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Aneet Aklesh Kumar

Aneet Aklesh Kumar

Aneet is currently a Research Officer at the University of the South Pacific (USP). Aneet has completed his BA majoring in Politics and International Affairs and History from the BA/LLB programme and is currently completing the LLB component.

Many young people in the Pacific are unaware of the SDGs and the UN Security Council Resolution 2250 that places young people at its heart.

Working with the Pacific’s largest student body, the University of the South Pacific Students’ Association, Aneet is incorporating agenda 2030 into the first ever three year transformative plan that aims to integrate the SDGs into education and student activities all year round.

Over 38,000 students will benefit from the transformative plan as well as the USP’s 12 regional member countries.

Elizabeth Kperrun is the CEO of Zenafri who work with African children and young adults in creating mobile applications and video content that educate them in their native languages within familiar contexts. She is a Commonwealth Innovation Awards 2019 People category winner.

With a focus on early education and girls, the applications have already been downloaded over 120,000 times with 2,000 people using the apps every day.

Zenafri website

Chukwudi Anyanaso has a passion for addressing poverty and hunger issues, especially those that affect women. In 2013, at the age of 24 he established the People and Planet Life Foundation, a rural, non-governmental organisation that promotes ‘zero poverty and hunger’, aimed in particularly at women. He was selected to represent Nigeria in the Mandela Washington Fellowship in 2016. Commonwealth Innovation Awards 2019 Prosperity category winner.

In 2013, he launched the Fish Farm Programme to empower women to become economically independent. The project focuses on poor, rural women and supports them to form cooperatives of 20 to 100 members in targeted communities in the southeast region of Nigeria. It equips these women’s cooperatives with sustainable skills and knowledge in fish farming and entrepreneurship.

People and Planet Life Foundation website

Fiji is an island nation of unparalleled natural beauty. However, its pristine coastal ecosystems are increasingly threatened by accumulating waste and marine pollution, and young researchers find themselves at the front line of the battle to protect life under water.

Rufino Varea is one of them. An alumnus of the ACU Blue Charter Fellowships Programme, Rufino is currently pursuing his PhD at the region’s University of the South Pacific, with a study on pollution and the health of ocean species. But unlike other researchers, he faces a unique challenge: his research is trailblazing in a region where little has been previously studied on marine pollution.    

Today, Rufino embeds his research within communities who depend on marine resources and regularly visits them to listen to people’s stories about the changing ocean.

When the government plans to utilise a land or sea area, local communities must be made fully aware of the potential changes and understand how to negotiate so they aren’t affected during or after the development.

Rufino Varea

Moving forward, Rufino will continue to raise his voice and those of others. Through research, he hopes to influence how people treat our oceans – and he has shown us that change is not only possible, but so often begins with the individual.

The programme forms part of the Commonwealth Marine Plastics Research & Innovation Framework – a global hub which aims to share scientific and technical expertise in this vital area – and support the aims of the Commonwealth Blue Charter.

Turning the tide against marine plastics pollution

Mohamad Shafie Taib is an engineer at the Town Planning Department in Alor Gajah Municipal Council, Melaka, Malaysia where he has worked since September 2012. Mohamad Shafie is involved in green technology, climate change and urban sustainable development programme. A Commonwealth Innovation Awards 2019 Partnerships category winner.

In 2018, the Alor Gajah Municipal Council in collaboration with the Universiti Putra Malaysia launched the Pulau Semut Village Sustainable Communities programme. The programme’s goal is to systemise the use of day-to-day green technology in non-urban communities so that green-living permeates all levels of Melaka society. This includes preserving the environment, instilling a culture of low carbon living and managing solid waste sustainably.

While studies link social media use with increased rates of anxiety and depression, Franca Ma-ih Sulem Yong started the DigCit SDG project to direct young people’s energy to use these tools in a postive way. She is a Commonwealth Innovation Awards 2019 Partnerships category winner.

To counter the trend of online fake news, cyber bullying and the various forms of cyber criminality, she launched the first DigCit SDG awards to unite, celebrate, reward and forge partnerships with leaders of organisations using social media and information technology to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Through the project, media, educational and professional outreach are used to raise awareness on the responsible use of social media and information technology for the SDGs. Organised in partnership with over 20 organisations, the DigCit SDG project has reached more than 1,000,000 people in Cameroon and beyond.

