The United Nations Environment Programme awards the Young Champions of the Earth Prize to 20-year-old Filipino chef Louise Mabulo. This former “Junior Master Chef” finalist and young entrepreneur was recognized as the winner from the Asia and the Pacific region, besting over 1,000 applicants aged 18 to 30. This prestigious award recognizes the youth’s impactful actions for the environment. 

Mabulo’s initiative to save the environment started out as a relief project when Typhoon Nina hit her hometown in Bicol in 2016. Majority of the rice fields were flooded and a large number of coconut trees were damaged during the typhoon’s duration. Seeing how it affected the locals, particularly the farmers, she decided to focus on agriculture to promote sustainable farming.

Mabulo’s initiative called The Cacao Project has planted more than 70,000 cacao trees over 70 hectares of land.  Cacao trees are more resilient and profitable than coconut trees as it only takes three years for the former to mature; also cacao trees can better withstand strong winds. Farmers are also provided with short-term crops in order to earn while waiting for cacao’s harvest season. Some companies have already showed interest in purchasing the harvest and so Mabulo hopes that in time the farmers will be able to learn to process cacao to produce their own chocolate.

Mabulo received $15,000 (in addition to $9,000 for mentoring and communications support) which she plans to use for setting up a training and processing center. Through the distinction she was given, Mabulo places more emphasis on the active role of the youth in impacting communities and protecting the environment through innovative ideas that can foster positive change.

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