VANCOUVER – The Global Environment Facility has selected 23 civil society organizations as winners of its Inclusive GEF Assembly Challenge Program, a novel initiative reflecting a commitment to support and elevate community-driven climate and nature projects and the unique contributions of Indigenous Peoples, women, girls, and young people across the GEF partnership.
The winning projects were announced during the GEF Assembly, a once-every-four-year gathering of 186 countries taking place this week in Vancouver.
Each awardee will receive a grant of up to $100,000 and gain access to networking, training, and knowledge exchange opportunities through the GEF, a family of funds that finances international efforts to address biodiversity loss, pollution, and climate change.
The winning organizations will be celebrated during the Assembly’s Partnership Forum and will share their experiences in a number of panels and sessions throughout the week, reflecting the GEF’s focus on supporting environmental action and results through a “whole of society” approach.
“Global environmental challenges affect us all, but their impacts are almost entirely locally felt. It is our privilege to celebrate and fund these locally-designed, locally-led remedies for climate resilience, coastline protection, biodiversity conservation, and more,” GEF CEO and Chairperson Carlos Manuel Rodriguez said, celebrating the winners.
“The Inclusive GEF Assembly Challenge Program is a concrete example of our focus on supporting civil society and lifting up the voices and innovations of Indigenous Peoples, women, youth, and others who have been historically under-represented in international environmental financing and policy,” Rodriguez said.
The 23 winners were chosen from nearly 600 applications, by a selection panel made up of the GEF’s CSO Network, Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel, Indigenous Peoples’ Advisory Group, and Gender Partnership, as well as youth representatives linked to international environmental conventions.
They span 26 countries including Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Bolivia, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Haiti, India, Kenya, Kiribati, Madagascar, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, and Uganda.
The winning initiatives include a project applying the Maasai peoples’ Indigenous knowledge for climate resilience in Tanzania; an effort to mobilize rural youth in Costa Rica to preserve biodiversity; activities to bring together women and girls to protect coastlines in Antigua and Barbuda; and a project aiming to empower marginalized and vulnerable groups in Thailand to adapt to climate change.
Esther Morenikeji Emmanuel of U-recycle Initiative Africa, one of the winning groups, said support from the Inclusive GEF Assembly Challenge Program would help expand the organization’s efforts to reduce plastic waste in Nigeria. “If you want to see change, you have to start small in the areas where you can have a direct impact,” she said. “It is also easy to begin taking action locally because you can see the issues so clearly.”
Tom Bui, Canada’s representative on the GEF Council, welcomed the Inclusive GEF Assembly Challenge Program as a cornerstone of the gathering in Vancouver where a record number of civil society representatives are sharing their perspectives and priorities, on the stage and at the table.
“The only way we can achieve lasting transformational change to safeguard a livable planet is by listening to each other,” he said. “We need to embrace our differences and tap the rich diversity of views existing in all societies. This program does this by celebrating our unsung environmental heroes.”
The Inclusive GEF Assembly Challenge Program is funded by the Global Environment Facility’s two climate change adaptation funds – the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) – which have worked for more than 20 years to close financing gaps and provide targeted funding to meet the specific needs of the world’s most vulnerable countries.
It builds on the record of an earlier SCCF- and LDCF- funded initiative, the Challenge Program for Adaptation Innovation, which has provided two rounds of seed funding for innovative initiatives designed to help address the effects of the climate crisis.
About the Global Environment Facility
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is a family of funds dedicated to confronting biodiversity loss, climate change, pollution, and strains on land and ocean health. Its grants, blended financing, and policy support helps developing countries address their biggest environmental priorities and adhere to international environmental conventions. Over the past three decades, the GEF has provided more than $23 billion and mobilized $129 billion in co-financing for more than 5,000 national and regional projects.
About the Least Developed Countries Fund
The GEF-managed Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) is exclusively focused on the climate adaptation needs of Least Developed Countries. It supports vulnerable countries in their efforts to build more climate-resilient agriculture, water, food, health, and infrastructure sectors, and to invest in climate information services. The LDCF also provides institutional and policy support for scaling up adaptation finance and private sector engagement. Since 2001, the LDCF has financed 365 projects and programs with $1.7 billion in grants. This funding has directly benefited 52 million people and improved the climate resilience of 8 million hectares of land.
