Protecting Nature's Hotspots for people and prosperity

CEPF's Regional Implementation Teams Come Together in Athens

by Marsea Nelson

Participants of the RIT Exchange take a break from meetings to visit Parnassos National Park in Greece. © Thomais Vlachogianni

CEPF held its second Regional Implementation Team (RIT) Exchange last month in Athens, Greece. Twenty-eight RIT members, along with six Secretariat staff, came together for three days to share ideas, challenges and solutions. All nine active biodiversity hotspots were represented.
The CEPF model works, in large part, because of these teams, which are located in or near each active biodiversity hotspot at host organizations. They work on the ground directly with CEPF’s grantees, helping to build local capacity and implement CEPF’s strategy in the hotspot. 
CEPF's first RIT Exchange was held in 2013 in Front Royal, Virginia, USA. Eastern Afromontane Project Manager Jean Paul Ntungane attended when he and his colleagues were still new to CEPF. “We improved our own tools and procedures based on discussions and lessons learned from other RITs,” he said. “There are a number of things that we learned that didn’t work for other RITs and we avoided them, and we focused on the things that did work.”
The agenda for the 2017 exchange was developed by the RIT participants themselves. Sessions including discussions on building grantee capacity, incorporating gender into CEPF’s work and finding ways to engage with the private sector. Participants also had the chance to hear from each other about the most relevant challenges in their hotspots.
“Although we were from all over the world and had only just met, we could easily talk from the beginning,” said Jorge Mariaca, Bolivia country coordinator for Tropical Andes. “I think we all have similar challenges and commitments, not only in our CEPF work but also regarding conservation challenges in our own countries.”
Three former RIT leaders from previous investments also attended. “It was very helpful to have the RITs that were already closed [at the exchange],” said Angela Jöhl Cadena, Indo-Burma senior program officer. “I think they provided very good lessons learned from a perspective that is different from the rest of us. They have the hindsight that allows them to see the full picture.”
Logistics of the event were managed by Athens-based Mediterranean Information Office for Environment, Culture and Sustainable Development (MIO-ECSDE), a recent CEPF grantee who submitted a successful proposal during a CEPF open call.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better host,” said Nina Marshall, CEPF senior director of monitoring, evaluation and outreach. “The mechanics of the event were flawless, which allowed attendees to focus on the sessions.” 
Though by now attendees have all returned home to their respective hotspots, the exchange is still, unofficially, in progress. “I got the feeling that this is only the beginning,” said Tropical Andes RIT coordinator Imke Oetting. “There is so much more to come in terms of learning from each other.”
Based on feedback from attendees, the CEPF Secretariat plans to offer future RIT meetings and trainings, whether remotely or in-person, more regularly.
RIT Participants:
Cape Floristic Region
Azisa Parker​
Caribbean Islands
Nicole Brown
Michael Becker
Magda Lambert Soares
Camila Pinheiro de Castro
Eastern Afromontane
Maaike Manten
Jean Paul Ntungane
Anthony Ochieng
East Melanesian Islands
Vatumaraga Molisa
Helen Pippard
Luisa Tagicakibau
Guinean Forests of West Africa
Tommy Garnett
Angela Jöhl Cadena
Zin Myo Thu
Michelle Wong
Madagascar and Indian Ocean Islands
Miara Rajaobelina
Alain Randriamaherisoa
Monique Randriatsivery
Mediterranean Basin
Awatef Abiadh
Borut Rubinic
Liz Smith
Tropical Andes
Jorge Mariaca
Imke Oetting
Odile Sanchez
Tiburtius Hani
Dian Agista Prihanggalasari
Adi Widyanto
Western Ghats
Baskhar Acharya​