Learning from your neighbours: Regional Coordinators exchange ideas
Fiji’s new head of small grants spent last week in Samoa learning the ropes from her counterparts across the sea.
Akisi Bolabola is the Regional Coordinator for the Global Environmental Facility Small Grants Programmes (G.E.F-S.G.P) in Fiji and has been in the role nearly eight months.
She said coming to Samoa to share experiences with the Samoan contingent is an essential part of her training and induction.
“It has been a useful exercise, especially going out to project sites to see what is actually on the ground,” she said.
The programme offers grants to community groups of up to US$50,000 (T$125,000) towards environmental projects, especially ones which address the S.G.P. focus areas.
The programme pays close attention to biodiversity, land degradation, chemicals, international waters, climate change mitigation, and community based adaptation.
According to the S.G.P. website, the bulk of projects in Samoa focus on biodiversity and land degradation.
Ms. Bolabola said learning from the experiences of the projects here in Samoa and looking for projects to try and replicate back home is important.
She said visiting the organic keyhole garden project in Moamoa and seeing how it has become a source of knowledge sharing and technical advice to other conservation projects is great.
“I really like the project, because even the implementing group say it’s not so much about the commercial side of things but about ensuring their families are eating healthily.
“You can tell there are people who are actually walking the talk…it’s nice to see it happening.”
Sub-regional Coordinator for Samoa, Filifilia Iosefa said finding more opportunities for knowledge sharing is the drive behind more south-south cooperation.
“We are also looking at potentially having project exchanges in the future,” he said.
“Grantees from Fiji could visit projects in Samoa, and vice versa to collaborate and learn from each other,” said Mr. Iosefa.
For Ms. Bolabola, the S.G.P. is about more than handing out funds.
The programme guides, trains and monitors their community grantees to handle the funds and implement their project for the greatest chance at success.
She said sponsoring exchanges across countries is not only a learning opportunity, but also a chance to acknowledge and honour the energy the communities are putting towards sustainability.
Eventually, Mr. Iosefa and Ms. Bolabola would like to see a Pacific nation host a regional conference for all coordinators to get together, but in the meantime these exchanges are invaluable.