We are proud to present our achievements and results for 2021. It has been an exciting and productive year for PONT. We managed to realise our planned geographical expansion by including the Wider Ohrid Area into the PONT Focus Region. More than 100 participants shared our enthusiasm for this geographical expansion during a public consultation process of the Strategic Framework held in September 2021. Based on solid preparations, this could immediately be followed by awarding the first nine grants in the Wider Ohrid Area. Three grants for the new protected areas (Pogradec Terrestrial/Aquatic Territory Protected Landscape and Shebenik National Park in Albania and Vevchanski Springs Monument of Nature in North Macedonia), and six grants for local NGOs.
We profoundly thank the German Government for its generous additional contribution making this geographical expansion possible. We are also grateful for the donation by the Sigrid Rausing Trust which has enabled us to finance local NGOs in the Wider Ohrid Area. Co-financing requirements for local NGOs were successfully met through a second joint Call for Proposals as part of our ongoing partnership with the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF).
We congratulate the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning and the respective public institutions managing Pelister National Park and Galicica National Park in North Macedonia on the approval of their updated ten-year management plans. Progress has also been made by the three governments to set-up the institutions related to the transboundary Prespa Park.
We continue PONTs geographical expansion by including other important protected areas into the PONT Focus Region. At the end of 2021, an additional capital contribution was donated by the German Government, for grants to additional eligible protected areas located in the Korab-Shara and Albanian Alps regions in Albania and North Macedonia. NGOs are also eligible to receive grants to support the work in protected areas and the ecological corridors between the transboundary conservation areas in the PONT Focus Region.
2022 will also see us continue to source additional partners to further our work and support the co-financing requirements of grantees. As part of the geographical expansion, we must deepen our strategy, mainly in relation to the financing of conservation actions in the ecological corridors. We are also busy developing PONT’s Environmental Social Management System to ensure that we avoid or mitigate against any unintended negative social or environmental risks. This will include a thorough review of PONT’s Grant Manual, and PONT’s Application and Reporting templates.
We are confident that 2022 will be another exciting and engaging year for PONT and our partners and for the benefit of nature and people in this biodiversity rich region.
PONT is a transboundary conservation trust fund. As a trust fund, PONT’s approach to conservation differs from the standard “project based” or “short-term” solutions. PONT’s funding is long-term and focused on the implementation of key conservation actions. It is designed to ensure the sustainable management of the Prespa-Ohrid, Korab-Shara, and Albanian Alps regions, including ecological corridors between these areas. Our model emphasises long-term commitment, transparency, efficiency, accountability, and collaboration.
PONT enables protected areas in the Prespa-Ohrid, Korab-Shara and Albanian Alps regions, to develop and implement their management plans to conserve nature through sustainable co-financing of operational costs. PONT supports the development and use of standard operational planning and reporting systems for the implementation of proprietary protected area programmes. Standardised biodiversity monitoring systems must be developed in which data collection, data analysis and habitat management are implemented, with an efficient division of what can be done by the protected area staff themselves, environmental actors, local people and what to outsource to third parties. Enabling the protected area staff to increasingly use scientific data in managing the area must be included in the third-party contracts. The inclusion of minimum Natura 2000 requirements will gain importance in the coming years.
Grants to environmental actors are for qualified not-for-profit organisations implementing conservation actions in the Prespa-Ohrid, Korab-Shara and Albanian Alps regions, including ecological corridors between these areas. We support environmental actors with a strategy in conservation, developing society, improving communities, and promoting citizen participation in conservation. PONT funding priorities for environmental actors are mainly focused on good governance and management, transboundary cooperation, some important specialised conservation actions and work related to nature-based tourism.
In addition, environmental actors are supported with their operations and organisational development to make the organisations more robust and capable of sourcing third party funding.
PONT financial support to not-for-profit organisations is directed towards the implementation of activities identified in the management plans for the respective protected areas and where there is a lack of capacity within the protected area management authorities. Applied research, with the involvement of protected area staff, directly focused on species or habitat management is also supported, but fundamental research is not.
PONT is currently supporting 24 active grants (7 grants for protected area management authorities managing eight protected areas and 17 grants for environmental actors).
PONT facilitates and supports partnership working between protected area management authorities and environmental actors to strengthen capacity around habitat/wetland mapping; habitat management; biodiversity monitoring; environmental education; sustainable tourism development; etc.
Several successful working partnerships have now been established between grantees, protected area management authorities and environmental actors, at local and transboundary level. Promoting transboundary cooperation and a collective eco-regional approach among donors, grantees, governments and countries is key to preserving our areas of focus.
