From 2010 to 2016, CEPF invested US$6.9 million in the Caribbean Islands Biodiversity Hotspot. Now, five years later, we’re returning with a substantially larger investment: US$13.9 million over five years.
As the region continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences, this second investment couldn’t come at a more opportune time.
“The post-pandemic recovery will certainly be one of the challenges that we will have to navigate. This comes on top of an intensifying climate crisis that is also affecting every sphere of life,” said Nicole Brown, who will be leading CEPF’s regional implementation team (RIT) in the hotspot. Based at the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI), the RIT will help implement CEPF’s strategy by directly supporting CEPF grantees on the ground.
“Let’s use this as an opportunity to try to build strong Caribbean organizations that can withstand shocks,” she said.
During CEPF’s initial investment, grants were awarded to 68 civil society organizations—including non-profits, community groups and universities—in eight countries. More than two-thirds of these groups were locally or regionally based.
“CEPF really helped to spotlight the role and the importance of civil society organizations and their contributions,” said CEPF Grant Director Michele Zador. “It was a proof of concept to highlight just how critical these groups are in the Caribbean to achieving conservation and sustainable development goals.”
Like in all hotspots where it invests, CEPF targeted its funding toward Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs). Through the development of sustainable management plans, grantees helped strengthen the protection of 25 KBAs throughout the Caribbean.
Many projects focused on sustainable agriculture and agroforestry to support local community rural development as well as food security. CEPF grantees also established the first private reserve in the Dominican Republic and sold the first carbon offsets in the Caribbean.
“We are eager to continue to help strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations in the hotspot and build on the foundational work accomplished in phase one,” Zador said.
Biodiversity and ecosystems of the Caribbean Islands have faced certain threats for decades—habitat loss, invasive alien species and unsustainable tourism among them. In more recent years, intensifying climate change has put additional stress on the region.
“Because the hotspot is comprised of small island developing states, it’s remarkably vulnerable to climate-related disasters,” Zador said, noting several devastating hurricanes in the last few years.
Now, COVID-19 has created a public health and economic crisis. “It’s a double whammy,” she said.
This next phase of CEPF investment will support actions and efforts begun under the initial phase by replicating and scaling-up good practice models. Little of the current funding from other donors in the hotspot is earmarked specifically toward species conservation, so that will be more of a focus during this CEPF investment as well.
Another critical component: mainstreaming conservation values into the hotspot countries’ policies and legal frameworks.
“As our governments try to come out of this period of economic contraction, we may see new or intensified threats to biodiversity conservation from development decision-making that has a short-term outlook,” Brown said.
Seven countries will initially be eligible for funding during CEPF’s second investment phase. With this larger investment, the RIT will have a stronger training component, helping grantees’ boost their capacity and technical abilities. The RIT will accomplish this through mentoring, one-on-one coaching, peer exchanges and networking.
“We’ll have to be quick off the mark and strategic to ensure the region will absorb the full investment within the five years,” Brown said.
According to Zador, the hotspot is ready and waiting: “In this difficult time that many civil society organizations confront right now, CEPF is going to come in not just as a funder, but as a partner with very tangible solutions. We are ready to get to work.”