The GCBC Research Grant Competition 2 (RGC2) is now officially open for applications!

The GCBC Research Grant Competition 2 (RGC2) is now officially open for applications!

The GCBC Research Grant Competition 2 (RGC2) is now officially open for applications!

The Global Centre on Biodiversity for Climate (GCBC) is a UK Official Development Assistance (ODA) programme that funds research into nature-based solutions to climate change and poverty reduction.

We are pleased to announce the official launch of the GCBC second Research Grant Competition (RGC2)!

Theme – Unlocking Nature: Driving innovation in how biodiversity can support climate resilience and sustainable livelihoods through practice and governance

For this call, we are looking for project concepts with a total budget between £100k and £1m (GBP) and a duration of 12 – 36 months, commencing from November 1, 2024. There is scope for different sizes (£100k-£250k; £250k-£500k; £500-£750k; £750-£1m) depending on the type or nature of the research to be funded. This will range from the smaller desk-based and locally focused projects to larger initiatives with research replicated in different localities/ countries and upscaling/ replicating proven solutions in an innovative approach.

GCBC invites project concept submissions that focus their research at the intersection of the GCBC’s three focus areas:

  • Climate change
  • Livelihoods and poverty alleviation
  • Biodiversity

The call will fund a portfolio of projects in ODA-eligible countries in the programme’s three focus regions (Latin America and the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and Pacific, and Sub-Saharan Africa), including Small Island Developing States (SIDS); which address the evidence gaps and from which the learning, solutions, tools, and methodology can be upscaled and replicated in other regions or countries.

We are looking for submissions that include novel and innovative approaches and project proposals relevant to the overarching theme and related sub-themes. View the Theme Paper

Throughout the application period, potential applicants are invited to join our informative webinars.

Register here for our next webinar

Applications are now officially open! The closing date for receipt of applications for Stage 1 is 17:00hrs GMT on March 17th, 2024.

Apply Now

Related resources:

Theme paper: This paper sets out the rationale and background for the theme of the second GCBC Research Grant Competition (RGC2) and the sub-themes where there are opportunities for interventions, that can make a difference in applying a systems approach. View the Theme Paper

Research strategy: This Research Strategy sets out the vision through the theory of change and ambition for a systems approach (Section 2) for the GCBC programme to ensure that new scientific evidence, knowledge and partnerships developed support the poor directly or indirectly, with improved livelihoods and resilience to climate change, while sustainably managing and using biodiversity. View the Research Strategy

RGC2 Stage 1 – ITA Overview: Download here

Project Concept Note Form (offline copy): Download here

GCBC Privacy Policy: Download here

RGC2 List of Eligible Countries: Download here

Webinar resources:

Webinar 1: Introducing the RGC2 theme (January 22, 29)

Download the webinar recording here

Download the slide deck here

Webinar 2: Walkthrough the RGC2 concept note, application process, & e-platform (February 5)

Download the webinar recording here

Download the slide deck here








Working Together for a Pollution Free Future for Nature, Climate and People (Environmental Pollution Programme)

Countries: Vietnam, South Africa

Partners: Vietnam project: The Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP), Ho Chi Minh City University of Natural Resources, Environment Together, Department of Natural Resources and Environment of An Giang Province, Institute of Agricultural Environment (Hanoi); South Africa project: JNCC, Institute of Natural Resources, Durban University of Technology, University of Kwazulu-Natal, Rhodes University

Summary: The Environmental Pollution programme aims to reduce biodiversity loss, climate change and human health impacts by tackling pollution and its effects in low- and middle-income countries. During Phase One of the GCBC, this work took place across two separate projects that focused on different pollution issues in their country of operation, Vietnam and South Africa.

Related links: Environmental Pollution Programme | JNCC – Adviser to Government on Nature Conservation

Realising the potential of plant bioresources as nature-based solutions in African biodiversity hotspots (TIPAs project)

Countries: Ethiopia, Guinea, Sierra Leone

Partners: UK: Royal Botanic Gardens Kew; Ethiopia: Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute, Hawassa University, Addis Ababa University; Sierra Leone: Njala University; International: Biodiversity International, CIAT.

Summary: More than 31,000 useful plant species have historically been documented to fulfil needs and services for humans, yet today in our food systems, we derive >50% of calories from just three crops, rice, wheat and maize. Sustainable exploitation of the diverse library of underutilized species and bioresources – including timber, medicines and valuable chemicals – represents an untapped opportunity to alleviate poverty, develop value chains, and tackle food insecurity, whilst being underpinned by nature conservation. These nature-based opportunities lie predominantly in tropical high-biodiversity countries and offer significant climate alleviation and biodiversity co-benefits. This project seeks to accelerate Kew’s efforts to identify and characterise high-value plant biodiversity hotspots, in three strategic tropical high-biodiversity countries, and pathways to develop bioresources within them. It aims to demonstrate both the economic and ecosystem service benefits of plant bioresources at both the local community and national level.

Related links: Supporting climate-resilient sustainable development in Africa | Kew

Delivering climate resilience through safe and sustainable food systems (OneFood project)

Country: South Africa

Partners: UK: Centre for Environment Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (Cefas), Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA); South Africa: Department of Science and Innovation , (DSI); Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR); Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC); National Agricultural Marketing Council, (NAMC); Agricultural Research Council, (ARC); Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, (DFFE); FCDO SIN regional office; Intergovernmental: FAO; plus 13 other partners.

