Protecting Nature's Hotspots for people and prosperity

Building Capacity to Strengthen Conservation

​When gold mining threatened to pollute the main water supply to the capital of Vietnam’s Cao Bang province, the Center for People and Nature Reconciliation sprang into action. This Vietnamese civil society organization (CSO), also known as PanNature, hosted press tours and ran stories on its website, ThienNhien.net. 

In response, Cao Bang authorities suspended new mining licenses in the area, the prime minister toughened mining regulation, and the National Assembly opted to monitor government mining policies, inviting PanNature to join an oversight mission.

As shown in Vietnam, safeguarding biodiversity requires effective CSOs on the ground that can inform and persuade governments, news media and the public of the need for action. However, preparing these organizations to make a regional, national, or even transnational difference takes the right staffing, training, outreach and communication. That’s where capacity-building grants from CEPF come in. Around the globe, the fund is partnering with CSOs to make them stronger and equip them for long-term leadership in their home countries and beyond.

Grantee rises to the challenge in Indo-Burma Hotspot

With help from CEPF, PanNature ramped up its communications. Over three years, it built a network of Vietnamese journalists who cover biodiversity and environmental issues, made ThienNhien.net an “alternative” channel for environmental news, and sent its Quarterly Policy Review to a growing list of 1,200 print and 2,000 online subscribers. The group boosted its staff from 20 to 26, and received training on working with the news media. “The team has been changed not only in quantity but also quality, with more experienced and well-trained colleagues on board,” reported the group’s executive director, Trinh Le Nguyen. 

That enhanced capacity produced press tours with 56 reporters and numerous print and Web stories that helped persuade the Vietnamese government to protect not only Cao Bang, but also eight other crucial ecosystems, notably the Mekong River. In the process, PanNature has become a respected voice on development and conservation policies.

Organizations team up in Caribbean Islands Hotspot

In the Caribbean country of Antigua and Barbuda, CEPF funds are helping local conservationists combat alien life forms. Long ago, rats from distant ports stole away on ships to reach the welcoming climes of the offshore islands of Antigua. It’s hard to blame them for choosing such a destination, but they made themselves distinctly unwelcome, teaming up with mongooses imported for rat control to decimate native species of reptiles and birds. Among the many victims: the Critically Endangered Antiguan racer (Alsophis antiguae), which became one of the rarest snakes in the world and now occurs only in the offshore islands.

Antiguan organization Environmental Awareness Group Inc. is lead coordinator of the Offshore Island Conservation Programme (OICP), a partnership that also includes the government of Antigua and Barbuda and fellow conservation organizations Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. This partnership had already made important headway against these pests before CEPF’s investment in the region, eradicating invasive predators from 13 offshore islands and helping to turn around the fortunes of the Antiguan racer, whose population rose from a recorded low of 50 to 900 by the end of 2011. OICP also led the successful campaign to create the North East Marine Management Area (NEMMA), Antigua’s largest protected area. 

But at the time of CEPF’s investment in the region, the program found it lacked the capacity and skills needed at the national level to fully implement the management plan for NEMMA and maintain conservation gains for the long term. With assistance from fellow CEPF grantee FFI, the Environmental Awareness Group is using CEPF’s support to develop strategic and long-term financial plans, and to train and mentor local staff and volunteers in activities ranging from proposal and scientific writing to data and wildlife management—all with the goal of building lasting conservation capacity inside Antigua. 

The funding also is being used for priority conservation measures, such as monitoring the network of bait stations on rat-free islands, conducting stakeholder meetings to discuss protected-area management and disseminate new information, providing environmental education to local schools and tour operators, and posting community monitors on offshore islands. CEPF’s support has already made a difference. In 2014, the Environmental Awareness Group applied the confidence and advanced skills it acquired to successfully organize and implement the eradication of rats and mongooses from three more offshore islands—one of many project results that will ensure the continued recovery of Antigua’s rare and endemic wildlife.