Best Practices meeting with representatives of the institutions that manage Protecetd Areas in the Prespa-Ohrid Region, Photo: PONT
PPNEA opens local office in Goricë e Vogël, Photo: PPNEA
What started as a joint call for proposals for small grants for the Wider Prespa Area, has evolved over the last three years into a co-financing, knowledge-sharing, and learning partnership between PONT and CEPF. By partnering with CEPF, PONT also secured the mandatory co-financing needed by the environmental actors (at least 25%) which can be a challenging task for many locally based NGOs.
This partnership is not just about resource mobilisation but also facilitates synergies and complementarities where the ultimate outcome is improved conservation effectiveness. Both partners have a focus on biodiversity conservation and complementary core organisational values, interests, and investment priorities that overlap in the Prespa-Ohrid region.
The first joint call helped the partners prepare and implement a joint conservation and investment programme with a defined timeframe. By combining CEPFs extensive network of experts and partners with PONTs in-depth knowledge of the local area and context, the first call successfully awarded three grants to NGOs towards the conservation of the Prespa trout and the conservation of endemic plants in Prespa. Our joint focus on pragmatic solutions to align processes and combine existing forms and protocols also helped us build trust. The joint mid-term review of the projects in May 2021 showed them successfully progressing with their objectives on time and within budget.
Building on our success, we ran a second successful joint call for small grants of July 2021 that deepened and geographically extended the partnership with six grants awarded to local NGOs in the Wider Ohrid Area. This call demonstrated the capacity of the partnership to overcome challenges in mobilising finances and other resources in a timely manner.
Donor coordination can be seen as time-consuming but the trust built through the first joint call and now with the potential for longer-term cooperation, the transaction costs of this partnership have been reduced.
PONT and the PrespaNet partners have always understood that transboundary collaboration is essential to successfully protecting biodiversity in Prespa. The three NGOs – SPP, MES, and PPNEA – along with EuroNatur, are working on their second three-year project supported by PONT and the Aage V. Jensen Charity Foundation. Cross-border co-operation is at the forefront of this.
One highlight of the last three years has been the effort to map and assess the conservation degree of wetland habitats around the basin. This grew from a stand-alone activity led by MES with support from SPP to encompass all three countries that share the lakes. The Natura 2000 methodology was applied throughout the process with a transfer of knowledge, experience, and expertise from the Greek part of Prespa to the other two sides of the lake’s basin. This has resulted in the first transboundary plan for how to protect these vitally important places.
This year SPP also completed the symbolic circle of PrespaNets’ work on wetland habitats in Prespa pulling together an integrated report that has taken the crucial transboundary aspect into account for the first time. The report looks at the pressures and threats that wetland habitats are under and makes recommendations for protecting this natural heritage across all three countries. The blueprint will form a basis for future work together and with the management authorities for protected areas. It also provides a valuable lobbying tool for habitat conservation in the region.
Their actions as a whole embody the partners’ commitment to working together cross-border for the benefit of Prespa and their ability to share expertise and build capacity, both within the network and with other actors in the region. Only through this kind of bridge-building can the conservation of biodiversity be secured in a transboundary area like Prespa.
Back in 1958, Galicica was declared a National park due to its rich forest biodiversity. Since then the restoration of the degraded forest habitats has been a high priority for the park managers.
The initial forest management was carried out in line with the standard mandatory forestry management plans. Firewood produced in the process generated revenues that covered the limited operational costs of the park administration. However, as the park administration and its operational costs grew, over the last few decades, it became solely reliant on self-generated income. Economic goals often trumped nature conservation objectives, and this has hampered the restoration of the forests to their more natural state.
In 2011, the first management plan for the park, developed with a grant from the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the KfW Development Bank was formally adopted. It endorsed a paradigmatic shift in managing the park and identified its biodiversity values. These included many non-forest habitats and an exceptionally high number of endemic and threatened species. The plan sets out specific objectives to conserve them with a long-term vision and goal for the park to be managed in line with the IUCN Category II Protected Areas international standards and best practices. The park administration now regularly monitors biodiversity, provides an environmental education programme, and actively manages visitor experience in the park.
With income being predominantly generated from firewood production, the progress on achieving the management goals was modest and could not be sustained longer-term. While the volume of wood extracted was gradually declining from 2015, the contribution of revenues from other sources increased moderately, as can be seen in the graph.
It was only after the financial support from PONT that the park management could decouple the financing of its key operations from the direct use of forest resources. This was achieved in 2020 when only a small amount of firewood was provided to vulnerable people from among the local communities.
