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Japanese Cooperative, Ethiopians Win ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’

October 4, 1989

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) _ A Japanese housewives organization, Ethiopian scientists and campaigners for tribal peoples today won the Right Livelihood Award, sometimes called the Alternative Nobel Prize.

The Seikatsu Club Consumers Cooperative, started by a group of housewives, was awarded the prestigious honorary prize, which carries no cash award.

Four others, Dr. Melaku Worede of Ethiopia, the British organization Survival International, and Ethiopian doctors Aklilu Lemma and Legesse Wolde- Yohannes, shared the $120,000 cash prize.

The awards will be presented in the Swedish Parliament on Dec. 9, the day before the Nobel Prize ceremonies.

Jacob von Uexkull, a Swedish-German national, sold his valuable stamp collection and founded the prize 10 years ago to encourage practical solutions to everyday problems.

He said it was largely ″thanks to the work of Survival International that we in the West no longer see Indians and Aboriginals as a primitive remnant.″

The laureate organization, with 5,000 members in 60 countries, was cited for its ″success in fostering public awareness of the importance of traditional people’s knowledge for the future of humanity, as models of sustainability and survival.″

It works to assist tribal peoples worldwide and its aim is to ″secure the rights, livelihood and self-determination″ of tribal peoples. Uexkull said one of its successes was that ″now at least the World Bank pays lip service″ to respecting tribal people’s right when awarding loans.

Lemma and Wolde-Yohannes of Ethiopia were cited for their scientific work on the use of the entod plant to combat a chronic and eventually fatal Third World disease, bilharzia, which afflicts more than 200 million people in 74 countries. The disease is caused by parasites that invade blood vessels.

Worede, an agronomist and Ph.D. graduate from the University of Nebraska, was recognized for his creation of the Plant Genetic Resources Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

His work has included establishing ″Strategic Seeds Reserves″ of traditional seeds that can be released to farmers for planting in times of drought when other seeds are unlikely to thrive, the Right Livelihood Socity said.

The Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Cooperative was cited as ″the most successful model of production and consumption in the industrialized world, aiming to change society by promoting self-managed and less wasteful lifestyles.″

It traces its foundation to 1965 when a single Tokyo housewife organized 200 women to buy 300 bottles of milk to reduce their price.

It now involves 170,000 families, or about half a million people, and a business enterprise with a turnover of $287 million that will not handle products detrimental to the members’ health or the environment, the Right Livelihood Organization said.

The club has also entered Japanese politics, paving the way for women in a traditionally male field, on a largely ecological, anti-nuclear platform.

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