As high value blue economy deals are brokered by bankers, economists, government officials and impact investors, the question remains how the proceeds of these deals will benefit the marine environment and the coastal communities. Many philanthropic organisations that provide grants to the local communities find it challenging to ensure that this money reaches people it is intended for, rather than ‘parachute’ consultants.

Inclusiveness by design

The Seychelles’ Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT) offers financing through a transparent and competitive application process where all entries are carefully screened by the Blue Grants Committee – a diverse group of experts, each with unique technical expertise and a different point of view. The Committee comprises university lecturers, specialists in marine spatial planning and fisheries, business development experts, officials from the ministries of environment, fisheries and the blue economy, and a member of a non-profit youth organization. Additionally, it is provisioned for a local fisherman to join the conversation and give a voice to the fishermen community.

If an applicant is seeking a large grant (with a ceiling of $75 000), there is a two-stage application process and the full project proposal must include logic charts, detailed itemized budgets, and a Gantt chart to suggest a timeline.

Such comprehensive process and the screening approach ensure that the selected applications have the best value proposition and benefit multiple local stakeholders. This, in turn, helps make the investment safer and multiply its impact by making it cross-sectoral.

Inclusiveness through the process

Since its inception, SeyCCAT operated with expansive eligibility criteria, making financing available to a wider group of applicants. In 2017 and 2018, for example, SeyCCAT financed 14 projects led by environmental non-governmental organisations, experienced researchers and consultants, one small enterprise, and one project led by a fisher’s association. A total of US$ 660 883.57 was disbursed to the beneficiaries.

A part of the funds from the debt-for-nature swap was allocated to fund the Preparation Project Grant (PPG) (awarded on a case-by-case basis), which allows to procure consulting services for the applicants to prepare a successful full project proposal. This way, even people without any prior experience in applying for funds are given an opportunity to develop a competitive proposal. Additionally, the call for proposals was translated in the Creole language and widely advertised through the local media outlets to reach individuals and households.

However, even with these measures, the first two financing cycles showed that the beneficiaries were mostly NGOs with significant experience in applying for grants. People seemed to be intimidated by the complexity of the application process, even though it was designed based on the best international practices. So, how do you make blue finance truly accessible and inclusive?

Why it matters?

SeyCCAT presents a hopeful future where accessing finance is not what limits innovation, creativity and solutions to national and global challenges. With inclusiveness by design and through the process, we provide new opportunities to close the wealth gap and bring youth, women, and entrepreneurs on the journey to a sustainable future. When all citizens are connected and included and involved in this transition, the country and the blue economy overwhelmingly benefits. SeyCCAT sees inclusion and accessibility as pivotal to achieve lasting change and generate prosperity whilst sustaining the health of the marine environment.