Hong Kong, China


Photographer: Xaume Olleros

Year of Submission: 2016 (Educators Edition) 

Hong Kong, one of the world’s most densely populated cities, imports more than 90% of its total food supply. But recent food scandals, and worries about over-dependence on products grown on large-scale commercial farms, are pushing up demand for healthier and more nutritious produce. Helping fill a tiny part of this demand is Rooftop Republic, a social enterprise whose aim is to advance urban farming by establishing and maintaining organic farm set-ups around Hong Kong. At workshops run on rooftops across the city, Hong Kongers Michelle Hong and Andrew Tsui, and Pol Fabrega from Spain, the team behind Rooftop Republic, use Cantonese and English to show urban dwellers how to grow their own food at home. In a city where eating is central to social life, such knowledge is vital to help urban dwellers connect with the skills and knowledge needed to build sustainable and local food systems. 


Darchen, China


Photographer: Samuel Zuder

Year of Submission: 2016 (Educators Edition)

Tseten Dorjee (above) is headmaster of the Tibetan Medical and Astro Institute in Darchen, a village in western Tibet, one of the world’s poorest and most remote regions. Since the mid-1990s Tseten has taught traditional Tibetan medicine, astrology, nutrition, ethics and language to young Tibetans. Some of his graduates have stayed on to work at the institute, but most have returned to their home villages to look after basic health care in rural communities. His institute stands at the foot of Mount Kailash, a holy site for Tibetan Buddhists. As well as training students, its staff also take care of the health problems suffered by pilgrims visiting the area, the most common of which is altitude sickness caused by Darchen’s location 4,575 metres above sea level.


Bixiang, China


Photographer: Liu Junyang

Year of Submission: 2016 (Educators Edition) 

In Bixiang, a Miao village in south-west China’s Guizhou province, homes are built using a set of practices handed on from one generation to the next. On a day deemed auspicious for construction, work starts as soon as Yang Dinghong’s neighbours and other members of his village arrive to help him. They begin by setting the building’s alignment, then they lay the building’s foundations – a framework of logs raised half a metre or so above the ground. Next comes putting up the four parallel walls that divide the house’s interior into three rooms. The room between the second and the third of these walls is the house’s living room – the “zhengtang”. When the zhengtang’s walls are in place, a pig is dragged into the room and killed. Some of its blood is sprinkled over the house’s foundations and pillars. The last big task is putting up the building’s sustaining walls. When they are in place, the builders take a break to eat a meal of rice and chicken. Much work remains finishing and decorating Dinghong’s house. But with its basic structure completed, fireworks are set off and guests from local villages arrive bearing gifts. Bixiang has a new home.


Oddar Meanchey, Cambodia


Photographer: Luke Duggleby

Year of Submission: 2016 (Educators Edition) 

Buddhist monk Bun Saluth runs Cambodia’s largest community-managed forest, the Rukhavon Monks Community Forest in the country’s northwestern province of Oddar Meanchey. Born into a poor rural farming family, Bun spent his early years training to be a monk and then living in Thailand. There, he spent five years studying the environmental conservation tactics used by Thai monks. He returned to Cambodia determined to protect his country’s forests. At first, people were suspicious of his efforts. But Bun persisted, explaining over and over again the benefits of adopting sustainable ways of managing their woodlands. In 2002, he managed to secure protection for an area of 18,260 hectares, and his community forest was born. Since then, his district has seen little illegal logging or land encroachment by farmers. “Even though more people live in the area, no one breaks the rules any more,” says Bun.


Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei


Photographer: Muhammad Ilham Ismail

Year of Submission: 2016 (Educators Edition) 

Kalpana Kishorekumar, 37, is head of humanities at Chung Hwa Middle School in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei, teaching social studies, geography, sociology and modern history to students aged 13-17. Since Kalpana joined the school in 2008, social media and other internet technologies have become crucial educational tools enabling a shift from teacher-centred learning to student-centred learning. For projects, her students work in groups, collaborating with each other using cloud-computing programs, exchanging information and ideas with mobile apps, and gathering data with online surveys. Kalpana uses the same software to follow and review their work. Free communications software allows her and her students to discuss issues ranging from gender equality to information technology problems with other educators and experts in countries ranging from Nigeria to the USA. “I want to make a difference,” says Kalpana. “My students have become more curious and adventurous in trying new things and absorbing as much knowledge as possible. I would love to see my students make a choice, grab a chance and change whatever they can.”


Chittagong, Bangladesh


Photographer: Mohammad Faqrul Islam

Year of Submission: 2016 (Educators Edition) 

Every day of the week except Fridays, from half past seven in the morning to nine o’clock in the evening, this bus travels across Chittagong, a coastal city in eastern Bangladesh, giving class after class to children who live on the street or whose parents can’t afford to pay for their education. The bus, bought with donations from the readers of German newspaper Recklinghäuser Zeitung, travels between seven locations, picking up 40 children at a time for an hour or two of primary classes at each stop.


Masazir, Azerbaijan



Photographer: Mila Teshaieva

Year of Submission: 2016 (Educators Edition) 

Malahat Alieva is a mentor for younger women in Masazir, a municipality of three thousand people in eastern Azerbaijan. Her message: stand up for your rights and follow your dreams. A teacher in a local village school for almost her whole working life, the death of her husband several years ago persuaded her to try something new, and she stood for election to the municipality’s council. That could have been a risky move. Traditionally, women in rural Azerbaijan are discouraged from taking part in public life. Those who do usually find themselves stigmatised by other people, often including their own family. But it worked for Malahat. Despite only receiving support from women, she was elected, and ever since she has been a vocal advocate for women’s interests in Masazir. Asked to describe her outlook, she says, “My grandmother once told me: ‘A room has four corners; if you ever find yourself treated badly, don’t look for the door, just go and sit in another corner.’ I’ve turned that rule on its head. Now I try to help women in any kind of trouble find the door and go through it.”


Geghakert, Armenia


Photographer: Jacob Balzani Lööv

Year of Submission: 2016 (Educators Edition) 

Felix Aliyev, 76, has spent nearly five decades training young weightlifters at his run-down gym in Geghakert, a village in western Armenia. Trained at Armenia’s Institute of Physical Training, from where he graduated in 1966, his most successful student was Yurik Sarkisyan, a world weight-lifting champion from 1982 to 1984 and former holder of 14 world records who now is deputy head of the Australian Weightlifting Federation. With an Azerbaijani father, Felix was in great danger when fighting broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the early 1990s. Most Azerbaijanis fled the country, but he decided to remain in Geghakert. While the war continued, his Armenian pupils took shifts sleeping in his home to protect him. “I could not move to Azerbaijan, as my wife and my mother are Armenians,” he says. “Had my pupils turned their backs on me I would have left. But they supported me strongly.”