Vania Afonso Biquiza spent nine hours traveling by boat and car to attend the GEF’s latest Expanded Constituency Workshop in Maputo, where she and other young leaders shared their hopes and concerns about environmental management in Southern Africa.
The 19-year-old law student journeyed 215 miles from Mozambique’s Zavala district to the capital to share her community’s experiences protecting the environment while improving living conditions.
For the past decade, Vania Biquiza has been involved with her mother in the Makomane Association for Community Development (Makomane-ADM), which works to support sustainable growth in her coastal community bathed by the Indian Ocean. The association has received support from the GEF for a project that has successfully protected marine turtles and underwater life while generating local income. That project received $20,700 in funding from the GEF Small Grants Programme and was implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) alongside local partners.
This initiative has reduced illegal fishing of sea turtles and sharks, improved fishing techniques, and trained 150 association members and about 1,500 community members in sustainable fishing practices, including tilapia production in floating cages in lagoons. An environmental committee was established to patrol the coast, and because of the protected environment, there was an increase in the supply of mussels. The committee, composed of local fishers and community police, was later reinforced by municipal police helping patrol the Makomane coast.
The Makomane ADM Association is now working on another GEF-funded project with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) to improve farmer productivity with solar energy for conservation and biogas for food processing, an important shift in the area whose economy is highly based on natural resources including agriculture, fishing, and the cutting and selling of reeds.
“We are in a coastal area far from electricity, so that renewable energy will help the community. Currently, we only have a few solar energy panels. With the new project, we will also avoid cutting trees because we won’t need to use firewood anymore,” Vania Biquiza said.
She shared her community’s successes as one of six young people who joined representatives from 10 Southern African countries in the GEF-hosted gathering, which focused on ways to access and deploy funding from the Global Environment Facility in support of international environmental goals. The Expanded Constituency Workshop brought together representatives from Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Other youth representatives from Lesotho, Malawi, and Zimbabwe shared their experiences working with environmental organizations such as YOUNGO – the official children and youth constituency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) –and the Zimbabwe Youth Biodiversity Network.
The youth representatives suggested having more capacity-building initiatives focused on young people. They also want to have more voice in the discussions about projects. “Currently, there is no youth participation in the National Committee for the Small Grants Programme in Malawi,” said Dorothy Kazombo Mwale from YOUNGO Malawi. “We could set a target for civil society and youth-led initiatives,” said Knowledge Vingi from the Zimbabwe Youth Biodiversity Network.
Several government officials present acknowledged the challenges and committed to change. “We have a Coordinating Committee to discuss all the issues pertaining to GEF projects with stakeholders and civil society representatives. Unfortunately, we have not thought of including the youth. Still, from now on, we are going to make sure the youth will become part of the committee,” said the Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Environment of Lesotho, Mabataung Khalane.
“The GEF is launching a new approach to work more closely with civil society organizations. We were delighted to have youth representatives join us in a regional workshop for the first time to share their important perspectives as we work together to generate global environmental benefits,” said Paola Ridolfi, Interim Director for Policy, Partnership, and Operations of the GEF.
The Maputo event was the GEF’s first in-person Expanded Constituency Workshop since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. These workshops have a long history of bolstering the capacity of GEF focal points worldwide, and are now also working closely with civil society organizations in support of shared goals. The Mozambique event agenda included discussions about environmental priorities related to biodiversity loss, climate change, pollution, and land health, among other topics.
The GEF will provide $177 million from its record 2022-2026 funding period for environmental projects and programs in Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The GEF’s total portfolio for the 10 countries includes 117 active projects, with 75 percent supporting biodiversity and climate change. The active projects account for $595 million of GEF’s commitments and more than $3 billion in co-financing.
The Expanded Constituency Workshop was followed by training organized by the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), which provides targeted support for climate change adaptation. That session brought together representatives from Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia. As part of the workshop, participants worked on strategies to develop proposals and programs that can address local and regional climate resilience needs, including potential engagement with the private sector.
The LDCF can provide $20 million per eligible country in 2022-2026, double the resources available in the prior four years.
Participants in both workshops also visited Maputo National Park, where the GEF has provided $6.3 million for the first phase of the Conservation Areas for Biodiversity and Development project (Mozbio), a project implemented by the World Bank and executed by the National Sustainable Development Fund under the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
Source: The GEF