Yes! There are Financing Opportunities for Indigenous Communities | WWF

Yes! There are Financing Opportunities for Indigenous Communities

Posted on
20 febrero 2018
Organizations from Colombia, Peru, and Canada met recently in Bogotá to share their experience and advice regarding financial support for initiatives related to conservation and climate change mitigation or adaptation.
During the end of the 1990s, the indigenous people of the Kitasoo/Xaix’ais First Nation in British Columbia did not know what to do to reduce unemployment and halt a growing wave of suicides. At the time, working for the logging industry seemed to be the only available option. But in a matter of years – and without losing their forests – these communities went from having an unemployment rate of 90% to one slightly below 10%. How did they accomplish this feat in a place so desolate that it can only be reached by plane or boat?
Douglas Neasloss, representative of the Kitasoo/Xaix’ais First Nation, says that his community’s transformation came about with a tourism project supported by the Coast Funds. This endowment, established in 2007 to conserve Canada’s British Columbia region, supports projects that combine long-term conservation with the sustainable economic development of indigenous communities. The case of the Kitasoo/Xaix’ais First Nation is one of the initiative’s most successful projects.
Douglas Neasloss was one of several participants at the conservation and climate funds knowledge exchange for indigenous communities held in Bogotá on February 13 and 14 with support from WWF and NICFI/Norad. At the exchange, participants also learned firsthand from the experience of the Saweto Memoria Viva Dedicated Grant Mechanism, which is led by the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP) and the Confederation of Amazonian Nationalities of Peru (CONAP).

© Viviana Londoño / WWF-Colombia

Thanks to the Forest Investment Program’s Dedicated Grant Mechanism, the Saweto Memoria Viva has become an exemplary funding model. With financial and technical support from the World Bank and WWF, respectively, the program has strengthened indigenous peoples’ management of their territories, buttressed sustainable economic activities for local communities, and helped reduce deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon, among other achievements.
As for Colombia, delegates from the Visión Amazonía Program and the Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazon (OPIAC) participated in the event, as did a delegate of the Colombia Heritage Program and representatives of the Climate and Forests Team of WWF US, WWF Peru, and WWF Colombia.

© Viviana Londoño / WWF-Colombia

One encounter, many takeaways
One of the main conclusions from the exchange in Bogotá was that there are more project-funding opportunities for indigenous communities now that they are increasingly being recognized as key actors in the fight against deforestation and climate change.
The role of indigenous peoples today extends beyond issues of human rights, and governments throughout the world are beginning to recognize their importance in forest conservation. Julio Cusurichi, executive member of the Saweto Peru DGM, explains, “We are the ones who know and take care of the rainforest, and with proper funding we can ensure its conservation.”
María Fernanda Jaramillo, WWF’s Learning and knowledge management specialist who led the workshop, says that there is a great opportunity regarding climate funds: “it is very important to continue shortening the gap between governments’ environmental agendas and those of indigenous peoples in order to ensure the sustainability of territories.”

© Viviana Londoño / WWF-Colombia 

Another key takeaway from the exchange was the need for different organizations to work together not only to improve proposals and gain access to funding opportunities, but also to make effective use of these funds and create long-term sustainable processes. Participants agreed on the importance of partnering with local and national governments. “The first step is forming partnerships to gain access to funds,” says María Fernanda Jaramillo, “but we must not forget the importance of partnerships for execution, implementation, and follow-up.
Participants also highlighted the importance of approaching these kinds of processes with a focus on gender. Ruth Buendía, secretary of AIDESEP, explains, “women play a very important role, and we can have significant impact when we have the right tools.”

The exchange lasted two days and served as an opportunity to examine funding-related challenges. Long-term sustainability is an evident hurdle in the case of Peru and Colombia. Delegates also mentioned the importance of strengthening administrative capabilities in order to ensure sustainable project execution and a better use of funds.
Lastly, all participants agreed on the importance of creating more spaces for in-person dialogue and knowledge sharing. “Listening to others and sharing our experiences allows us to learn and to bring these takeaways to our communities,” says Ruth Buendía.