao Project and Culinary Lounge – a laid back farm-to-table kitchen studio – won the 2019 Asia-Pacific Regional Finals of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)’s Young Champions of the Earth.

World leaders gathered last week at the UN headquarters in New York for the Climate Action Summit and General Assembly where climate and the environment were at the forefront of discussions. 

UNEP said youth around the world are already taking action, because there is no time to lose.

The 20-year-old chef speaks at the awarding ceremony of the United Nations Environment Program’s Young Champions of the Earth.

The 20-year-old Mabulo’s solution, the Cacao Project, has trained over 200 farmers in agroforestry techniques, planting more than 70,000 trees across 70 hectares of land and restoring land devastated during Typhoon Nina (Ngoc Ten) in 2016. 

She also established a Culinary Lounge to source high-value ingredients from local farmers and encourage home-grown food.

Mabulo described the Cacao Project as providing participating farmers of San Fernando in Camarines Sur with cacao seedlings and short term crops such as bok choy, okra and pumpkin to intercrop with the cacao.

After witnessing the devastating impact of Typhoon Nina, which destroyed 80 per cent of agricultural land in her area, Mabulo observed that many cocoa trees remained standing.

“I had never imagined that the typhoon could cause such wide-scale devastation,” said Mabulo. “At the same time, I noticed that farming is often associated with poverty. I am dedicated to fight that stigma, to bring value to the community and restore biodiversity.”

Since the Philippines is one of the most typhoon- and cyclone-prone countries in the world, Mabulo had the idea of making high-value and climate-resilient cocoa available to farmers to provide them with income in the wake of such disasters, while weather-proofing their farms in the long-term.

UNEP executive director Inger Andersen said building resilience in a climate changing world is critical to helping communities weather the challenges of extreme weather events.

“And in doing so, we can create jobs, build more livable cities and improve the well-being of the world’s most vulnerable, making sure no one is left behind,” Andersen said.

Markus Steilemann, chief executive officer of Covestro, said the business world needs fresh thinking and much more of a start-up culture to tackle global environmental challenges, while ensuring our long-term growth. 

“The Young Champions of the Earth can help achieve this and everyone at Covestro is proud to support them. We want to help make the world a brighter place,” he said.

A global jury, made up of Covestro CEO Steilemann, UNEP deputy executive director Joyce Msuya, VICE News Tonight’s science and climate change correspondent Arielle Duhaime-Ross, UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Jayathma Wickramanayake and Kathy Calvin, president and CEO of the United Nations Foundation, selected the winners among 35 regional finalists from over 1,000 applicants.

The prestigious Young Champions of the Earth prize, powered by Covestro, is awarded every year by UNEP to young environmentalists between the ages of 18 and 30 for their outstanding ideas to protect the environment. 

Mabulo is one of seven winners from Africa, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and West Asia. 

The winners received their award at the Champions of the Earth ceremony in New York City last week, coinciding with the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting and the Climate Action Summit.

The Young Champions of the Earth Prize was first started in 2017, offering the prestigious and highly successful Champions of the Earth platform – with laureates including heads of state, inspiring scientists and environmental visionaries – to brilliant young environmentalists with a vision.

LOUISE MABULO
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