Darwin Plus scheme

By Jonathan Kitto, jonathan.kitto@fotbot.org

Later this year, the new round of bidding will commence for Darwin Plus. The scheme, also known as the “Overseas Territories Environment and Climate Fund” provides funding for environmental projects in the British Overseas Territories. It also funds fellowships for nationals of the territories to expand their knowledge and gain the necessary technical and scientific expertise to preserve the pristine natural environments so well associated with the territories. The initiative falls under the remit of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) due to its environmental focus.

To date, the initiative has funded 148 projects throughout the British Overseas Territories, with each territory having benefitted from at least one project. In addition to projects tailored for individual territories, some projects have spanned several OTs simultaneously; pooling resources, encouraging cooperation, and fostering links between the territories.

Examples of projects include wetland restoration in the Sovereign Base Area of Akrotiri; improving biodiversity in the territory while also providing increased socio-economic opportunities for local villagers through education and tourism.

The British Antarctic Territory and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands both benefitted from a grant that enabled complex tracking and analysis of penguin populations to increase scientific knowledge of the marine environment across the region. Data collected was used for the planning of marine protected areas that would most effectively protect Antarctic and sub-Antarctic wildlife.

The Caribbean territories have received funding for a wide range of projects. One example was the Seabird Recovery Planning Programme conducted in the British Virgin Islands. The funding enabled the comprehensive collection of data on all breeding seabirds in the territory with a trialling of species recovery methods such as management and restoration of key breeding sites. Specific emphasis was given to the globally important population of roseate terns, showing how Darwin Plus funding can benefit not just local, or regional, but also international objectives.

Even the smallest British Overseas Territories have benefitted from the programme. The Pitcairn and Tristan da Cunha governments have been working on a joint project (funded by Darwin Plus) to improve biosecurity capacity in the two territories. A key focus has been ensuring greater biosecurity at the ports of both territories and improving biosecurity measures on the key vessels that service the islands. This will enhance the protection of natural resources in the two territories as well as their World Heritage Sites from invasive alien species.

Those eligible to apply for Darwin Plus project funding include British Overseas Territory governments, non-governmental organisations, research institutions and private sector organisations. All UK overseas territories can apply.

Those eligible to apply for Darwin Plus Fellowships must be nationals of a British Overseas Territory. For territories without a permanent resident population, Fellowships are available for people who are committed to providing support to their chosen territory and can demonstrate an existing relationship with that territory.

Over the years the Darwin Plus scheme has provided millions of pounds of funding to the Overseas Territories. This has led to tangible ecological benefits across the Overseas Territories, helping them lead the world in the battle against climate change and environmental degradation. It has also enabled a levelling up of local skills across the territories and provided a source of economic diversification, helping maintain the long-term future and sustainability of the British Overseas Territories.