Main Issue

The  GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) provides financial and technical support to communities and Civil Society Organizations to meet the overall objective of global environmental benefits secured through community-based initiatives and actions.  

Launched in 1992 with 33 participating countries, the Small Grants Programme has expanded to provide assistance to 125 countries currently. The SGP believes that community-driven and civil society-led initiatives can generate environmental benefits, while supporting sustainable livelihoods, gender equality and civil society empowerment. These are actions needed at the local and regional level to address global environmental challenges and complement other areas where the GEF works. 

Although Programme funding is modest, it enables communities to take measured risks. A poor and vulnerable community, for example, can use a small grant to develop capacity for a larger project. Once a community has proven the effectiveness of an innovative idea or strategy on the ground, it can often scale up impact through networking with other communities and partner organizations. These results, in turn, usually attract additional donors and government support for wider application.

What We Do

The Small Grants Programme, through a decentralized, national-level delivery mechanism, finances community-led initiatives to address global environmental issues. It is currently implemented by UNDP on behalf of the GEF partnership. The Program is specifically designed to mobilize bottom-up actions by empowering local civil society organizations, and poor and vulnerable communities, including women and Indigenous Peoples. 

The Programme funds grants up to a maximum of $50,000. In practice, the average grant has been around $25,000. In addition, the SGP provides a maximum of $150,000 for strategic projects. These larger projects allow for scaling up and cover a large number of communities within a critical landscape or seascape. 

The SGP remains one of the GEF’s flagship initiatives and it enjoys strong and broad support from its stakeholders, country governments, GEF donors and civil society and community based organizations. 


The Small Grants Program has provided over $580 million to more than 21,500 projects around the world. Taken together, the grants have supported 8.41 million hectares of protected areas, conserved 1,803 significant species, brought 900,000 hectares of land under practices that counter its degradation, and placed 32,000 hectares of marine and coastal areas under sustainable managementA joint evaluation of the Programme by the GEF’s Independent Evaluation Office and UNDP’s Independent Evaluation Office from 2013-2015 concluded that the Program continues to play a key role in promoting the GEF’s objectives.

The evaluation specifically noted that the Programme continues to support projects that are relevant, effective, and efficient in achieving global environmental benefits, while addressing issues of livelihoods, poverty, gender equality and women’s empowerment. The evaluation also reported evidence of strong replication, scaling-up, sustainability, and mainstreaming of SGP activities. 

Looking Ahead

Based on lessons learned during the last 25 years, and inputs from recent stakeholder consultations, including with governments, Convention focal points, and the private sector, the Small Grants Programme will place greater focus in GEF-7 on promoting strategic and results-based investments at the local level in alignment with the GEF’s Impact Programs and focal area investments. SGP-financed projects could require greater focus on promoting and supporting innovative and scalable initiatives at the local level to protect the global environment in priority landscapes and seascapes. SGP could also support projects that would serve as “incubators” of innovation, with the potential for broader replication of successful approaches through larger projects supported by the GEF and/or other partners. 

The SGP will give priority in GEF-7 to the following strategic initiatives, which complement the Impact Programs at the community level: 1) Sustainable Agriculture and Fisheries; 2) Low-Carbon Energy Access Benefits; 3) Community-based Threatened Ecosystems and Species Conservation: Land and Water; 4) Local to Global Coalitions in Chemicals and Waste Management; and 5) Catalyzing Sustainable Urban Development. 

The SGP’s Country Programming Strategy will prioritize critical landscapes/seascapes to focus its programming on globally recognized important ecosystems (including Key Biodiversity Areas). It will continue to seek synergies, implement multi-sectoral approaches by involving communities at the landscapes/seascapes level, and facilitating communities’ innovative actions to effectively manage the complex mosaic landscapes/seascapes.