Belize Marine Fund
Enhancing Financial Sustainability for Mesoamerican Reef Conservation
The Belize Marine Fund (BMF) is a recent initiative and new financial mechanism established within the Mesoamerican Reef Fund (MAR Fund). The BMF, launched in November 2016 at the 18th RedLAC Annual Assembly in Brasilia, Brazil, was created through a US$ 10 million endowment challenge grant from the Oak Foundation, owing to the transition of the Foundation’s own Mesoamerican Reef Programme from the region. MAR Fund must raise US$ 15 million as a match to mobilize the Oak Foundation commitment. The vision of the BMF is to provide long-term financial sustainability for addressing high-priority marine resources management and conservation issues in Belize for greater impact throughout the Mesoamerican Reef Eco-region.
The BMF promotes the sustainable use and effective management of priority marine ecosystems in Belize—particularly those natural assets that make up (and interfaces with) the Belize Barrier Reef Complex. It supports civil society conservation organizations in activities geared at enhancing resources management, acquiring additional financing for resources management, and strengthening legislative reforms, through strategic interventions and actions.
While the $10M gift is contingent on the MAR Fund raising an additional $15M, Oak will make $500K available for marine conservation annually for five years as the MAR Fund raises the matching funds.
Central to the BMFs’ programmatic efforts is its Small Grants and Targeted Grants Programmes. These grant programmes provide the channels through which the Fund dispenses the support needed by its local partners to address some of Belize, and the region’s, most pressing environmental challenges.
The Small Grants Programme maintains an annual request for proposals (RfP), that is launched on the MAR Fund website. The RfP is shared via electronic mail and print media (nationally), with specific information, which includes the threshold for support and deadline for the submission of grant applications.
The Targeted Grants Programme has no structured RfP. Instead, it allows organizations, based on their areas of expertise and the particular needs of the BMF, to submit concept notes for potential projects/initiatives. The submitted projects/initiatives are considered on a rolling basis. There is also provision for the BMF to determine the landscape for initiatives of interest, that are strategic in thinking, for achieving more national broad-based environmental actions that would require larger investments than small grants.
In executing its grant-making functions, the BMF seeks eligible non-governmental, community-based and education/academic, or scientific organizations with project interests that meet the following criteria:
- work to address (root causes of) some of Belize’s and the region’s most urgent environmental and marine resources management challenges;
- can be replicated locally, nationally and across broad geographical locations;
- incorporate plans (considerations) for long-term sustainability of the work;
- are of a collaborative nature;
- build on broader national/regional projects and initiatives for Mesoamerican Reef management and conservation;
- have secured other sources of matching funds from entities not affilated with the BMF; and
- respond to national, regional or global conservation plans/goals.
Annually, the BMF will establish priority areas of focus for both its Small and Targeted Grants Programmes to inform its investments. These priority areas of focus will be informed by the Fund’s strategic plan, a scan of Belize and the regions’ environmental landscape, and insights from the BMF’s Steering Committee, which is the governing body tasked with providing guidance to the work of the Fund.
While the priority areas may evolve, broad thematic areas for funding will include:
1. Protected areas management and conservation;
2. Sustainable use of natural resources;
3. Adaptation to climate change; and
4. Sustainable financing for marine resources management.
Under these themes, specific categories of projects may also include efforts related to fisheries management, marine conservation policy, institutional capacity building for marine conservation civil society organizations, climate resilience and the blue economy, protected areas creation/expansion, the protection and restoration of fragile or degraded ecosystems, sustainable income generating activities for local coastal communities and community organizations, and the management of solid waste and effluents for resource sustainability.
The Mesoamerican Reef remains the largest trans-boundary reef ecosystem. It is recognized for its biodiversity and the source of livelihoods for 1.5 million people living along the Caribbean coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras. The Mesoamerican Reef region is internationally known for being at the forefront of cutting edge and innovative reef management efforts. The region has made significant advancements in marine resources management and conservation over the years. However, there is still much more that needs to be accomplished. Critically important is the fact that the Belize Barrier Reef World Heritage site remains on the list of World Heritage Sites in danger, and there is a need for increased protection of fish replenishment zones and spawning aggregation sites across the region, among other strategic conservation needs. Therefore, we must maintain our collective regional and global quest for sustained and vibrant marine resources and oceans. The effort of the BMF in working to sustain some of the most globally important marine resources is a vital step towards realizing our collective goal.