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The Darwin Initiative aims at helping countries that are rich in biodiversity but have limited financial resources to conserve their wildlife and use it sustainably. The Initiative is funded and administered by the UK government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, (Defra).

The establishment of the Darwin Initiative was announced at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, to help developing countries to fulfill their obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity, which was one of the main outcomes of the Summit. Since it was set up in 1992 with an annual budget of £3 million, the Darwin Initiative has committed £45 million to 400 projects in 100 countries and now has an annual budget of £7 million.

Most Darwin-funded projects are in Africa, Asia and South America but projects have also been funded in UK Overseas Territories, Central America, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Oceania. Projects focus on capacity building, training, research and environmental education and awareness.

Projects are collaborative, involving UK expertise in partnership with host countries. Wherever possible, projects include local communities, helping them to secure lasting benefits from their natural resources. For example, a local community in Indonesia is conserving coral reefs as a result of training in eco tourism.


Projects funded by the Darwin Initiative include:

  • Action plans to conserve globally-threatened birds, gorillas and chimpanzees in Africa;
  • Management plans for nature reserves in Cuba;
  • Capacity building for wetland conservation in Central European and Baltic states including Latvia and Lithuania;
  • Educating a Vietnamese community about the effects of indiscriminate logging and dynamite and cyanide fishing;
  • Educating students, schoolchildren, tour guides and the trainers of student teachers in Honduras about marine ecology and coral conservation;
  • Environmental education in rural villages in India.


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