About the Special Climate Change Fund
The GEF-managed Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) helps vulnerable countries address the negative impacts of climate change through innovation, technology transfer, and private sector engagement. It also offers targeted support to Small Island Developing States, given their specific climate adaptation needs. The SCCF has provided $363 million in grants for 88 projects related to climate-resilient agriculture value chains, improved water management, integrated coastal management, climate risk insurance, nature-based solutions, and more. These initiatives have benefited approximately 9 million people and helped bring more than 5 hectares of land under more sustainable management.
ANNEX: Winners of the Inclusive GEF Assembly Challenge Program
Antigua and Barbuda
Adoptacoastline’s Community Coastal Stewardship project encourages and trains local communities – with a focus on women and youth – to remove marine debris and litter and restore and protect coastal ecosystems. Related activities include education; making, installing, and managing beach bins; planting Indigenous trees to slow coastal erosion; and protecting the nesting sites of endangered turtles and residential and migratory birds.
The Nii Kaniti project, which means “forest and development” in an Indigenous language, is empowering Indigenous Peoples in the Peruvian Amazon to deal with the challenges of deforestation, biodiversity loss, and ecosystem degradation. It recognizes the power of multi-stakeholder partnerships to mobilize the technical and financial resources that Indigenous communities need to address the main problems that threaten their livelihoods, culture, and harmonious coexistence with nature. The project has provided 350 Indigenous men and women with alternative livelihoods by generating income from bio-businesses.
Base Net started its project in 2022 by engaging with communities in the area around the Juba – Nimule Road to enhance environmental protection. The initiative is designed to strengthen knowledge about climate change effects and adaptation benefits. It is intended that rural women and youth in the target areas will be climate resilient and food and income secure, have an ability to predict climate hazards, and be able to advocate for positive local change.
Belize Wildlife & Referral Clinic
This group’s wildlife ambassador program addresses biodiversity loss and illegal wildlife trafficking, along with measures to reduce the possibility of disease transmission from animals to humans. The program has certified 335 wildlife ambassadors – who include enforcement officers, Indigenous leaders, and women and youth. It also runs a 24/7 hotline service which is designed to respond to wildlife emergences and prevent clashes between human and animal inhabitants.
Central Local de Cooperativas Agropecuarias (CELCCAR)
This group aims to increase the economic and environmental benefits of women beekeepers in Bolivia, with a target of raising incomes by 15 percent and increasing the population of pollinating bees by 30 percent. This project is being managed mainly by women, while the beneficiaries are Indigenous women in Bolivia’s Caranavi Municipality.
Environmental Foundation for Africa
The Environmental Foundation for Africa has contributed to building the capacities of local young people in environmental awareness and positive action. It has applied a community tree stewardship approach in which community-based organizations, community members, and local authorities take over the ownership of trees. Its project is intended to both contribute to green infrastructure in the city of Freetown and to create green jobs.
Fondation pour la Protection de la Biodiversité Marine
This group raises environmental awareness through educational programs at both the public and private sector levels. It also monitors coastal and marine resources in cooperation with coastal communities. A key goal of their project is to empower local stakeholders with project activity ownership and provide training to community members.
Forever Costa Rica
This group is building a rural network of environmental youth entrepreneurs (aged 17-25) in La Cruz, Costa Rica. The network will focus on strengthening the entrepreneurial skills of 30 young adults to create climate-smart business ventures that sustainably use ecosystem-based services around marine and terrestrial protected areas. Other activities will focus on enhancing climate change adaptation and resilience for communities in La Cruz, part of the Central American Dry Corridor.
This Ecuadorian foundation was created to protect tropical forests where tagua nuts grow wild. It is also designed to improve the living conditions of dozens of communities that collect the nuts and are, therefore, the best guardians of these ecosystems. Planned measures include strengthening the collecting phase of the tagua value chain and improving the living conditions of the collecting communities - with a focus on gender, ancestral knowledge, and the protection of ecosystems.
Green Hope Foundation
The goal of Green Hope Foundation’s project is to provide water security to the marginalized Indigenous community living in the South Tarawa and Beru islands of Kiribati. It is also designed to train young women to become community leaders in promoting climate change resilience. The project utilizes clean tech innovation by using solar-powered distillation to provide drinking water year-round.
Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda
This project in Mexico is designed to implement a climate action policy at the subnational level. It includes measures to teach school students and teachers about taking climate action and mobilizing a financing mechanism to support local communities. Targeted beneficiaries include local communities, forest owners, and low-income areas without access to conventional economic development opportunities.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
This farmland restoration initiative is improving crop yields, food security, and Indigenous farmers’ livelihoods in St. Vincent. It is creating sustainable farm systems and empowering beneficiary farmers as community educators. This includes setting up an agriculture and heritage education center in one of the seven target villages to create new bonds within vulnerable communities.
