Nigeria’s Ugochi Anyaka, a radio journalist and presenter for ASO Radio Abuja, won the United Nations Environment Programme’s Young Environmental Journalist Award (YEJA) with her report titled, ‘Saving the Trees for Paper Briquettes’. Ugochi Anyaka, 29, came out tops despite stiff competition from over 120 entries from other reporters across Africa. Miss Anyaka received her award at a special ceremony held during the 12th Special Session of the UNEP Governing Council / Global Ministerial Environment Forum in Nairobi, Kenya. Anyaka is the host of an environmental radio show "Green Angle" on ASO Radio. She also works as a producer, reporter and continuity announcer with the station. She writes an environmental blog, Eco Nigeria, at She lists her main interests as sustainable development and climate change.

Miss Anyaka was presented with her specially-commissioned trophy by Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director, Joseph Murphy, US Permanent Representative to UNEP and UN-HABITAT and Patricia Okoed-Bukumunhe, the winner of last year's Young Environmental Journalist Award. Her winning report was described as a "well-researched report that clearly explained the essence of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the need for creating environmental development in Africa" by the YEJA jury.

The report was essentially on a project in a low-earning suburb of Abuja that manufactures briquettes from waste paper so as to provide alternative fuel to traditional firewood. This project aim to reduce the health hazards related to indoor use of firewood, reduce deforestation and provide a means of livelihood for the briquette makers. The role of the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) was also discussed in the report.

"This story was done to show the opportunities in a changing climate – and not just the woe. It also seeks to show the conflicting viewpoints about the Clean Development Mechanism. But ultimately, it tells the story of what some Nigerians are doing to protect their vulnerable environment and save their very existence. Winning the UNEP Young Environmental Journalist Award is the greatest moment of joy in my career. It is such an honour to be recognised in this manner," Miss Anyaka said.

Part of her prize includes being part a professional exchange visit to the United States, that would involves a well mapped out "green itinerary". Last year's YEJA winner, Patricia Okoed-Bukumunhe of Uganda, had a week-long placement with Voice of America in Washington DC, spent time with National Geographic magazine, the US Environmental Protection Agency and attended an environmental journalism conference in Florida. Something along this line would be expected for Miss Anyaka to increase her knowledge on environmental issues.

"With less than four months to go until world governments meet at the UN Sustainable Development Conference (Rio+20) in Brazil, raising public awareness of today's environmental challenges is perhaps more critical than ever," said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

"The large number of entries received from journalists from Cairo to Cape Town and Dar es Salaam to Dakar for this year's award, showed that young journalists are becoming an increasingly vital voice for telling the story of Africa's changing environment – and showing the many solutions that are available on the continent. On behalf of UNEP, I congratulate Ugochi Anyaka on her achievement and wish her continued success in her work."

The UNEP Young Environmental Journalist Award which Launched in 2010, is aimed at showcasing excellence in the field of environmental reporting and nurture new talent that will help to shape opinion on the environment in Africa, and beyond, in years to come. The US Department of State provides the major funding for the award.

A total of 127 entries were received this year (in English and French) from television, radio, online and print journalists in 28 countries. The vast topics covered ranged from the economic and environmental impacts of invasive species in Lake Victoria, efforts to reduce plastic bag use in Togo and the breeding of climate change-resilient chickens in Namibia.

The winner was chosen by the YEJA jury, which brought together four experts from the worlds of journalism, development and science. They were Amie Joof, Executive Director of the Senegal-based Inter-African Network for Women, Media, Gender and Development (FAMEDEV), Diran Onifade, journalist and manager with the Nigerian Television Authority and President of the African Federation of Science Journalists, Stanis Nkdundiye, Steering Committee member of the Federation of African Journalists and Sunday Leonard, Special (Scientific) Assistant to the Chief Scientist of UNEP.

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This article was first published on 28th February 2012 and updated on March 22nd, 2012 at 12:53 pm

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