GEF-Small grants, big impacts: a community-led initiative is saving Viet Nam’s land crabs



Conserving the global commons can mean grappling with complex issues, studying the science underlying them, and making far-reaching commitments. But it can also involve measuring crabs in a hot village square.



At the end of June, delegates to the Sixth Global Environment Facility (GEF) Assembly in Da Nang, Viet Nam, did both. After two days of intensive meetings, involving heads of government, ministers, and top scientists and businessmen, a group of them headed off to the nearby Cham Islands to witness conservation, literally, at ground level.



The islands are home to a community-led initiative which has succeeded in saving their remarkable land crabs (Gecarcoidea Ialandii),a species that lives in caves in the islands' damp forests and only goes to the coast to lay its eggs in hollows in the rocks filled with seawater.



The initiative was made possible by the GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP), implemented by the United Nations Development Programme, which this year celebrates its 25thanniversary. So far it has provided over $580 million to more than 21,500 projects around the world in grants of just $50,000 or less.



Taken together, the grants - which are given directly to community-based organisations and civil society organisations - have so far supported 8.41 million hectares of protected areas, conserved 1,803 significant species, brought 900,000 hectares of land under practices that counter its degradation, and placed 32,000 hectares of marine and coastal areas under sustainable management.           



Yoko Watanabe, Global Manager of the programme, says “it provides finance as well as technical expertise and really empowers local communities to be agents of change in addressing environment and livelihood issues. Small grants, but big impacts – that's what we are!”



She calls the land crab project – on the eight small Cham Islands, totalling just 15 sq km – “a very innovative initiative by the local community”.



The islands are set in a rich marine reserve – host to 277 species of coral, 270 of fish, and 97 of mollusc – but less than a decade ago the large black-backed crabs were in sharp decline, overharvested as delicacies for visiting tourists.



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