Honouring Mountain Champions

The Organization Promotes Increased Enrolment In Local Schools; Develops And Distributes Educational Materials Honouring Local Culture

Honouring Mountain Champions

Every year, the ICIMOD Mountain Prize is awarded to an individual, organization, or private sector entity based in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) or beyond for outstanding efforts in enabling sustainable and resilient mountain development in the HKH region to benefit the environment as well as communities – particularly the poor, the youth, and women. This year’s award was shared by two winners: the Jagrati Swayam Sahayta Group of Uttarakhand, India, and Binod Shahi of Nepal. The winners were announced on 11 December in Kathmandu during ICIMOD’s International Mountain Day celebrations.


Jagrati Swayam Sahayta Group for their innovative work towards gender equity and transformational change in the mountains of Uttarakhand, India.The Jagrati Swayam Sahayta Group is a women’s self-help group based in Uttarakhand, India, which offers courses on resilient leadership to university students. This focused effort is currently relatively small, thus far involving nine households and 40 members who have benefitted from the project over the course of 10 years. The group has nevertheless collectively earned over two million Indian rupees, and their innovative approach is inspiring. They implement place-based learning to create an immersive learning environment for over 500 students, who are often also transformed by the experience. Within this model, there is a central focus on valuing the landscape and preserving and promoting traditional culture. Women from the community are the trainers, helping students understand how resilient leadership is manifest in the dignity of work and in the valuing of community capital. From the large number of nominations, the ICIMOD Mountain Prize Selection Committee recognized the innovations evident in the vast contributions made by the Jagrati Swayam Sahayta Group in a mountain area of India.

Binod Shahi for his exceptional work to improve mountain schools and opportunities for youth in Dolpo, Nepal Mountain environments can be challenging places to raise children since remoteness may mean that educational opportunities are also remote. It is in this context that Binod Shahi has worked in Dolpo, Nepal, to promote quality primary-level education. One of the mottos of the organization he founded, the Snowyak Foundation, aptly describes his work: “Towards a self-sustained and self-developed Dolpo, led by responsible and dignified locals.” To reach that ideal, the organization promotes increased enrolment in local schools; develops and distributes educational materials honouring local culture; and engages “yak fellows” as outside motivators working in schools – living in local homes, developing educational resources, and encouraging teachers and students. Shahi’s work in 16 schools and engagement of 56 fellows and his passion to improve mountain schools and opportunities for youth are inspiring.

Honourable mentions

This year also saw honourable mentions given to the following: Tsewang Namgail, who is currently the Director of the Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust and who works on biological diversity conservation in Northwest India Friends of Wildlife, which works across Myanmar promoting community participation in biodiversity conservation Rehmat Ali Jaffardost, Founder and Chairman of the Chitral Heritage and Protection Society (CHEPS), who promotes campaigns for environmental protection and awareness in Chitral, Pakistan Ma Yushou, Professor at the Grassland Institute, Qinghai Academy of Animal Science and Veterinary Medicine, China, who has worked on black-soil land restoration for over 25 years The Third Pole, a media organization whose journalistic work spans the HKH region and whose multilingual platform is dedicated to promoting information and discussion about the Himalayan watershed and the rivers that originate there The Komolchari Polly-Kollyan Sommitee, which works on forest management involving indigenous communities in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh

How the prize is awarded

The ICIMOD Mountain Prize Selection Committee assesses the achievement of the individual, or organization, or company being nominated in any of (but not limited to) the following work areas:

  1. Access to water
  2. Sustainable production systems for food/nutrition security and income
  3. Climate change adaptation
  4. Disaster risk reduction
  5. Access to clean energy
  6. Technologies or innovations, including ICT, for mountain development
  7. Promotion of economic/income-generating opportunity or/and investment
  8. Policy advocacy
  9. Mountain ecosystems/biodiversity conservation

Past winners of the ICIMOD Mountain Prize include Didar Ali (2019), one of the founding members of the Bulbulik Heritage Centre in Gulmit, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan; the Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board of Bangladesh (2019) and the Global Himalayan Expedition (2018). For more details about the prize, please visit http://www.icimod.org/mountainprize