Rethinking African conservation funding

Image © FESO

By |2022-08-02T15:53:29+00:00August 2nd, 2022|Approach, Conservation, Environment, Funding, Philanthropy|Comments Off on Rethinking African conservation funding

“The most important things in the world that need doing cannot be done by large organizations. They will be done by many, sometimes hundreds, sometimes even thousands of smaller groups.”

So said Andrew Steer, CEO of the Bezos Earth Fund, when the new fund made a pledge to spend $10 billon to tackle climate change. However, small organisations are all too often ‘locked out’ when it comes to large pots of environmental funding, despite their combined capacity to achieve great impact.

What exactly are the barriers between donors and grantees for African grassroots organisations? How can we address these challenges? Head of Conservation Programmes Gemma Goodman summarises a new report published in collaboration between Maliasili and Synchronicity Earth asking both recipients and providers of funding how to make grant-giving in Africa more effective.

Greening the Grassroots report

Globally, less than one per cent of all climate funding reaches Indigenous Peoples and Local Community organisations. Only 6.7 per cent of UK foundations’ environmental giving goes to Africa. Even when looking at African philanthropic giving to African grantees, only nine per cent of large-scale funding went to local organisations.

As the first step in understanding why so little reaches the local level, Synchronicity Earth and Maliasili teamed up for a study on the key barriers and challenges to funding local conservation organisations in Africa from the perspective of grantee and donor. Both organisations are passionate about increasing the amount of funding reaching local organisations and know that this is the most impactful way to have positive conservation outcomes and the most equitable way of operating.

The work was coordinated by Maliasili, who solicited responses from nearly 50 African civil society organisations and from 15 private philanthropies, 12 of which also provided interviews. The survey was followed by 37 qualitative interviews of African civil society organisations from 15 countries across sub-Saharan Africa.

People sitting under a tree talking and laughing

A meeting about non-timber forest products held between a community of Indigenous Peoples and Centre dʼAppui au Développement Intégré en Milieu Rural, a member organisation of Réseau CREF. Image © Réseau CREF

Better funding practices

The survey and interviews pulled out several key recommendations that can help us collectively work toward better funding practices for local organisations within Africa, these include:

  • Providing longer-term funding;
  • Targeting long-term outcomes rather than short-term projects;
  • Providing more flexible and core grants;
  • Aligning funding toward grantees’ own priorities and strategies; and
  • Making funding processes more accessible and easier.

Challenges of the grantee-donor relationship

In addition, a number of challenges were identified by local organisations in Africa that were interviewed and/or responded to the questionnaire; these often relate to the recommendations above but in addition they identified challenges to effective funding such as:

  • Inflexible eligibility criteria, such as the need to have previously handled a certain size grant;
  • The ability to build a relationship with donors; the bespoke skills required for grant writing;
  • Stringent and time-consuming (and usually unfunded) reporting requirements;
  • Tension with some of the large international NGOs, for example when they are acting as intermediaries of funding and provide much smaller sums of funding compared to