The year was 1993, and Burma was in chaos. A young man carried an envelope filled with cash across the war-torn border between Burma and Thailand. He was delivering Global Greengrants Fund’s first-ever grant. The recipient? Green November 32, at the time Burma’s only environmental and human rights organization.
The cash in that envelope produced the first reports on the Thai-Burma gas pipeline, educated people about the importance of sustainable agriculture, and, ultimately, introduced a discussion of environmental issues into Burma’s political agenda. More importantly, it sparked the creation of a number of local indigenous environmental groups and networks participating in the struggle to give local people a say in the health of their food, water, and resources.
Fast forward 25 years. Global Greengrants Fund is proud to have awarded over 11,000 grants, totaling more than $71 million, to grassroots groups in 168 countries. Our expansive network of grantees, advisors, and donors comes together every day to support communities to protect their ways of life and our shared planet.
Together, we are where change takes root.
In our 25th year, we are reflecting on noteworthy milestones in our history, such as the moment we learned that Shell would pay an $83 million compensation package to Ogoni residents in the Niger Delta, whose land and water was decimated by 2008 and 2009 oil spills. Or when the Canadian government announced their commitment to cleaning up toxic contamination near Grassy Narrows – a huge win for the Canadian First Nations who have been demanding action for 40 years. Global Greengrants has also achieved impressive growth: we reached $10 million in grants in 2006, and we made our 10,000th grant in 2016. Our decade-long partnership with Aveda has helped over 817,000 people access clean water. And we have pushed the boundaries of philanthropy, extending our model to Europe: Global Greengrants UK opened its doors in 2015.
Over the years, our grantees have found creative ways to advance their causes. One group built a solar-powered boat to provide indigenous Achuar people with an efficient, fossil-free way to navigate their ancestral Amazon waterways. Another community group in Malaysia installed GoPro cameras on a protected reef to monitor and stop illegal shark fishing. Moreover, our grantees have continued to employ more traditional, time-tested tactics to create real change, like this retired teacher in India who created an organic seed bank and trained the community on sustainable farming techniques.
The passion, ideas, and dedication of our grantees prove to us each day that the struggle for a clean and healthy environment is worth it – even during these trying times.
Today, exploitative industries continue to prioritize profit over human beings and the planet. Climate change further disenfranchises our world’s most marginalized communities. And shameful violence against activists makes it more dangerous than ever for our environmental defenders to protect their forests, rivers, and lands against destructive industries.
Yet we remain vigilant. In our 25th year and beyond, we will stand in solidarity with environmental defenders around the globe. We will continue to support ideas that are rooted in community wisdom. We will be a beacon of light for other funders who want to use their resources to effect real grassroots change. We will offer a shoulder of support when hope is dim. And we will cheer in celebration when victories are achieved.
So cheers to the past 25 years, and thank you for your support on this ongoing journey.