GEF small grants programme presents annual report
Friday, May 17, 2019
by Nisha Charles, GIS

Established in 1992, the year of the Rio Earth Summit, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme embodies the very essence of sustainable development by "thinking globally, acting locally."

By providing financial and technical support to projects that conserve and restore the environment while enhancing people's well-being and livelihoods, Small Grants Programme demonstrates that community action can maintain the fine balance between human needs and environmental imperatives. Globally within the UN, the programme has invested some EC$1.76 billion in 124 countries with 23,000 projects. In Saint Lucia, the programme has invested US$5.7 million since October of 2012.

At the 7th annual report presentation on May 15, the programme’s National Coordinator Giles Romulus said the rate of absorption of funding in Saint Lucia could be better.

“We could bring more money into Saint Lucia. My global manager asked me, do you want more money for Saint Lucia? I can’t say I want more money when there’s all this money left. If I can get 20 proposals and we can approve all of them, because we have the money available. But it has to be good creative projects that will create measurable results.”

In 2017 the programme approved 17 projects but declined to only 10 projects in 2018. Romulus said one of the reasons for the decline is the pace at which grantees move from planning grants to full grants.

“Planning grants are up to US$5000. We give our grantees three months to implement or design their projects; some of them take six months, some take nine months, some take more months. Another major reason is the capacity of our civil society organizations; their ability to rise to the challenge-and even when they cannot rise-to identify mentors who can assist them on that journey to access funds. So we had a decline of 41 percent in the number of projects we funded between 2017 and 2018.”

But in spite of these challenges, the programme continues to have successes. While some regions of the country are struggling to approve projects others are doing exceptionally well. Soufriere, for example, is absorbing a significant amount of funds. Romulus believes that significant changes will occur in that community over the next few years.

“With a young group of women called ‘Frutas Jenes’ we have created what we call a new value chain to enable farmers to sell their fruits instead of cutting the trees to plant dasheen crops. This investment came on top of the work that was done through Canadian funding. Those young ladies have created a little revolution in Soufriere. They have two smoothie bars Soufriere, in the last 11 months their gross income was $62,000 EC, three young ladies fully employed to be doubled by December this year and we’re speaking about expanding to Castries.”

From October 2012 to December 2018, the GEF Small Grants Programme employed 1365 people and trained over 6000.