PCLG: a small grants initiative for locally led action on the links between people and great ape conservation

A programme of work showing how IIED is building capacity to understand and implement equitable conservation and enhance community voice in conservation policymaking.

Applications for the small grants initiative are currently being accepted.

Began 2005
Nicola Sorsby

Researcher (nature-climate), Natural Resources/Climate Change research groups

Climate Change research group
Natural Resources research group
Conservation, communities and equity
A programme of work showing how IIED is building capacity to understand and implement equitable conservation and enhance community voice in conservation policymaking
Back view of a man walking through dense forest

Trekking through Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Uganda (Photo: Jon Gos via FlickrCC BY 2.0)

IIED has coordinated PCLG since its formation in 2005 as the Poverty and Conservation Learning Group – an international learning group that interrogated the links between biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction.

Over 15 years the group evolved, with national chapters formed in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda, and a brief history of the initiative and its achievements are available in a timeline.  

In 2020, PCLG – now known as the People and Conservation Learning Group – piloted providing small grants to local groups and Indigenous Peoples’ organisations to tackle challenges related to people and great ape conservation.  

Following positive feedback on this pilot, and with support from the Arcus Foundation, in 2023 PCLG started its next chapter operating exclusively as a small grants initiative.

PCLG small grants initiative

The PCLG small grants initiative seeks to get money to where it matters to support locally-led action. IIED does not define what an eligible activity should include, but rather supports applicants to self-determine their priorities related to opportunities or challenges arising from interactions between people and great ape conservation.

In this round of the small grants initiative,  the design and delivery has been heavily influenced by the principles for locally led adaptation (LLA) – a set of eight principles that seek to shift power and decision-making to the local level that are now endorsed by more than 100 governments and organisations.

The PCLG small grants initiative has a particular focus on how these principles can be applied to funding for nature conservation and locally-led action more broadly. This includes consideration for working in multiple languages, different currencies, and using application and reporting methods that work for the local context, such as videos and voice notes.

We want to ensure the funding is more easily accessible to local organisations and to avoid unnecessary administrative barriers. The aim is for these funds to reach the local level where conservation efforts can have the greatest impact for people and great apes.

Over 2023-24, we will be working closely with grantees to capture lessons from this small grants initiative and will share what has worked and what hasn’t for getting money to where it matters.

How does it work?

The PCLG small grants initiative is led by IIED, with support from in-country PCLG ‘champions’: national representatives in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda who ensure local communities and organisations working on people and great ape conservation have access to the initiative and are supported to submit their applications.

IIED and the PCLG national champions are working together to design, launch and publicise the initiative, to support successful grantees throughout the duration of the granting cycle, and to collect lessons on what has worked well about the initiative this year, and what challenges have been faced. This will be critical for shaping future rounds of the small grants initiative.

We will reflect in particular on how we could improve the design of the initiative in the future to make funding more accessible to local communities.

PCLG national champions

The PCLG team is made up of in-country national champions and members of IIED.

Atuheire Brian

If you are applying in Uganda, your national champion is Atuheire Brian.

Atuheire Brian has eight years’ experience in environmental/biodiversity conservation and climate change decision making. His experience includes reducing human-wildlife conflicts, illegal wildlife trade through advocacy, and improving the livelihoods of those that live adjacent to Ugandan National Parks and Reserves.

Dominique Bikaba

If you are applying in DRC, your national champion is Dominique Bikaba.

Dominique is the founding member and executive director of Strong Roots Congo, a conservation and sustainable development non-governmental organisation based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

For over 25 years, Dominique has worked to design and oversee conservation and sustainable development programmes that aim to balance the needs of humans with those of forests and wildlife.

Timothée Emini

If you are applying in Cameroon, your national champion is Timothée Emini.

Timothée is from the Indigenous Baka community, native to the East region of Cameroon. He holds a Master's degree in public law, is a doctoral student and currently holds the position of facilitator of the platform of Indigenous Peoples of the forests of Cameroon ‘Gbabandi’.

Nicola Sorsby

IIED team.

Nicola Sorsby is a nature-climate researcher. She works on projects bridging nature, people and climate with a particular focus on supporting locally-led action. She will lead the PCLG small grants initiative this year in close coordination with the in-country PCLG champions.


We aim to be as transparent as possible about the PCLG small grants initiative, in line with principle 7 of the LLA principles.

When the information is available, we will publish information here on who the successful grantees are and how much of IIED’s grant from Arcus passed directly through to grantees.

Successful grantees

We will update this list with information on successful grantees from the 2023 granting cycle when it is available.

Successful grantees from the 2021 granting cycle included:

Dialogue on COVID-19 challenges and great ape conservation, Cameroon

  • Organisation: Foundation for inclusive Education (FIED)
  • Grant value: $4,500
  • Key project activities:
  • Established two multi-stakeholder learning groups in the Ebo forest landscape
  • Held several meetings including to raise awareness of great ape conservation amongt local communities, to discuss how COVID-19 has impacted both conservation and development efforts in the area and to brainstorm how to increase local participation in great ape conservation.

Indigenous Assembly on Conservation and Human Rights in Cameroon

  • Organisation: Okani (supported by Forest Peoples Programme)
  • Grant value: $5,000
  • Key project activities:
  • Support to an Indigenous Assembly to bring together Indigenous associations in Cameroon, as well as NGOs and government stakeholders, to discuss their contributions to conservation (including great ape conservation) and to develop joined up solutions that benefit people and wildlife
  • Involved a listening event for Indigenous communities to share their perspectives with conservation actors and donors.

Enhancing local community engagement in great-apes conservation during COVID-19 period, Cameroon

  • Organisation: Association for Biodiversity Conservation and Rural Development
  • Grant value: $3,753
  • Key project activities:
  • Established a great ape learning group to discuss opportunities for conservation efforts that can also support communities living around great ape habitats.
  • Bought piglets for local families as alternative livelihood development

The Gbabandi platform, of which Okani is a member, has since published a journal article detailing their experience of Indigenous mobilisation for community tenure-led conservation in Cameroon. 

Protecting Virunga National Park through Community Learning and Sustainability, DRC

  • Organisation: Virunga Amani Tours
  • Grant value: $5,000
  • Key project activities:
  • Held meetings with the Kibati community to understand the key drivers of forest resource use
  • Organised meetings with the Kibati community and park rangers to discuss how they might work together in the future
  • Conducted an assessment on previous benefit sharing agreements within Virunga National Park

People for Gorillas in COVID-19 Times program, Uganda

  • Organisation: African Initiative on Food Security and Environment
  • Grant value: $4,045
  • Key project activities:
  • Researched the impacts of COVID-19 on gorilla conservation around Bwindi
  • Developed training manuals
  • Held learning group meetings to bring together gorilla conservation and rights-based organisations
  • Held conferences, radio talk shows and published media articles on the challenges people face from living near gorilla habitats



The People and Conservation Learning Group’s small grants initiative is funded by the Arcus Foundation.