$9.8 million environmental investment to include grants to Arabian Peninsula



Abha, Saudi Arabia – Funding to protect the unique biological diversity and vital ecosystems found in the southwestern part of the Arabian Peninsula is now available through a new conservation strategy and investment plan supporting human well-being as well as nature.

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) which funds nongovernmental efforts to conserve the world’s most biodiverse and threatened ecosystems, launched today a plan to invest $9.8 million over five years in conserving the Eastern Afromontane biodiversity hotspot. A launch event was held in Abha, Saudi Arabia, hosted by the Saudi Wildlife Authority and King Khalid University in Abha.

The hotspot is made up of natural areas stretching from Saudi Arabia to Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Of the more than 10,000 species identified in the hotspot, almost one-third are unique to the hotspot. The hotspot provides massive ecosystem services that people rely on—particularly as watersheds for vast areas of the region, extending far beyond its formal boundaries. Its ecosystems also provide crucial support to agriculture and ultimately food security.

In the Arabian Peninsula portion of the hotspot, located in the mountains that parallel the coast of western Yemen and southwestern Saudia Arabia, 110 species of plants are known to be found only in this region, including the Centaurothamnus maximus, a member of the daisy family. Seven bird species are also unique to this part of the hotspot, such as the Yemen linnet, a species of finch. The area also is important for migratory birds, with an estimated 1.5 million storks and birds of prey using the highlands of the Arabian Peninsula and Ethiopia as a flyway each year.

The Arabian Peninsula is incredibly important for its unique natural attributes and culture,” said Patricia Zurita, executive director of CEPF. “We are eager to work with regional universities, foundations and other partners to provide grants that support local civil society groups in their efforts to protect nature and improve livelihoods.”

"We are excited to expand CEPF’s impact to the Arabian Peninsula.  This investment complements the work CEPF has begun in the Mediterranean Basin, which will provide funding for conservation of North African and Middle Eastern countries, including Jordan and Lebanon,” Zurita said.

In the Arabian Peninsula, biodiversity is closely associated with agricultural landscapes such as the traditional terrace agriculture, which creates micro-climates that are favorable to plants and reptiles. “The decline of traditional agricultural techniques is one of the main threats to biodiversity, together with unsustainable use of water resources and urbanization,” said Ibrahim Khader, regional director for BirdLife International’s Middle East Division, which will guide the CEPF investment in the Arabian Peninsula. “The conservation of biodiversity in the region will also result in the protection of important cultural heritage and traditions.”

There is a substantial gap in terms of natural resources conservation between Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Protected areas and conservation efforts are strong in Saudi Arabia, and have yielded positive results, such as the reintroduction to the wild of the Arabian oryx (Oryx leucoryx). There are also 15 protected areas officially declared and managed in Saudi Arabia one of them, Raydah near Abha, is within the hotspot, as well as Asir National Park. On the other hand, Yemen has only six formal protected areas, and only three on the mainland. CEPF’s strategy seeks to act on the opportunity that regional cooperation could provide to improve conservation and human well-being.

The Saudi Wildlife Authority (SWA) is proud to host the launch of CEPF's portfolio for the Eastern Afromontane biodiversity hotspot.  This is a reflection of the SWA’s strong commitment to protecting the unique biodiversity of Saudi Arabia and the region," said His Highness Prince Bandar bin Saud bin Mohammad Al-Saud, President of the Saudi Wildlife Authority.

The Saudi Wildlife Authority, Yemen’s Ministry of the Environment, biologists and other stakeholders from the peninsula provided data and helped guide CEPF’s investment strategy.

"We are very happy to co-host this event and look forward to working with stakeholders and partners for the conservation and best sustainable management of the hotspot in Saudi Arabia," said HE Prof. Dr. Abdul Rahman bin Hamad Al Daoud, President, King Khalid University.

CEPF will target its funding in the Arabian Peninsula to supporting civil society organizations working in Yemen on projects related to:

  • Mainstreaming biodiversity into wider development policies, plans and projects while supporting local livelihoods and economic development. 
  • Improving the protection and management of the key biodiversity area (KBA) network throughout the hotspot.
  • Initiating and supporting sustainable financing and related actions for the conservation of priority KBAs and ecological corridors.

CEPF will call for grant proposals from civil society groups ranging from small farming cooperatives and community associations to international organizations working in the Arabian Peninsula. Eligibility criteria and more information are available at: www.cepf.net/grants


Learn more about the Eastern Afromontane hotspot here

Download photos of the Arabian Peninsula here   (***Image Credits Mandatory***)

For more information, contact:
Patricia Malentaqui, International Media Manager: pmalentaqui@conservation.org / +1 (703) 341-2471

About the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund - The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation, and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation. www.cepf.net

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