What started as a joint call for proposals for small grants for the Wider Prespa Area has evolved over the past three years into a co-financing, knowledge-sharing and learning partnership between the Prespa Ohrid Nature Trust (PONT) and the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF).
PONT implements its mission through two main grant programmes: (1) co-financing operational costs of Protected Areas (PAs), and (2) co-financing the work of Environmental Actors (EAs). The EAs include Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), municipalities, and scientific or academic institutions.
CEPF is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, and the World Bank; CEPF receives extra support in the Mediterranean Basin from the MAVA Foundation. A fundamental goal of CEPF is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation. The CEPF small-grant programme in the Mediterranean is led by BirdLife International, serving as regional implementation team for the hotspot.
By partnering with the CEPF, PONT secured the mandatory co-financing by the EAs (at least 25%) that may be a challenging task for many locally based non-governmental organizations. The partnership between PONT and CEPF is not just about resource mobilization, but also facilitates synergies and complementarities. Both partners focus on biodiversity conservation and have complementary core organizational values, principles, interests, and investment priorities that overlap in the Prespa-Ohrid region with the non-governmental organizations being important beneficiaries.
The focus on a specific initiative, such as the joint call for non-governmental organizations, helped the partners systematically prepare and implement a joint conservation and investment programme with a defined timeframe. By combining the extensive network of experts and partners of CEPF with the in-depth knowledge of the local context by PONT, the first call was successfully completed by awarding grants to three NGOs for the conservation of the Prespa trout and the conservation of endemic plants in Prespa. The joint mid-term review of the implementation of these projects, conducted in May 2021, was equally successful with the projects progressing towards achieving their objectives on time and on budget.
While donor coordination is considered time consuming, the trust built through the first joint call, and the prospects of longer-term perspective for cooperation, have reduced the transaction costs of the partnership. The focus on pragmatic solutions to align internal planning, evaluation and monitoring processes, as well as to combine the existing forms and protocols, greatly helped the trust building process. The success story resulted in an agreement to launch the second and ongoing joint call for small grants of July 2021 that deepens and geographically extends the partnership between CEPF and PONT. The second call also confirmed the capacity of the partnership to overcome challenges in mobilizing finances and other resources in a timely manner.
While the combined efforts of CEPF and PONT involved co-financing, knowledge sharing and learning, the ultimate outcome is a partnership for an improved conservation effectiveness.