Cover 2021 Rolex Awards laureate Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim (middle) uses indigenous people's traditional knowledge to map natural resources and prevent climate conflicts in the Sahel (Photos: Rolex)

The Rolex Awards for Enterprise 2021 laureates and their environmental or humanitarian projects will undoubtedly be vital in the conservation of the planet

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim wants to solve the escalated tension between the nomadic pastoralists and settled farmers of Chad, Africa. Due to climate change and increased population sizes in the Sahel region, the conflict between these disparate groups arose over the ever-dwindling resources in the region. As a climate activist and advocate for the rights of indigenous peoples of Chad, Hindou hopes to resolve the dispute with her project for Rolex Award for Enterprise (RAE) 2021. 

Initially introduced and conceived as a one-time celebration of the first waterproof wristwatch Rolex Oyster's 50th anniversary in 1976, the award drew so much international interest that Rolex transformed them into an ongoing programme. The RAE has since established itself as one of the three key pillars of the watchmaker's Perpetual Planet initiative, in which the watchmaker is backing individuals and organisations to find solutions to the world's problems. (The other pillars include Rolex's partnership with National Geographic Society and Rolex Testimonee and marine scientist Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue project to safeguard the oceans.) Taking place biennially, the RAE honours individuals with projects focused on the environment, science and health, applied technology, cultural heritage, and exploration. 

Related: 6 Life-Changing Lessons From The Rolex Perpetual Planet Campaign

Through the traditional and cultural practices of the indigenous peoples, Hindou aims to bring the people together as they map and allocate natural resources. Conducted on a participatory basis with the indigenous peoples of Chad, Hindou's project utilises the knowledge gained from these practices to create two-dimensional (2D) mapping on a board of natural features such as ridges and plateau. This will then lead to the creation of intricate 2D or 3D landscape models of the region that will allow the indigenous peoples to become aware and then agree upon the distribution and sharing of the land, and resources fresh water and fruit-bearing trees.

“We all depend on the environment. We interact with the environment. I can’t work protecting human rights without protecting the environment,” said the RAE laureate about the motivations behind her work. Her project of mapping the terrain for resources will not only be a great effort in the conversation of resources but become a galvanising force that unites the indigenous peoples to a common cause. 

Besides Hindou, here are four other laureates whose projects have caught the attention of the selection panel and have deservingly earned them the RAE 2021.  

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Above A big round of applause for the efforts of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise 2021 laureates

Felix Brooks-Church

Global malnutrition has been linked to half the preventable deaths of 15,000 children every day. And Felix Brooks-Church, an American social entrepreneur, has a project aimed at solving one of the world’s greatest afflictions, which affects two billion people globally. Brooks-Church's determination to resolve malnutrition brought him to Tanzania, where he developed and patented his device: the "dosifier". The purpose of Brook-Church's machine is to dose flour with important nutrients such as vitamin B12, zinc, folic acid and iron, which are integral for nutrition and healthy development. “What we are doing is adding life-saving nutrients to the staple foods that millions of people depend on every day,” he said Brooks-Church.


Maize flour is a staple food in East Africa. However, most governments in the region do not have the resources to assist in the fortification of flour with nutrients in the small mills there. Hence, it was of great importance in ensuring his business model would not add extra cost to consumers and millers. As such these devices are lightweight and able to be installed even in the most remote small mills across the region and are able to be self-sustaining. “What we are doing is adding life-saving nutrients to the staple foods that millions of people depend on every day."

See also: How Social Entrepreneur John-Son Oei Is Helping Orang Asli Beyond Building Sustainable Homes

Luiz Rocha

Coral reefs constitute some of the planet’s most diverse ecosystems, with nearly 25 per cent of all marine life dependent on reefs at some stage of their life cycles. Enamoured by marine life from a young age, Luiz Rocha has his sights set on the Indian Ocean with his project to explore, study, and protect the mesophotic reefs—deep coral reefs that are between 30 to 150 metres below the ocean's surface—of the Maldives. The Brazillian marine biologist's project will be executed as three expeditions spanning over two years in partnership with the Maldivian Ministry of Fisheries. The aim of his project greatly augments the existing knowledge of the species living in the reefs and also provide valuable data about conditions and temperature changes over extended periods. This is especially pertinent as too little is known about deep reefs that they have come to be sometimes forgotten or even neglected by those who could be legislating to protect them. 

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Rocha's project with the mesophotic reefs has its influences drawn from his previous research design in the Philippines and Brazil of monitoring these Marine Protected Areas. One of his goals is to ensure that deep reefs will receive the same marine protection as shallow ones. “The project really embodies the spirit of exploration, discovery and conservation integral to Rolex,” said Rocha about his ensuing study. In addition to exploring the extensive mesophotic reefs of the Indian Ocean, he will be researching their suitability to shelter at-risk species from shallower reefs that are threatened by global warming.

Gina Moseley

Gina Moseley's RAE project lies in treacherous expeditions into the caves of northern Greenland. Located at the northernmost parts of the Earth, Moseley and her team hope that through exploration and study they will gain insight into climate change in the Arctic. As a climate researcher, Moseley explains that one way to understand climate changes effect on the environment is by studying the chemical history of caves, by finding the presence of calcite mineral deposits. Also known as speleothems —formed from dripping water—are a tell-tale sign of water entering the caves: which can be attributed to increasing temperatures that would cause the vital ice sheets of the Arctic to melt. While the expedition will be the exploration of several caves, there is one massive cave, in particular, that Moseley is captivated by: a giant cave reportedly discovered during the Cold War by US reconnaissance aircraft above a lake in Wulff Land in Greenland. 



Moseley’s six-member team will have an arduous journey to conquer to reach the cave, as they would be travelling long distances on foot in the 24-hour sunlight of the region. They hope to explore the giant cave which, despite much interest and speculation, has never been visited.

“Caves are like time machines,” Moseley says. “Calcite forms layers, like tree rings. We can analyse each layer to get information about the past climate so, when we go into the caves, we are looking for stalagmites, stalactites and flowstones which are made from calcite.

"[The challenge of reaching the cave is its] remote location, the difficult logistics, and the very high cost of an expedition to North Greenland."

Related: Rolex Braves New Frontiers

Rinzin Phunjok Lama

Nepalese scientist and environmentalist Rinzin Phunkjok Lama is trailblazing a path for a new and much-needed generation of conservationists determined to protect the nation’s rich biodiversity. "The Trans-Himalayan ecosystem [which includes most of Nepal’s highlands] is very fragile, and increasing human activities are threatening it constantly. Thus, there is an urgent need for a conservation project which addresses an integrated approach to conservation and livelihood,” said Lama, whose project hopes to overcome the threats to the biodiversity indigenous to Nepal, as well as strive to improve the lives of the people of Humla.


By engaging local people from Humla, particularly young environment graduates, he is fulfilling his vision of “leading by locals”. Lama wants to enhance and enlarge the current conservation activities in the region by training and promoting local leadership in conservation efforts among the indigenous people. In addition, Lama will also be conducting a feasibility study of potential trekking trails to promote ecotourism. Being awarded the RAE, Lama has the potential to become a lifelong national voice for conservation and become a model for young people to become champions for the environment. “I want to show that given opportunities, local people can lead exceptionally and are capable of managing large-scale conservation projects and community engagement as real stewards of the land," said Lama about his faith in the project.

Related: Rolex Undertakes Marine Conservation Efforts With Renowned Marine Biologist

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