Feature Story

The GEF Small Grants Programme: 3 examples of engagement with Indigenous Peoples

August 9, 2017

Women from the Ngäbe indigenous group monitoring forest conservation efforts in the PA. Credit: GEF SGP Panama, Alicia Ibanez
Women from the Ngäbe indigenous group monitoring forest conservation efforts in the PA. Credit: GEF SGP Panama, Alicia Ibanez

The world comes together on August 9 to celebrate the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples to highlight the achievements and contributions that Indigenous Peoples make in the world, and their unique role as defenders of biodiversity and of our natural resources. 

Through the GEF Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP), the GEF has supported thousands of projects with indigenous peoples’ organizations and used flexible mechanisms such as participatory video and applications in local languages to encourage their active participation. In the last two years alone, SGP has supported over 300 projects with indigenous peoples and supported four global indigenous fellows through its Indigenous People Fellowship Initiative. Since 2015, the GEF SGP with the Government of Germany launched the Global Support Initiative for Indigenous Peoples and Community Conserved Territories and Areas (ICCA-GSI) to improve the recognition and overall effectiveness for biodiversity conservation, sustainable livelihoods and resilience to climate change effects of territories and areas conserved by indigenous peoples and local communities. Similarly, through its Community-Based REDD partnership programme with the Goverment of Norway, the GEF SGP empowers indigenous peoples so they can fully engage in the design, implementation and monitoring of REDD+ readiness activities, while developing lessons, and recommendations that can feed into national REDD+ processes.

In places as varied as Guyana, China and Panama, the GEF SGP has supported Indigenous Peoples in conserving globally significant ecosystems and endangered species, as well as establishing community management practices for protected areas.

In Guyana, a GEF SGP project strengthened conservation efforts covering approximately one million hectares of the North Rupununi wetlands, an area populated primarily by native Amerindian peoples. Involving the 16 indigenous communities in the area, GEF SGP supported the implementation of a community-based monitoring system for the endangered Arapaima fish, as well as a draft Arapaima Management Plan in consultation with the relevant government departments and ministries. In total, at least 719 indigenous peoples’ community members were trained in ecological monitoring, management effectiveness and governance of the target landscape.

Through GEF SGP China, a project in Heyuan village, Yunnan Province, supported 12 Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs) covering a total of 3,000 hectares of globally significant ecosystems listed as a natural World Heritage Site and identified as a biodiversity hotspot by the government. The SGP project supported 12 ethnic minority communities to establish their community management committee; conduct ICCA baseline surveys; revive community customary governance; and incorporate customary laws into the ICCA management regulations. The project also provided alternative livelihood trainings for hundreds of male and female participating farmers and supported the establishment of farmer cooperatives. In January 2015, the project was awarded the ‘China Social Innovation Award’.

In Panama, GEF SGP strengthened the technical and scientific capacity of Ngäbe indigenous leaders and communities to co-manage two protected areas: the Damani wetland and the Escudo de Veraguas protected sea and landscape. The first project achieved the conservation of 24,000 hectares, including 29 key species. It involved 20 families in capacity building of indigenous leaders in environmental laws concerning the protection of the two protected areas, and in producing a technical document for wetland site registration under the Ramsar Convention. The project also resulted in the finalization of a national law to manage the area through a collaborative scientific committee.