Last Friday night, five colleagues and I headed to London to celebrate 25 years of the Darwin Initiative.
First announced by the UK Government at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the Darwin Initiative supports projects in developing countries that conserve biodiversity and reduce poverty. Over the years, projects supported by the initiative have ranged from eradicating rats from the island of Redonda to developing marine co-management systems in Zanzibar and to supporting rural livelihoods in Cambodia.
To date £140 million in funding has been awarded to projects in 159 countries, and the event was to celebrate this long-term dedication, vast scale and tremendous adaptability.
We were in illustrious company, sharing a beautiful room at the Royal Society with Sir David Attenborough, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Thérèse Coffey MP, and Professor Stephen Blackmore, Chair of the Darwin Expert Committee. Mr Gove described the scheme as “something governments do that’s worth celebrating” while Sir David described his feeling that “the tide was turning” as concern for the natural world grows with each generation.
At the event, Tim Bergman, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) project manager in Cambodia, was able to share his experiences of managing a Darwin Initiative award directly with Mr Gove and staff from Defra.
“As a project manager, I very much appreciate the Darwin Initiative’s understanding of real life project challenges and the need to adapt. When an element has not worked, or when a slightly different intervention would be more impactful, we have been able to communicate this to the team at Darwin who have clarified, understood and supported the changes. Like us, they care about the end results of protecting biodiversity and improving livelihoods.
“In Cambodia, our partnership with the Darwin Initiative has enabled us to work with indigenous communities to conserve and protect the critically endangered Siamese crocodile and endangered Asian elephant, while also improving rice yields, poultry raising and access to markets. The initiative has allowed us to work within the dynamic nature of community engagement to support biodiversity and livelihoods improvement, for which I am very grateful.”
At FFI, we have been fortunate to receive 61 awards from the Darwin Initiative, and today the initiative is supporting our work in Indonesia, Uganda, Antigua and Barbuda, Cambodia, Honduras, Kenya, Tanzania (Zanzibar), Tajikistan, Nicaragua and Guinea.