The winner of the Environmental Defenders 2023 Kilimo Prize Award dies at the age of 74

Mr. Ngom Udagu Filemon

The Environmental Defenders expresses profound sorrow at the passing of Mr. Ngom Udagu Filemon, the recipient of the 2023 Kilimo Prize Award. Mr. Filemon passed away on Friday, March 1, 2024, at 10am at Ther Aru Hospital in Abira, Mahagi area.

Mr. Ngom Udagu Filemon has been afflicted with diabetes for a duration of 7 years.In December 2023, he was hospitalized to Logo General Referral Hospital for medical treatment. After receiving initial treatment there, he was discharged and sent to Ther Aru in Abira for additional medical care. At the time of his demise, he had reached the age of 74.

Filemon received the 2023 Kilimo Award from the Environmental Defenders for his efforts in safeguarding land, preserving the environment, and fostering sustainable living in the Pajen grouping of Wagongo Chiefdom in Mahagi region.

Filemon, a peasant leader, has led an exemplary life. He has planted many species of plants on his property, including mango, cypress, lemon, avocado, and others. Throughout his whole life, he has cultivated various crops such as cassava, yams, and sweet potatoes on his fields in order to sustain his family and community both economically and nutritionally. He focused his efforts on tackling food poverty, promoting children’s education and well-being, and mitigating environmental degradation via tree planting to avoid soil erosion and absorb carbon dioxide.

Filemon has effectively sponsored the education and nourishment of many children via his farm effort, which started 56 years ago.

Filemon has consistently acted as a community leader, actively advocating for peace and fostering reconciliation among different populations. His main emphasis has been on guiding and assisting young people in understanding the need of environmental preservation. He has advocated for land rights and successfully mitigated conflicts in communities by acting as a mediator in land disputes.

In 1996, Mr. Filemon initiated a commercial agricultural endeavor in Pajen. He enlisted the services of 150 individuals, both male and female, to live with him at his residence and work as temporary laborers on the farm.He cultivated cassava and cultivated maize, millets, and rice.During the years 2000 and 2001, there was a significant increase in hunger due to the onset of the Ituri Lendu-Hema clashes. During this period, Filemon provided sustenance to the whole Mahagi region and a portion of Djugu by distributing cassava and millet. This assistance extended as far as Djugu and some areas of Uganda, since there was a severe famine. Mr. Filemon’s lifestyle has promoted local philanthropy and environmental protection. He spearheaded a rigorous campaign to save many hills and water sources in Pajen and the surrounding areas of Aruko.Filemon formerly held the position of chairman of the fishing organization of Aruko.

In 2023, Mr. Filemon was awarded the Kilimo Prize by the Environmental Defenders for his efforts in safeguarding the environment, advocating for land rights, and promoting sustainable living at the grassroots level.

As to the findings of Ayiorwoth Glory, an advocate for environmental protection, Ayiorwoth expressed that Mr. Filemon’s lifestyle and dedication to a fair and sustainable environment can serve as a source of inspiration for younger generations. Ayiorwoth believes that the youth of today should strive to imitate and adopt Mr. Filemon’s way of life in order to safeguard and preserve the environment.

An agricultural extension worker and staff member of Environmental Defenders, Mr. Ukethi, stated that despite Mr. Filemon’s passing, his legacy will endure and he urged the children and relatives he left behind to carry on his commendable efforts. Specifically, he emphasized the importance of preserving the forests and trees that Mr. Filemon dedicated his entire life to nurturing.He asked the family to handle all matters related to the estate left behind by Mr. Filemon, including the land.

Mr. Ngom Udagu Filemon
Mr. Ngom Udagu Filemon

About the Kilimo Prize Award

The Kilimo Award was established by the Environmental Defenders led by Gloria Ayiorwoth and Sarah Lonyo. In 2021, the Environmental Defenders and its team received a nomination for an international prize recognizing human rights and environmental justice, which is located in Europe. The staff of Environmental Defenders encountered questionable practices during the nomination and research processes for an award the organization was nominated for. This led to doubts about the credibility and transparency of the internationally renowned awards project, which was ultimately found to be corrupt and lacking transparency in its selection of winners. After a series of interviews, email exchanges, on-site visits, and meetings between the award issuing organization in Europe and Environmental Defenders, it was discovered that the selection process was corrupted. The European human rights award and environmental justice foundation already knew in advance which organizations or individuals would receive the prestigious award before conducting any scheduled meetings, interviews, or visits with Environmental Defenders.

We are aware that there are several worldwide prizes of this kind, but they seldom have a positive influence. Large sums of money are often awarded to a small number of individuals, typically ranging from 4 to 10 persons or less. The effects of these awards are sometimes not evident, particularly in poor countries. Environmental Defenders was not chosen for the prize, but the screening process has increased our understanding of the cumbersome, corrupt, and bureaucratic procedures involved in the Foundation’s award selection process.

After careful consideration and assessment, the Environmental Defenders have decided that it is important to provide small amounts of money to numerous individuals and organizations that are making significant contributions, rather than giving large sums to a select few whose impact may not be as visible. If Environmental Defenders had received this prize, it may have influenced the organization’s vision. However, it may not have been significant to many individuals who need even a little amount of money to bring joy to their lives.

Hence, we are grateful for not receiving the award. This experience has expanded our understanding of the circumstances. As a result, we have initiated our own awards, which we anticipate will be granted yearly to those deserving recognition at a local level.

The next Kilimo Prize award will take place in 2024, scheduled between June and August. For more details about Kilimo Prize award, check the article