Meet the winners of the GLF Nairobi 2023 photo competition

Three stories of climate adaptation, in pictures

All live-streamed sessions from GLF Nairobi 2023: A New Vision for Earth are now available to watch on demand. Stream the event here.

While the climate crisis may be accelerating, there is no shortage of people around the world working to develop solutions at the grassroots level.

Next month, the Global Landscapes Forum will host a hybrid conference bringing together thousands of people worldwide to explore local solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises. Ahead of GLF Nairobi 2023: A New Vision for Earth, we put out a call for impactful images that showcase some of this work on the ground.

We received over 500 entries from amateur and professional photographers from around the world, shortlisting 41 photos that went in front of a panel of professional judges and the GLF’s global audience.

The first two winners were chosen by the panel, made up of journalist Duncan Lukoye, photographer Patricia Imbarus and the GLF’s own Digital Producer, Mokhammad Edliadi. A third entry won the hearts of the GLF audience, earning the Popular Vote.

We reached out to the photographers behind these incredible images to learn the stories behind them and how visual storytelling can help tackle the world’s greatest challenges. Here’s what they had to say.

“Paddy field” by Md Harun Rashid

1st Place: “Paddy field” by Md Harun Rashid (Bangladesh)

The winning entry, “Paddy field,” was taken in a coastal region of southern Bangladesh where locals have traditionally made a living from catching or farming fish. Unfortunately, they now face increasingly frequent cyclones, storm surges and landslides each year due to the climate crisis, photographer Ab Rashid explains.

This has severely impacted the fish industry and those who rely on it, forcing many people to turn to rice cultivation, despite the salinity of the soil limiting what can be grown, says Rashid.

“The trend of cultivating this rice in salt water is increasing day by day among the farmers,” he explains. The farmers pull fresh water from deeper in the soil to avoid salination and use it to plant rice paddies.

The winning photo illustrates farmers tending to rice seedlings that will be planted later. It also captures a community in flux, adapting to a climate that has destroyed their traditional livelihoods.

“I have been working on climate change in the southern coastal region of Bangladesh for a long time,” says Rashid. “I want to show through this picture the change in lifestyle of the coastal people along with the change in climate.”

See more of Ab Rashid’s work on Instagram.

“Flower blooming in barren soil” by Barun Rajgaria

2nd Place: “Flower blooming in barren soil” by Barun Rajgaria (India)

Near-yearly droughts make farming tricky business in the small town of Purulia in the Indian state of West Bengal, where photographer Barun Rajgaria lives. The soil is dry and barren, and prospects for cultivating rice are dire.

But out of the inhospitable dirt, flowers now bloom thanks to the efforts of local resident Shekhar and his son to cultivate fields of marigolds.

“In a completely barren area where even water has to be collected from several kilometers away, the father-son duo made the dry area bloom with their hard work,” Rajgaria explains, adding that he found their story so inspiring that he couldn’t turn down the opportunity to see their work firsthand.

“I reached them in the morning and saw them working in the fields and watering the plants he explains. “This was the right time to showcase their hard work – their blooming fields amidst the dry land all around giving happiness to the mind.”

For Rajgaria, this photo is a way to bring their inspirational story to a wider audience, to “show the rest of the world that anything is possible with hard work.”

“I took this photo so that people can see it, take inspiration from it and do something.”

See more of Barun Rajgaria’s work on Instagram.

“Children playing by the rice husk” by Ogonna Ogbu

Popular Vote Winner: “Children playing by the rice husk” by Ogonna Ogbu (Nigeria)

Outside the Abakaliki Rice Mill in Ebonyi State, southeastern Nigeria, a group of children play in rice husks in the cool of the evening. It’s not the first time: this spot has long been a fixture in the community where “serenity and tradition harmoniously coexist and those in need of the husk can easily get them for home use,” according to photographer Ogonna Ogbu.

The rice husk is a source of biogas that can be utilized by the community as well as collected commercially for products such as chicken feed, says Ogbu. However, it is often also burned, leading to air pollution.

“I decided to visit the rice mill as I’ve heard so much about it and wanted to document what I saw,” says Ogbu. “After a long day, I eventually stumbled upon the sight of the children playing by the dump site and decided to keep that memory alive.”

This article is focused on value chains in support of the work of the Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration Impact Program (FOLUR), with funding from the Global Environment Facility.

Article tags

activismadaptationAfricaaquaculturebiodiversitycitiesclimate changefarmingfinanceFOLURfoodfood securityGLF Nairobilandscape restorationlandscapesnature conservationnature-based solutionsoceanphotographyplanetary healthpolicyrestorationsciencestorytellingvalue chains

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