Humy is a French civil society organization created in 2006 which works with local partners to deploy holistic environmental protection strategies that integrate socio-economic dimensions. Its project in Nariño, Colombia is designed to reforest and limit human pressure on forests in order to preserve the páramos ecosystem and water resources. This includes supporting a network of community nurseries composed of peasant and Indigenous associations (70 percent of whom are women).
JADD MADAGASCAR (Jeunes Actifs pour le Développement Durable)
This is a youth-led organization supporting sustainable development goals in Madagascar. In 2020, the group launched an initiative focused on raising awareness among young people about their rights and duties in managing natural resources, including solutions such as recycling, planting and maintaining tree nurseries, permaculture, and ecotourism.
Kenyan Youth Biodiversity Network
Africa (Kenya, Somalia, South Africa, Cameroon, DRC, Uganda, and Tanzania)
The Kenyan Youth Biodiversity Network is the lead under the umbrella of the Africa CSOs Biodiversity Alliance, a pan-African civil society network. Its joint project aims to promote the climate adaptation and resilience of communities in six African countries, through the enhanced use of mangrove ecosystems and terrestrial wetlands as natural solutions to climate change.
This group works with local people to create an ecologically valuable community forest in an area where rivers flow into the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. The forest is home to thousands of endangered trees and wildlife species, including the colobus monkey. Kesho Trust’s activities focus on the most vulnerable social groups – Indigenous Peoples, especially elders, youth, and women.
Les Amis de CAPTE Tunisie (LACT)
This Tunisian association pursues three objectives: the development of agroforestry; the protection, conservation, and restoration of biodiversity; and the promotion of solidarity between and with farmers. It aims to improve the climate resilience of Tunisia's agricultural sector by introducing and promoting agroforestry cultivation of the carob tree and deploying nature-based solutions. This includes creating a database to put a value on the ecosystem services generated by the plantations.
Restoring Rangelands in Kenya’s Southern Rift Valley
This project, which began in 2021, supports collaboration with Maasai communities and land owners in the South Rift Valley to restore degraded rangelands. It is designed to enhance ecosystem resilience, improve livelihoods, and conserve biodiversity in the region through water harvesting interventions, women-led grass seed banks, good governance, and community engagement. The Indigenous knowledge of the Maasai, particularly the pastoral resource management approach called 'Eramatare', plays a continuous and integral role throughout the project stages.
The Indigenous-Led Education (ILED) Global Network, supported by the Rutu Foundation, is a collaboration of Indigenous-led education initiatives across Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Sustainable rainforest management depends on Indigenous-led education that makes communities, especially youth, more resilient for the future. The Network's Small Grants Fund and Youth Fellowship programs contribute to the revitalization of traditional practices and transfer of local knowledge critical to environmental resilience.
This group supports the Convention on Biological Diversity goal to protect 30% of Earth’s lands, oceans, coastal areas, and inland waters by 2030. It works mostly with Indigenous communities in southwest China. Shan Shui adopts community-based conservation to empower and nurture local communities to become the main force in conservation, while respecting traditional wisdom and local culture.
Songkhla Community Foundation
This organization is working with coastal communities in eastern Thailand. It is empowering marginalized and vulnerable coastal community groups by helping them play a critical role in driving community-based climate adaptation and the locally-led management of coastal ecosystems, resources, and environments. This includes integrating bottom-up approaches into local development planning.
South Asian Forum for Environment (SAFE)
This initiative is designed to naturalize hydroponic float-farming and integrated aquaculture as an adaptive, climate-resilient agricultural method for vulnerable communities in coastal South Asia. It is designed not only to improve people’s nutrition and food and livelihood security, but to create opportunities for agro-business entrepreneurship. Emission-less regenerative farming in float-farm growbags with recycled organic soil-mix is supported by solar desalination and micro-irrigation systems.
U-recycle Initiative Africa
This Nigerian group advances environmental education, a circular economy, youth development, and climate action. Its PlasticWize Fellowship initiative is designed to build the largest campus movement geared towards tackling plastic pollution in Nigeria and other parts of Africa. This initiative is designed to empower university students across Nigeria with the knowledge, tools, and resources to take a stand against marine plastic pollution through proactive, comprehensive, and creative interventions.