Environmental projects up for bid at ‘auction floor’ conference in Brussels.
Last year a well-known conservation group asked the EU for €525 584 to help save the African blackwood tree and fight poverty in communities in southeast Tanzania that depend on the tree for their livelihood.
African blackwood is one of the world’s most valuable timbers. Prized for its tonal qualities, the shrub-like tree is used to make woodwind instruments like oboes, clarinets and bagpipes. It was once plentiful in Africa but is now threatened by overharvesting.
EuropeAid, the EU office responsible for external aid, took a long look at the proposal and decided it deserved the money. In the end, however, the grant wasn’t awarded because of limited EU funding.
But the story doesn’t end there.
The African blackwood effort was one of 86 projects around the world up for ‘sale’ at the EU’s first environmental auction in Brussels on 13 March. With budgets between €400 000 and €3m, they range from fighting desertification, climate change and deforestation to improving biodiversity and sustainable development. The commission considers them all worth financing but lacks the necessary funds itself.
The event is not an auction in the traditional sense, rather a chance for potential donors – governments, foundations and companies – to learn about projects from the organisers and EU experts who reviewed them. About 400 participants signed up for the conference. Deals will be worked out directly between projects and donors, with the commission playing the role of matchmaker.
The projects aim to give local and indigenous communities a larger role in managing forests and other natural resources. Besides the Tanzania blackwood proposal , they include efforts to recuperate tropical forests in Peru, start small-scale renewable energy projects in rural Tajikistan, monitor and conserve osprey populations in northern Africa and replant mangrove forests in Nigeria.
Last year the commission received 200 applications in response to a call for proposals for environmental funding. The EU was able to fund 46 projects worth €64.5m.