Preserving Paradise: A Collaboration for Caribbean Conservation

SLUNCF CEO - Mr Craig Henry and Superior Broom Members tour the herbal permaculture farm. Credit- SLUNCF

In the azure waters of the Caribbean, where the sun kisses golden sands and vibrant coral reefs teem with life, a paradise is in peril. Beneath the surface of this idyllic landscape lies a complex ecosystem facing mounting threats from climate change, coastal development, and unsustainable environmental practices. Yet, amidst these challenges, a beacon of hope shines bright—the collaborative efforts of governments and organizations working tirelessly to protect and preserve the region’s natural treasures.

A rich tapestry of life spanning 37 countries and territories, the Caribbean is a mosaic of cultures and biodiversity unrivaled in its splendor. From the majestic sea turtles nesting on its shores to the colorful array of marine mammals that call its waters home, to the native terrestrial wildlife like the endemic Union Island gecko, the Caribbean is a haven for life in all its forms. Its marine life, in particular, is a wonder to behold, boasting 10% of the world’s coral reefs, 1,400 species of fish, and 12% of global mangrove forests. 

A Call to Action 

Recognizing the critical importance of biodiversity conservation, governments in the region joined forces to establish the Caribbean Challenge Initiative (CCI) in 2008. A pivotal outcome of the CCI initiative was the inception of the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund (CBF) in 2012, and the subsequent establishment of the Caribbean Sustainable Finance Architecture (CSFA), composed of the CBF and its partner national conservation trust funds (NCTFs). A first for the Caribbean, the CBF is a regional environmental fund committed to fostering initiatives aimed at preserving the natural heritage of the region.

Forging Partnerships for Progress 

In an innovative collaboration, the CBF has partnered with the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP) to amplify its impact and reach.

Centered on the 12 countries shared between the CBF and the GEF SGP, this partnership is a concerted effort to safeguard the region’s environmental treasures. The collaboration aims to bolster conservation efforts, promote sustainable finance mechanisms, and support local communities in their conservation endeavors.

Through the CBF’s three programs— Conservation Finance, Climate Change, and Nature-Based Economies, the organization mobilizes resources and channels support to partners and projects across the region. To date, the CBF has provided financing for 105 projects across the Caribbean, valued at over US$30 million, demonstrating a significant commitment to the preservation of the region’s biodiversity.

The GEF SGP, founded in 1992, provides financial and technical support to community-based organizations and civil society groups. With a focus on grassroots initiatives, the SGP has historically supported over 28,000 projects in 136 countries, including the Caribbean region.

The Power of Partnership 

The partnership between the CBF and GEF SGP represents a unique opportunity to leverage their respective strengths and resources by combining the CBF’s regional reach and expertise with the SGP’s grassroots approach and network of local partners. Together, they are able to implement holistic solutions that address the root causes of biodiversity loss and environmental degradation at both the local and regional levels. This collaboration is not just about implementing projects; it’s about achieving tangible results that align with the CBF’s key performance indicators (KPIs) which include competency improvements and contributions to global initiatives. By working together, the CBF and GEF SGP are not only meeting these KPIs but  the partnership demonstrates the power of partnership in driving meaningful change for the Caribbean’s biodiversity.

Maximizing Impact 

From scaling up projects in Jamaica and St. Lucia, to facilitating joint knowledge exchange and capacity-building workshops across the region, the partnership between the CBF and GEF SGP is yielding tangible results on the ground. One major achievement was the hosting of the Caribbean Biodiversity Financing Conference and Knowledge Fair held on June 26-27,2023 under the theme: “Finance for Nature: Collaboration & Investment for Caribbean Biodiversity”. The event featured high level panels, and round table discussions complete with knowledge products from across the region funded by both organizations. 

This event provided a platform for stakeholders to share insights, foster partnerships, and showcase innovative solutions to pressing environmental challenges. Through initiatives like the knowledge fair, the CBF and GEF SGP are not only raising awareness but also catalyzing action, ensuring that conservation efforts are rooted in Caribbean knowledge, collaboration, and sustainable financing. 

Renewing the Commitment 

Originally signed in 2021, the partnership between the CBF and the GEF SGP has recently been re-signed for another three years, ending in December 2026. In this new chapter, the partnership will focus on several key areas of collaboration, including: 

  • Strengthening community-driven conservation projects: By amplifying support for grassroots initiatives, the aim is to empower local communities in their efforts to protect and preserve the rich biodiversity of the Caribbean. 
  • Enhancing sustainable finance mechanisms: Through innovative financial strategies and knowledge exchange, this partnership seeks to expand access to funding opportunities for conservation projects, ensuring their long-term viability and impact. 
  • Building capacity for biodiversity management: By fostering partnerships and facilitating skill-building initiatives, the aim is to bolster the capacity of Caribbean nations in effectively managing and monitoring their natural resources. 

Visit the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund and Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme websites to learn more about each organization’s work.


Asha-Gaye Cowell
Program Officer, Conservation Finance
Asha-Gaye Cowell is the Conservation Finance Program Officer. She has a diversified academic background, which includes a BSc. Economics and Statistics with first class honors, MSc. International Public and Development Management and a Visiting Fellowship Certification from the University of Oxford where she studied Behavioral Economics along with Strategy and Ethics. Complementing her academic prowess is a cross-section of professional experiences, including work with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), UNECLAC, USAID, the Permanent Missions of Jamaica to the UN, among others. With extensive civic involvement, volunteerism, and strategic partnerships, Asha is very passionate about leadership, international and regional development, economics, youth and climate change.

Latest News

Divers in exploring coral reefs in the Caribbean.
Photo by CLEAR Caribbean at Tobago Cays, St. Vincent & the Grenadines