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by ICONIQ Impact | November 21, 2021

Empowering Women and Indigenous Leaders to Reclaim and Protect Their Land

To celebrate the launch of the ICONIQ Impact Climate Equity Co-Lab, we're highlighting the three portfolio organizations supporting hyperlocal environmental leaders

Photo by Wambui Gichobi | Survival Media Agency

In the Nigerian village of Yaataah—part of the oil-rich Nigerian Delta—Martha Agbani is helping recultivate and protect one of the world’s largest mangrove ecosystems. Mangroves house some of the most biodiverse aquatic life in the world and are natural sources of coastal protection and carbon sequestration.

Yet for decades, oil companies have plundered the region, devastating the area’s mangroves and disrupting the lives and livelihoods of local communities that depend on the land and its natural resources for survival. Martha Agbani is on a mission to fix this. She aims not only to protect these precious ecosystems but also to provide work and agency to the region’s women, who have organized to fight against the extractive and polluting fossil fuel industry.

Martha is the executive director of the Lokiaka Women Development Center and a grantee of Global Greengrants Fund—an ICONIQ Impact Climate Equity Co-Lab portfolio organization. Global Greengrants Fund believes in the power and potential of grassroots, community-led organizations. They help accelerate locally-led solutions by placing power and resources directly in the hands of those best suited to protect the environment—the local people.

Across the globe, women and indigenous leaders like Martha are advancing grassroots efforts to
reclaim, preserve, and protect their lands. Yet their small-scale efforts often lack visibility and are unable to absorb the large amounts of capital foundations typically disburse. Regranting institutions, like Global Greengrants Fund, serve as key intermediaries. Because of their deep ties to local communities, they are able to easily source, vet, and distribute smaller-sized grants to hyperlocal initiatives.

This week, we’re proud to highlight three ICONIQ Impact Climate Equity Co-Lab regranting organizations that are helping promising, hyperlocal organizations be heard and access the resources and agency necessary to protect their lands.

  • Global Greengrants Fund: While climate change is a global problem, many of the biggest environmental wins have been started by small, local movements. However, mainstream philanthropy does not effectively support these local actors, as they are often more difficult to find than large, well-resourced organizations headquartered in the global north. Those closest to the problem (women living in communities affected by climate change and experiencing poverty) are best positioned to create targeted and effective solutions for the challenges facing their communities. But too often they are denied access to the resources needed to develop climate solutions. Global Greengrants Fund (GGF) makes grants to small, hyperlocal, culturally-embedded organizations that advance climate and environmental justice initiatives. GGF leverages an advisory network of over 200 partners with geographic and subject matter expertise to source and vet grantmaking opportunities.
  • Samdhana: Indigenous people are among the most marginalized groups in Southeast Asia. Many are not considered citizens and are routinely forced from their land by private oil companies. This problem is particularly acute for indigenous women, who additionally face discrimination due to deeply-entrenched gender biases. These women are critical actors in conservation and carbon sequestration efforts, but their small-scale, hyperlocal efforts have historically been underfunded. Samdhana provides these proximate leaders with the financial resources, knowledge, and networks they need to build stronger communities and more sustainable environments. They make grants to locally-led organizations to secure land, improve sustainable environmental practices, and accelerate climate change adaptation efforts.
  • FASOL: In Mexico, climate change has disproportionately impacted poor communities that rely on natural resources for their survival. Women in these communities are particularly affected, as they are largely responsible for farming and gathering natural resources yet hold little decision-making power over their land. FASOL helps organize and fund grassroots community groups focused on climate change. By identifying and working alongside local stakeholders, FASOL is able to build community agency, knowledge, and political will toward environmental protection. The organization prioritizes women- and indigenous-led initiatives that have both an environmental lens and an economic development lens.