x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Last-minute rush for green grants expected

The Ford Environmental Grants programme is trying to help more non-governmental organisations.

DUBAI // Organisers of the region's oldest environmental grants programme say they are not alarmed that so far "very few" have applied with the submissions deadline now less than a month away.

"It is always the same," said Sue Nigoghossian, who explained that applicants were initially slow in making themselves known. "On the last day we get inundated."

The Ford Motor Company's conservation and environmental grants programme will distribute US$100,000 (Dh367,000) among grass-roots environmental organisations in the GCC as well as Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

The applications process opened in June and finishes on September 10. Winners, decided by an independent jury of environmental experts, will be announced in October. Since 2000, the programme has awarded $1.1m to more than 130 initiatives.

Mrs Nigoghossian, who is also brand communications and public affairs manager at Ford Middle East, said that the funding was badly needed for many of the applicants.

"A lot of these groups and individuals do receive support, but they receive it in kind. A lot of their elements and work do require actual funding," she said.

Habiba Al Marashi, the founder and chairwoman of the Emirates Environmental Group in Dubai, agreed.

"Volunteer organisations are not prominent, not strong," she said. "There are very few of us and all suffering from lack of resources and capacity.

"I am sad to say it, but environmental issues are always at the bottom of the agenda, regardless of where we are but especially in this part of the world."

Mrs Al Marashi added that one difficulty faced by environmental organisations was that some projects needed long-term effort and it could be years before tangible results, appreciated by lay people, could be demonstrated.

The grants programme is now collaborating with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) in a move to reach out to more organisations, especially ones in the GCC.

Mrs Nigoghossian said Lebanon, Syria and Jordan represented more than 50 per cent of all entries.

"We want to see more entries from the GCC," she said.

Applications for the grants programme are available on the Ford Motor Company website, www.me.ford.com. In the UAE, the Emirates Foundation in Abu Dhabi also funds grass roots environmental projects, as well as energy and water conservation research.

Also in the capital, the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund is a multimillion dollar endowment that helps conservation research projects around the world.

vtodorova@thenational.ae