Thu | Dec 14, 2017

Earth Today | Environmental Foundation of Jamaica hunts big bucks

Published:Thursday | July 13, 2017 | 12:00 AMBY PETRE WILLIAMS-RAYNOR
Lorna Williams-Christie of the Cockpit Country Local Forest Management Committee (LFMC) sign the grant agreement to undertake work in the ecologically sensitive area. Looking on are EFJ board chairman Professor Dale Webber (left) and Herbert Foster, also of the Cockpit Country LFMC. The Cockpit Country LFMC was one of the 13 beneficiaries awarded a grant by the EFJ, under the Forest Conservation Fund last Monday.

THE ENVIRONMENTAL Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ) is on a mission to raise funds to sustain its operations well into the future, mere months after signalling a return to form with the appointment of a new leadership and grant awards valued in the millions of dollars.

"We need to find funds so that we can continue to grant funds. We are doing this locally, but there is only so much money that can be had in Jamaica. So we are going internationally," said board chairman for the EFJ, Professor Dale Webber.

One option, he said, is a debt swap, which is how the EFJ started as an independent special purpose foundation and medium through which sustainable development programmes would be developed and the funds managed more than two decades ago.

This under the United States (US) government's Enterprise of the Americas Initiative through which the proceeds of debt forgiveness and debt reduction were channelled into the promotion and implementation of sustainable environmental and child-survival and development programmes.

"We are looking for another debt for nature swap, whether with the US or any other entity who wants to engage in a debt-for-nature swap. That has worked very well on two occasions. That is what gave us the EFJ and the JPAT (Jamaica Protected Areas Trust), through the FCF (Forest Conservation Fund)," Webber told The Gleaner last week.

"If another entity wants to do another debt for nature swap, we will work with them. We are talking to the Government to find out where the debt exists so that we can try and work out that debt swap," he added.

 

Partnerships

 

Another option is partnerships with overseas organisations that do similar work.

"A number of international entities are doing what we are doing locally. So like the (Andrew W.) Mellon Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Oak Foundation, they are doing just what we do but on a much larger scale. If they want to have a footprint in Jamaica, why not do it through the EFJ? The SCCAF (Special Climate Change Adaptation Fund) came our way; we will take other opportunities which will come in that way where we are the best grant manager," noted Webber, who is to engage some prospective collaborators in the coming weeks in New York.

It is under the SCCAF that the EFJ has, in recent months, awarded more than $80 million in grants to civil society groups and select public-sector entities to undertake projects to build Jamaica's climate-change resilience.

Only last week, the entity awarded another $80 million in grants, this time through the FCF and for projects intended to help regenerate and/or preserve the island's forest cover, while promoting sustainable livelihoods such as beekeeping.

The grant awards came on the heels of the entity's revealed changes in management, as the merger of its operations and those of JPAT/FCF took shape.

Accountant Barrington Lewis is the new chief executive officer, while environmental professional Allison Rangolan McFarlane is the new chief technical director.

Now, Webber says they are moving to build on their reputation as grant managers.

"We are doing this for over 20 years. We have had over 1,200 projects. We have given out over 300 billion Jamaica dollars.

"That is a lot of money to have managed, and our financial records are done every year. We are audited every year. We report to Parliament as well as to the US Senate because we were funded by both. So, clearly, we have been doing something well in terms of our financial management," he said.

"Our grant management is as important ... We are really into alternative energy. We are really into coastal restoration ... There are a number of thematic areas that we want to do for our next couple of calls (for proposals) so we are going to the international agencies saying, 'if you would like to do that, why not do it in Jamaica?'" Webber said.