Small Grants

  • Maria Chus,

    Maria Chus,

    Procurement Analyst, Advisory Services

    "I am working for an organization focused on project delivery, which means that I am able to see concrete results, something that I value greatly."

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The exposure of poor, remote villages to the serious effects of climate change and environmental degradation is a pressing global dilemma. Helping communities with their initiatives for sustainable livelihoods while generating global environmental benefits is the core inspiration of the Small Grants Programme (SGP).

Funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the SGP efficiently channels direct grants to non-governmental and community-based organizations to help them:

  • cope with climate change

  • conserve biodiversity

  • protect international waters

  • reduce the impact of persistent organic pollutants (POPs)

  • prevent land degradation

  • adopt sustainable forest management practices



The frequently award winning, small-scale environment initiatives funded by the GEF-SGP include a wide range of grant projects such as the protection of rhinos in Botswana, the launch of a ‘rent-a-bike’ system in Macedonia and the conservation of the endangered Persian leopard in Iran. These are just a few examples of the over 14,500 grant projects that the GEF-SGP has funded since 1992.

Annually, UNOPS provides administrative and financial management services to almost 3,000 SGP grant projects in around 125 countries. These services are delivered through a tailor-made structure that addresses the needs of each SGP region.

While the substantive SGP planning, supervision and policy making is carried out by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-GEF (as the designated GEF Implementing Agency), UNOPS ensures that the actual execution is quick and cost-efficient, working in close collaboration with the local UNDP country offices. Since the start of the programme, UNOPS has worked to continuously improve operational practices in order to improve the reach and performance of the SGP. As a result, the programme continues to be recognized as a very fast and effective delivery mechanism.

The custom-made service package for the SGP includes:

  • fund management

  • project monitoring

  • HR and recruitment coordination

  • procurement of equipment and services

  • legal advice/internal oversight/audit coordination

  • operational training and troubleshooting

Case studies

Innovative recycling in Mongolia

An NGO in Darkhan, Mongolia has introduced an innovative model for recycling plastic bags, bottles, and waste littered throughout the city. Through a $12,000 grant, San-Orgiu recycled these materials into pipes, chairs and fences, resulting in a 20 percent decrease in the city's iron and wood consumption. The initiative has also helped reduce air pollution by approximately 40 percent, and close to 55,000 acres of land have been cleared of all plastic residue, generating income for 150 locals. In 2010, the initiative won the prestigious Dubai International Award for Best Practices to Improve the Living Environment.

Mitigating the impacts of POPs in Zimbabwe

The intensive use of fertilizers has caused significant land degradation and soil contamination in Zimbabwe. To mitigate these effects, largely caused by POPs, the Organic Network Forum has trained 500 farmers in Makoni District in organic farming, 450 of whom will be certified. So far, 450 hectares of land have been restored, leading to increased crop yields and profits for the local communities. Harmful pollutants originally used in high volumes no longer affect the soil and the aquatic life of the international Save River. This success has also prompted the development of a national policy on organic farming to be formalized in the near future.

Protecting the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System

The lionfish is an invasive species that often causes devastating impacts on marine reef systems. In Belize, the Environmental Conservation Organization addressed this problem by enabling scientists to determine the origin of the lionfish and the reason for its rapid reproduction. In addition to helping control the lionfish population, the research has contributed to the conservation of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Protecting coastal habitats in China

Around 20,000 people in China have participated in projects to reduce marine pollution from land-based sources and restore and protect coastal habitats, with the support of small grants. The initiatives have helped protect international waters and have directly benefited over 4,000 people in local communities. One of the projects cleared over 11,500 kilograms of waste along the Dalian coastline. The coastline is now being regularly monitored by the local community, which has received new funding from the local government to build on earlier achievements. The GEF-SGP received a national award for its support to the projects.