GEF Small Grant Programme (SGP)

What is the project about

The Small Grants Programme has funded 131 environmental conservation initiatives including 54 biodiversity conservation projects and 41 climate change mitigation projects.

It is local communities in the developing world who are often the first to feel the effects of environmental degradation and climate change. The realisation that they are at the forefront of efforts to prevent and reverse damage to the environment led to the setting up of the Global Environment Facility's Small Grants Programme in 1992. The programme was started following the Rio Earth Summit and has so far given out 9,500 grants to local initiatives to conserve the environment in 101 developing countries.

Since it was set up in 1996, the Nepal Small Grants Programme has funded 102 local initiatives for environmental conservation. This number includes 54 biodiversity conservation projects, 30 climate change mitigation projects and 11 projects to reverse land degradation. These projects have all involved local communities in conserving their local natural resources in ways that enhance human well-being and livelihoods and deliver global environmental benefits.

What have we accomplished so far

Conserving globally important biodiversity 

Twelve SGP projects have led to the conservation and sustainable use of 5,143 hectares of biodiverse midhills forest and 3,483 hectares of wetlands. These and other projects have protected endangered animals (the Gangetic dolphin, sarus crane, gharial, marsh mugger crocodile, vultures and turtles) and plants (orchids, rhododendrons, wild yams and non-timber forest products) across all of Nepal's altitudinal regions (Himalayas, Midhills, Chure hills, Terai).

The following two examples have successfully protected endangered vulture and dolphin populations.

  • Vultures — The vultures of Nepal and India face extinction as their populations have plummeted by 95% in a decade due to poisoning from a drug farmers use to treat their cattle. Under an SGP grant, Bird Conservation Nepal established a 'vulture restaurant' in Nawalparasi, central Nepal. The availability of poison-free cow carcasses led to a doubling in the number of breeding nests in the area in just one year.
  • Dolphins — Even more acutely endangered are the Gangetic dolphins in the Karnali river system. A project to make locals aware of the importance of conserving this species has led to the maintenance of a healthy population in the Mohana river as harmful fishing practices have stopped.

Promoting the sustainable use of native plants

Nepal has a wealth of economically important native plant species. In many areas over-harvesting is depleting the resource. The fund has supported six projects, including the following three, for the sustainable management of these valuable native plants. These projects conserve the natural vegetation, improve local incomes, and protect the land and animal habitats.

  • Essential oil — A village cooperative in a remote part of central Nepal was funded to improve the efficiency of essential oil production from local plants to give higher quality oil that sells for a higher price.
  • Medicinal plants — several communities in far western Nepal have been supported to sustainably manage and increase their incomes from collecting and cultivating medicinal herbs and other valuable forest plants.
  • Sea buckthorn juice — Communities in one of Nepal's poorest and most remote districts (Mugu) are being assisted to manage, process and market the fruits of the sea buckthorn bush.

Technologies that reduce carbon emissions and save forests

Many Nepalis rely on firewood and farm residues for cooking and kerosene for lighting. These sources of energy give off carbon dioxide, produce harmful smoke and lead to forest loss. SGP has supported 16 alternative energy projects. The fossil fuels and firewood replaced by the these projects has reduced CO2 emissions by 16,500 tonnes per year.

  • Solar lighting — Six SGP projects have promoted solar lighting as an appropriate and affordable alternative to the smoky and expensive-to-use kerosene lanterns. These projects have successfully piloted the installation of solar lighting systems and have attracted large-scale government and donor funding to scale up the technology.
  • Biogas — Six projects have promoted the use of biogas — an environmentally sound alternative to firewood and gas that generates cooking gas from animal waste.

Land rehabilitation

The steep slopes, high population densities and reliance of local communities on natural resources for their livelihoods lead to soil loss and other forms of land degradation. SGP has funded projects to control slash and burn agriculture, to improve sloping land with bamboo plantations, to improve terraces and to promote organic farming. One project in Makawanpur, central Nepal, converted 438 hectares of degraded slash and burn land into a stable agroforestry system planted with nitrogen fixing and fodder trees and intercropped with bananas and pineapples. This has stabilised the land and increased local incomes.

Multiple impacts

Most SGP projects have multiple positive impacts. This is particularly the case for the many projects that promote the sustainable use of local renewable resources. For example a project to produce organic compost from elephant dung promoted organic farming, provided a source of income for local women, dealt with a waste problem and led to fewer expensive chemical fertilizers being used. The project is turning the large amounts of dung produced by Chitwan National Park's scores of domesticated elephants into valuable compost, which is sold to local farmers. The dung was previously dumped and burnt off as being of no use — emitting large quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Who Finances it?

Amount contributed
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) $4.2 million
Total assured budget $4.2 million

Delivery in previous fiscal year




Importance of this project towards achieving the MDGs and consolidating peace

Most SGP projects have contributed to the environmental sustainability MDG (MDG 7). Many have also improved rural livelihoods thus contributing to the poverty MDG (MDG 1) and to improving the economic situation of rural people — a crucial need for sustainable peace.

Project Overview
Project duration:
1996 to 30th June 2014
Focus Area:
Environment and Energy
Fund manager and monitoring agency:
United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)
Implemented by:
Implementing partners:
NGOs and community organisations
UNDP focal point:
Mr. Vijay Singh
Environment, Energy and Disaster Reduction Unit
UNDP, UN House, POB 107
Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel: 00-977-1-5523200
Fax: 00-977-1-5523991
Project focal point:
Mr. Gopal Raj Sherchan
National Co-ordinator
UNDP GEF Small Grants Programme
Bhanimandal, Jawalakhel
Lalitpur, Nepal
Tel: 977-1-5000119
Fax: 5530269
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