Alfred Cook has spent a lifetime on the ocean and the last 17 years working in fisheries conservation and management. Since 2012, he has worked as the Western and Central Pacific Tuna Programme Manager for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) out of Wellington, New Zealand. His focus is on improving tuna fisheries management at a national and regional level through policy improvements, market tools, and technological innovation. Commonwealth Innovation Awards 2019 Planet category winner.

Over the past year, WWF Australia, New-Zealand, and Fiji piloted the use of blockchain for sustainable tuna with ConsenSys, SeaQuest Fiji (Fijian fishing company), TraSEAble (a Fiji IT company) as part of its Panda Labs innovation programme.

The vision is to increase the sustainability of fishing in the Pacific Ocean, reduce worker exploitation and increase economic opportunity and access to global markets by creating a transparent and traceable supply chain solution for fresh and frozen supply chain.

World Wildlife Fund website

Jaydeep Mandal is the founder and managing director of Aakar Innovations, a hybrid social enterprise that enables women to produce and distribute affordable, high quality sanitary towels. He is a Commonwealth Innovation Awards 2019 People category winner.

Aakar works with various partners – corporate, non-profit organisations and government. Through its interventions in the last seven years, Aakar have reached 1 million plus female consumers. It employs over 600 women in production while another 500 are engaged in sales.

Aakar endeavours to break the silence around the issue of menstrual hygiene and provide knowledge and guidance, especially adolescent girls.


Eritai Kateibwi has the ambitious goal of getting every family in Kiribati to grow their own plants and vegetables by using mineral rich water rather than soil. He is a Commonwealth Innovation Awards 2019 People category winner.

Due to low elevation, over-crowded living spaces, and limited understanding, many people in Kiribati are unable to grow their own food. High population concentration in the main cities takes over potential farmland. Storms regularly cause flooding, washing out any viable crops. This has contributed to widespread malnutrition and reliance on imported food.

Eritai’s Te Maeu project uses a portable, self contained hydroponics system that requires no soil to grow crops. After reading about the hydroponic technique while studying in America, Eritai decided to share this cutting-edge method with his local community so that they could grow healthy, cheap and sustainable food. His project relies on Kiribati’s abundant sunshine but uses only 10 per cent of the water of traditional crops.

Te Maeu Project website

Mr. Onyango is the Executive Director of Dandora Dumpsite Rehabilitation Group (DADREG). He holds a Diploma in Information Technology from Inoorero University; a Certificate in Non-Profit Management from Johns Hopkins University, Institute for Policy Studies and a Certificate in Executive Development from Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania. Commonwealth Innovation Awards 2019 Prosperity category winner.

Prior to joining DADREG in 2012, George worked with the Slums Information Development and Resource Centres (SIDAREC). In 2014 DADREG, started a programme to improve food security for people living in slums. As part of this programme, women and youth are trained in modern farming techniques to grow food for consumption and for sale to fight hunger and food insecurity that make women and children scavenge for food in rubbish dumps.

Dandora Dumpsite Rehabilitation Group website

Bangladesh had success in food and nutritional security over some yerasby the application of new techiques in agriculture. However, due to global climate change and the emergence of devastating pests, ensuring food security for the growing population of the country from shrinking land resources has became far more challenging.

Therefore, novel approaches were needed. Utlising Facebook and Twitter, Md combined with 31 researchers from seven countries over four continents. Within six weeks through open data sharing and international collaboration he identified the origin of wheat blast disease in Bangladesh as a South American fungus Magnaporthe oryzae. He is a Commonwealth Innovation Awards 2019 Planet category winner.

Read about wheat blast in Bangladesh

Christopher Nesbitt is the director of Maya Mountain Research Farm, a former degraded citrus and cattle farm that is a registered NGO. Since 1988, applying permaculture principles to the land, the farm has been converted into an ongoing experiment in land repair, carbon farming and food security. Commonwealth Innovation Awards 2019 Prosperity category winner.

The Maya Mountain Research Farm has been recognised internationally for its innovations in integrated agroforestry, bringing ancient knowledge to modern problems. Its primary innovations include the use of tropical staple food trees in the agroforestry system, the application of biochar from crop residues to premium cultivars of cacao, turmeric, vanilla, and timber with cooperative family labour as the economic driver.