By Terry Odendahl

Original post in Alliance Magazine on June 27, 2018

In the current political moment, one where we can no longer trust politicians and international actors to have human compassion and protect our rights to a healthy planet, who do we trust?

Over the past decade, I have worked as an environmental and human-rights philanthropist trying to protect people and planet. What gives me hope during this current, challenging political moment are local, grassroots leaders who continue to organise efforts to protect their rights to a clean environment. Even more inspiring yet are the collaborations cropping up between organisations that support these local leaders, providing the ability to get even more funding and support to those on the frontlines of environmental protection.

This is why I am proud that Global Greengrants Fund is a part of the Grassroots Climate Solutions Fund, a unique collaborative fund launched in 2016. Together, Global Greengrants FundThousand CurrentsGrassroots International, and Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights help grassroots organizations working at the intersection of climate resilience and human rights by transforming large amounts of grant capital into strategic investments in effective grassroots climate solutions.

Collaborations such as the Grassroots Climate Solutions Fund are more important than ever before. And here’s why.

A changing international political climate, clouded by the Trump administration, increased threats and risks for environmental defenders worldwide, and global temperatures that continue to rise, it is safe to say that those who want to protect Planet Earth and the people who call it home have much to overcome.

Powerful movements and innovative solutions are needed to overcome these challenges.

Local communities around the world invest unmatched time, resources, and energy in cultivating, stewarding, and defending the landscapes and territories that provide for their livelihoods and wellbeing. These local actors hold knowledge of their ecosystems and have developed culturally appropriate institutions for the management and stewardship of their natural resources that are critical to resilience in the face of disturbance, scarcity, conflict, and crisis.

Unfortunately, these communities and people often lack equal access to the resources, rights, and tools that could help them protect their environments. In addition, many funders find it difficult to connect with small groups in remote areas, build relationships of trust, transfer funds to grantees, and accompany them in their work.

Combined, the four organisations that make up the Grassroots Climate Solutions Fund have over 100 years experience supporting indigenous rights, climate and economic justice, and women’s rights. Not only is the collaboration raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to distribute to grassroots organisations, but we are also strengthening the message that local communities are essential actors in the fight against climate change.

Even more important, the connections built between those frontline activists can create powerful movements, driving change on a scale that should not be underestimated.

Take for example the Jamaa Resource Initiatives, an organisation in Kenya that received a grant from the Grassroots Climate Solutions Fund in 2017. The group will use $5,000 to carry out a gendered study of environmental and natural resource management issues in Nakuru, the fourth largest city in Kenya. Agriculture is the main economic activity for locals, providing food, income, and raw materials for many industries. Climate change is wreaking havoc on local farms, causing drought, intense rains, floods, and high temperatures that challenge productivity and food security. Most impacted are women who depend on the farms to feed their families. The project will focus on giving local indigenous women and youth the tools needed to adapt, identifying community based interventions led by women and youth and raise awareness about climate change mitigation strategies that incorporate gender rights and traditional knowledge.

To date, the Grassroots Climate Solutions Fund has made one round of grants for $190,000 to 19 organizations, including the Jamaa Resource Initiatives. Through the collaboration, grassroots leaders and activists from Thailand to Nepal to Guatemala are receiving the resources and support they need to help those on the frontlines implement real change. We plan to increase the number of grants awarded through the collaboration over time, in turn supporting more frontline leaders take action and serve as sparks of light during these dark times.

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