European Commission Joins Conservation and Social Impact Fund With 18 Million Euro Contribution


 Hyderabad, India — The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) today announced that it has a new partner, the European Commission (EC), which will contribute 18 million euros (US$23.5 million) over five years toward CEPF’s efforts to empower civil society to conserve the world’s most critical ecosystems. The new funds will help CEPF reach out to nongovernmental organizations and private sector partners in biodiversity hotspots — Earth’s most biologically rich yet threatened areas. This will include expansion to hotspots where CEPF has not previously worked, as well as continuation of CEPF’s efforts to secure the long-term sustainability of initiatives in which it has already invested.

The EC joins the fund’s six other partners — l'Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank. The additional funding from the European Commission will bring the total contributions to CEPF to $270 million since its inception.

“We see CEPF as a key mechanism for reaching local communities, civil society organizations and private sector actors in the world’s biodiversity hotspots who are eager to conserve their natural wealth,” said Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for Environment. “We value the efficiency and effectiveness CEPF has demonstrated over the last 12 years in building capacity of civil society to implement conservation projects that support critical ecosystems and enhance the livelihoods of local communities.”

Since it began in 2000, CEPF has awarded $148 million in grants to more than 1,700 grantees in 60 developing and transitional countries and territories. Through the implementation of stakeholder-driven regional strategies, these grants have translated into protection of more than 12 million hectares of new or expanded protected area plus improved management of an additional 29 million hectares of key biodiversity areas and more than 3.6 million hectares of production landscapes (landscapes people are using to produce food or other commodities). CEPF’s support also has helped grantees leverage an additional $340 million for their initiatives.

European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs said: “I am delighted we are joining CEPF today as this is a clear illustration of the EU's commitment to protect biodiversity across the world.” He added: "With 70 percent of the world population living in rural areas and relying directly on natural resources for their livelihoods, there are vital links between ecosystems, employment and development. In line with our agenda for change where we put sustainable growth at the heart of our development policy, we are actively committed to protecting and enhancing biodiversity and ecosystems to promote a green economy that creates jobs and helps to reduce poverty.”

The EU funding will come from the Environment and Sustainable Management of Natural Resources Program, which helps developing countries and partner organizations address environmental and natural resource management issues. “The European Commission recognizes the vital links between ecosystems and employment, income and livelihoods. EU development policy therefore has a key role to play to protect and enhance biodiversity and ecosystems to promote a green economy that can generate growth, create jobs and help reduce poverty,” said Fokion Fotiadis, Director General of Development and Cooperation of the European Commission.

In joining the CEPF partnership, the European Commission also builds on its commitment to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and the Aichi Targets for 2020 that the parties to the CBD agreed upon two years ago in Nagoya. The Aichi Targets are a “master plan” for sustaining biological diversity and the ecosystem services that come with it to support human well-being.

“By joining CEPF, the EC further demonstrates its drive to halt biodiversity loss while improving human well-being,” said CEPF’s Executive Director Patricia Zurita. “We are delighted that the EU has decided to join this partnership, thus enabling CEPF to expand the fund’s impact, making it possible for a greater number of people and organizations to access international support for local conservation in more places around the world,” she added.

“As a founding member of CEPF back in 2000, we are delighted to see the partnership growing and to know that the EC values the power of a joint effort such as this in strategically addressing the issues of biodiversity loss and human need for healthy ecosystems,” said Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility. “In many ways, CEPF is one of the most effective funding mechanisms ever created for empowering civil society organizations to achieve lasting results in the top priority hotspots,” said Russell Mittermeier, President of Conservation International. “What is more, it recognizes fully that much of the action in biodiversity conservation is carried out at a local level by such actors—perhaps more than in any other sector.”

CEPF supports a variety of conservation and sustainable development approaches to implement its strategies, including creation and improved management of protected areas; enhanced management of productive landscapes; mainstreaming of environmental concerns into development planning; and sustainable livelihood training and implementation in and near key biodiversity areas. Following are examples of some recent results of CEPF-funded projects.

