By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK The Global Environmental Facility’s Small Grants Programme, whose focus is to address critical threats to the global environment, is making a difference in the lives of communities in Namibia. Already, communities of Kasika conservancy in the Caprivi Region have managed to keep elephants out of their crop fields by creating fences made of old cloth soaked in chillies and used car engine oil. Communities in Henties Bay are also carrying out two UNDP/FEF Small Grants programme-funded projects on mushroom-farming and Biogas with support from the Joint Consultative Council and Namibia Housing Action Group respectively. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) finances projects whose focus is on biodiversity loss, climate change, degradation of international waters, land degradation and persistent organic pollutants. In Namibia, the programme funds projects ranging from protection of rare biological diversity, animal-human conflict management, use of alternative energy sources, capacity-building for local communities, mitigation against land degradation and poverty alleviation. Since 2003, the programme that provides grants of up to US$50ÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ…ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â 000 directly to non-governmental and community-based organizations, has awarded 44 grants worth N$8million. Namibia is among 95 countries worldwide that participate in the SGP, where over 7ÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ…ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â 000 grants have been awarded to date. This week, the programme awarded grants amounting to US$250ÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ…ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â 000 to 12 projects to carry out their work in communities at a workshop in honour of the International Year of Deserts and Desertification in Henties Bay. The projects include Tsumkwe Environmental Education Project, Berseba Village, Okongo Emerging Conservancy, Omavanda Bee Farming Group, King Nehale Conservancy, Gobabeb Training and Research Institute, Daures Bush Control Management, Wetlands Working Group, LÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼deritz Wind Power Demonstration and the Green Namibia Eco Centre. Environment and Tourism Minister, Willem Konjore, said at the grant award ceremony that projects funded by GEF would help create jobs and livelihood opportunities and improve food security while improving environment-protection and management. Konjore said that with the grant to the Strengthening of the Protected Area Network (SPAN) Project, the project has managed to conduct an economic analysis and feasibility study of parks financing, conducted capacity assessment for parks management in conservation and also managed to compile a project proposal for US$8.2-million and obtained funding through the UNDP/GEF grants. The programme encourages and supports the participation of communities, local people, NGOs, CBOs and other stakeholders in different aspects of training, design and implementation. UNDP Resident Representative, Simon Nhongo, whose speech was read by Vivian Kinyaga of the UNDP Environment Unit, said: “SGP is based on the belief that global environmental problems can be best addressed if local people are involved and there are direct community benefits and ownership. “SGP is convinced that even with relatively small amounts of funding, members of local communities can undertake activities that will make a significant difference in their lives and environments, which will have enormous global benefits,” he said. The annual UNDP/GEF Small Grants Programme Workshop is a key part of the programme that allows grantees to learn from one and another, as well as gain the knowledge needed to successfully scale up and replicate projects across the country. The Henties Bay workshop’s theme was “Proud of our deserts while combating desertification”.