The updated management plan of 2021 developed by the park staff with support from PONT, provides for the active management of the forest habitats in the park. The aim is to achieve specific conservation objectives such as improving their structure and function attributes or the removal of alien and invasive species. By eliminating the threats related to extractive operations, the park management has reached an important milestone in achieving and maintaining the favourable conservation status of the forest habitats in the park. And with that, the long-term survival of the associated plants and animals, many of which are endemic, rare, or threatened.
With additional sinking fund contributions of €37 million from the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the total capital input for PONT amounts to €79.6 million. PONT is extremely grateful for the additional contributions and the unwavering commitment of our founding donors to our mission and its future success: MAVA Foundation and the KfW Development Bank (KfW) – mandated by BMZ.
With the funding split between permanent capital committed to our endowment and a portion in the form of “sinking funds” (which must be spent by a certain date), these commitments provide us with a solid financial base for the coming years.
Earnings on the investment of the KfW/BMZ endowment contribution and sinking fund, and the entire principal of the sinking fund, are dedicated primarily to support PONT’s grant programme for protected areas and environmental actors, such as protected areas and NGOs working in the PONT focus region located in Albania and North Macedonia. The latest sinking fund contribution of €20 million is to be exclusively allocated as grants for additional protected areas in Albania (Korab Koritnik Nature Park and the recently declared Albanian Alps National Park, including the previously declared Lumi i Gashit Strict Nature Reserve, Lugina e Valbonës National Park, and Thethi National Park) and connecting transboundary areas in North Macedonia (Mavrovo National Park and Shar Mountain National Park). Important conservation actions supported by NGOs in the protected areas and ecological corridors between the protected areas, are also eligible for co-financing by PONT. A smaller portion may also be used to cover PONT operating expenses.
The MAVA sinking fund (including investment earnings thereon) is actively used to support PONT’s grant programme in favour of the Greek NGO Society for the Protection of Prespa (SPP). The investment earnings on MAVA’s endowment can be used for any purpose that supports our mission.
Earnings on the investment of the endowment provided by a donor who wants to remain anonymous are used to support the work related to the conservation of species and their habitats in the PONT focus region.
The donation by the Sigrid Rausing Trust is used to finance the local NGOs working in the Wider Ohrid Area located in Albania and North Macedonia. A portion may also be used to cover PONT operating expenses.
The ‘Fundraising Grant’ donation by MAVA is actively used for the development and implementation of our Fundraising strategy.
Elaine Chen and Charlotte Walter’s creative adventure into raising awareness of at-risk species and their campaign #OurVulnerableEarth2021 came to an end on Earth Day 2021. The money raised through the auction of the Prespa trout painting was donated to PONT to support the grant to the Balkan Foundation for Sustainable Development for developing a Conservation Action Plan for the endemic Prespa trout. In addition, we received some donations from individuals.
From 2021 we started to keep a risk register which is updated two times per year. With the additional sinking fund contributions from KfW/BMZ we secured long-term financing stability for the coming decade. This will help us in maintaining our endowment capital and to continue providing the support to the protected areas and environmental actors. We are increasing our staff component while improving procedures and workflows to continue adhering to due diligence requirements of our growing grant programme and investment portfolio. The development and implementation of the PONT Environmental Social Management System will help us to minimize any reputational risk or negative social impact caused by PONT.
PONT grants require co-financing of at least 50% of eligible costs for protected area grants and for grants for state-financed environmental actors. Grants for NGOs require at least 25%. Eligible sources of co-financing are government funding; own contribution by beneficiaries; and the financial contribution by other projects (other than BMZ from 2022 onwards). We acknowledge and are grateful for the sources of co-financing by our cooperation partners for our ongoing grants.
The Financial Statement 2021 will be published when the 2021 audit report is finalised by PONT’s independent auditor by mid 2022. A summary of the 2021 Financials is provided in the full PONT Annual Report 2021 which can be downloaded here.
Under the leadership of David Morrison, the pro-bono contribution of our investment committee members (Al Breach, Johan Holgersson, Ronald Kent and Alessandro Manghi) remains invaluable. PONT would like to thank all of them for their contribution.
A big thank you to Dr. Matthias Grüninger and Thomas Eisenbach from the KfW for their invaluable contribution over the last year in facilitating the additional capital contributions by the German Government (BMZ).
A special thank you to Ronny Dobbelsteijn for providing us with pro bono support for our public relations, IT and communications.
We would also like to thank all our cooperation partners for their co-financing contributions and technical inputs.
Prespa Ohrid Nature Trust (PONT)
Abdi Toptani Str.,
Torre Drin Tower nr. 35,
Tirana | Albania
© Prespa-Ohrid Nature Trust