Western Ghats & Sri Lanka Biodiversity Hotspot
In the Western Ghats, grants given to a local nongovernmental organization (NGO), Nature Conservation Foundation, and an international NGO, Rainforest Alliance, have catalyzed the adoption of sustainable agriculture practices in tea and coffee estates within critical ecosystems. The project began by adapting global standards for sustainable agriculture to the Indian context. Next, diagnostic audits were conducted of estates, to identify actions they needed to take in order to reach the standards. These included conservation measures such as restoring riparian vegetation along water courses and establishing wildlife corridors to facilitate movement of elephants and other animals, as well as social measures, such as provision of crèche facilities (child care facilities) for working women. In parallel, the project engaged with major tea and coffee buyers in Europe and North America, eliciting commitments to purchase certified products from India, and sending a strong market signal to the tea and coffee industry. During the initial two-year project, more than 12,000 hectares of coffee estates and 6,000 hectares of tea estates achieved certification. These areas are expected to grow going forwards, and CEPF is now supporting work to explore the potential for certification of rubber plantations, another major land use in the Western Ghats.

Mediterranean Basin

Working with a group of diverse stakeholders in several countries, CEPF developed a comprehensive plan to preserve the unique and highly threatened ecology of the terrestrial ecosystems of the Mediterranean Basin. The plan, called an ecosystem profile, focuses on delivering the biggest conservation impacts by targeting resources carefully at the most threatened and biologically important areas. It includes a specific strategy for CEPF’s planned investment of $9.8 million in the region. The profiling team, led by Doga Dernegi, BirdLife International’s partner in Turkey, collected information from more than 500 people in more than 90 organizations throughout the region. The team analyzed a vast data set to assess the basin’s biological importance, environmental threats, socioeconomics and existing conservation efforts. Through this process, CEPF prioritized six corridors, covering the most biodiversity-rich areas in the Balkans, Middle East and North Africa. It also selected 44 key biodiversity areas for investment. The development of the ecosystem profile was also funded by the Mava Foundation and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation. In July CEPF initiated implementation of the strategy by issuing its first grants to NGOs working in the hotspot.

Indo-Burma Hotspot

With CEPF support, the WWF Greater Mekong Programme helped in the establishment of nine fish conservation zones that have been designated along the section of the Mekong River that forms the border between Lao PDR’s Bokeo Province and Thailand’s Chiang Rai Province. The management regulations governing access to aquatic resources within these zones are developed and implemented by the local communities themselves. The zones are also intended to deliver benefits for the conservation of Mekong giant catfish and other threatened migratory fish species which are thought to spawn in the area.

Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany Hotspot in Southeastern Africa
Grantee Wildlife ACT worked in and around the Somkhanda community reserve in the northern part of KwaZulu-Natal to raise local community awareness of the significance of their ecosystem and its biodiversity. The reserve is home to 11 black rhino and 11 white rhino, as well as wild dog and other wildlife, but is under the threat of poaching. Wildlife ACT provided in-school lessons for 223 grade-school students; a four-day wilderness “bush camp” for 102 sixth-grade students; and outreach to 298 adults in six villages surrounding the reserve. They also engaged community volunteers as rhino monitors. Following the grantee’s efforts, the participating children showed 108 percent improvement in understanding of ecology principles, adults contributed the equivalent of 450 rhino-monitor days, and not one of the reserve’s rhinos was poached.

Caribbean Islands Hotspot
In April 2012, private investors from the United States and Dominican Republic joined together in a landmark purchase that resulted in the Dominican Republic’s first private reserve. CEPF, along with other donors such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, provided critical support in advancing the establishment of the private reserve. Identified by ornithologists as critical habitat for the migratory Bicknell’s thrush and other threatened species, the 404-hectare reserve enhances connectivity between three existing public reserves. CEPF support complements the land purchase with a variety of management and sustainable livelihood projects, including development of the country’s first climate change mitigation project based on carbon reforestation, which makes the sustainable development of the reserve viable. The CEPF grant also supports the development of the carbon project and private reserve as a national model by developing the procedures for incorporating private reserves into other key conservation areas.

Southern Mesoamerica
In Nicaragua in June, CEPF grantees the University of the Autonomous Regions of the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua (URACCAN) and Fundación Amigos del Río San Juan (FUNDAR) organized the first ever forum on the conservation and sustainable development of the Rio San Juan of Nicaragua Biosphere Reserve in Managua, which CEPF has supported since 2003. More than 60 participants represented a variety of stakeholders, from the Vice-Ministry of Natural Resources, regional governing councils, representatives of the territory of the Rama and Creole people, and donors, including the Government of Japan and GEF Small Grants Program (SGP). The forum provided an important learning experience and helped build new synergies.

Editor’s note: 
For images of CEPF’s work and the areas where it invests, we have two galleries:
A global map, videos and key documents are downloadable at
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 Commission, 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.