Summary: The indivisible link between food production and nature means that actions on food security impact the environment and vice versa. Climate change adds further complexity to this problem and the combination of these facts is thus a difficult balance that requires a clear understanding of the impacts associated with exploitation of the natural resources and the needs of the communities consuming the food. Hazards drive inefficiencies in food systems. These include those that impact food production and those hazards posed to the environment by production itself. To date, little consideration has been afforded to linkages between specific hazards in driving inefficiencies within and between food sectors, or the impact that multiple hazards have on food system efficiency and sustainability. In addition, appropriate investment in hazard control has not been articulated relative to potential gains for biodiversity, or to reductions in climate impacts resulting from improved food sector efficiency. The OneFood project places hazard profiling and management at the heart of environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable food system design. It seeks to develop new tools for calculating the impacts of hazards occurring between food sectors and considers the consequences for human, animal and plant health and the environment. The project maps hazards across and between food sectors with selected partner countries, will inform modelling of terrestrial and aquatic sectors applicable across multiple geographic and food sector contexts and will examine the food systems in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as biodiversity targets.

Related links: OneFood Community website


Co-owning the One Food principle with the South African government (One Food project)

The One Food project seeks to develop a Food Risk Tool to assess and mitigate multiple hazards across the entire food system and to transform the way actors (governments, researchers, industry, third sector) perceive and work on food production to ensure economic, environmental, and social sustainability. Since such a transition is impossible without full buy-in from partner country policymakers, the project worked to secure South African government co-ownership of the concept.

This was achieved by targeted engagement with government departments through a series of scoping, workshops, and follow-up engagements. The project also supported in-country research and capacity development to expand the research on tools to assess the hazards present across food systems, linking multiple food sectors (e.g., farming, fishing, aquaculture, hunting) and multiple hazards (e.g., food safety hazards, pollution hazards, biodiversity hazards, climate hazards). This was done through a South African research fellowship scheme designed to support 8 postdoctoral fellows and up to 14 MSc studentships.

Positive Impacts

The South African Government Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), and the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) have agreed to co-fund elements of the project. They are employing a coordinator and are considering allocating a full-time staff member to lead the project concept from the South African side. The departments are also championing the project in internal fora, leading upcoming workshops, and working with the UK project team to identify a second country to expand the concept to. DSI and ARCH have also fully endorsed the scheme and have agreed to ‘own’ and co-fund the fellowships. CSIR has agreed to oversee the scheme and to fund a scheme coordinator.


Since One Food is such a broad project, there were challenges with navigating South African government departments to identify the best suited agency to take a lead and then to ensure other government departments remained engaged with the project. These challenges are overcome by having a strong stakeholder strategy informed by local expertise, a dedicated project engagement workshop at the inception phase, and a dedicated UK engagement lead to manage the diverse stakeholders and their needs.

The research fellowship scheme required negotiation with government departments and research councils with different priorities and personnel rules. This presented challenges in gaining agreement on the details of the fellowships and the employment and inclusivity processes that should be applied. The project is overcoming these by drawing on advice from stakeholders familiar with the South African government landscape (particularly from Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office) and by developing pragmatic solutions to meet the requirements of the different actors and to accommodate South African government priorities.

Lessons learnt and next steps

This intervention has demonstrated that these types of projects are best led by UK Government departments rather than academia or NGOs. This results in more traction within overseas Governments which, with support from the local FCDO’s Science Innovation Network and other global initiatives that are already linked to a government (e.g., United Nations Environment Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization, etc.), leads to higher engagement and likelihood of successful delivery with partner countries.

The research fellowship scheme is an excellent way to support career development in collaborating countries and particularly to support under-represented groups. It is important to understand the scientific and research context to ensure fellowships are pitched at a useful level (undergraduate, graduate, or postdoctoral level) and understand how the fellowships might help future career opportunities. Diplomacy and compromise are key.

Realising the potential of plants as nature-based solutions in African biodiversity hotspots: Supporting climate resilient, sustainable development (Kew TIPAs project)

High biodiversity developing countries face numerous competing pressures surrounding poverty and food insecurity. Conservation can support sustainable development while improving lives and livelihoods. Kew’s research and conservation activities in Ethiopia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone focus on identifying and evidencing the value of high plant biodiversity landscapes to communities and their governments. This project supported capacity building on Red List conservation assessments, herbarium skills, and conservation research through a 2-month internship programme at Kew for 11 early-career scientists and a 1-week Ethiopian Red List training workshop for 16 participants.

Community outreach programmes, such as the Guinean Schools programme that reached 100 children from 10 schools and the Guinean Community Awareness training programme that involved over 500 villagers, raised awareness of the importance of conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. The establishment of 5 plant nurseries involved 88 members of 4 local communities adjacent to two newly established Tropical Important Plant Areas (TIPAS) sites in Guinea, helping to incentivise locals to manage and maintain reforestation projects adjacent to the TIPAs sites. The unifying purpose of these activities was to build in-country capacity to lead future plant conservation strategy, planning, and practice particularly in the context of Kew’s TIPAs programme and the new Global Biodiversity Framework targets.

Positive Impacts

The capacity building activities focused on training mainly women and girls (17 out of 27) on a wide range of skills that are expected to have a positive impact on their careers. Following completion of the first project phase, newly trained assessors in Ethiopia and Sierra Leone will lead the assessment of parts of the remaining unassessed endemic species in the current project phase. . There has been a high level of engagement with the installation of nurseries and seed collection for forest trees. School teachers and students also benefited from the awareness training. Posters of threatened tree species have been produced and translated into local languages.

There are plans to establish school clubs with gardens to increase awareness of threatened trees and improve the surrounding environments. Lastly, one of the nurseries has grown c. 2,500 saplings of threatened and useful plant species for community livelihoods and reforestation in the buffer zones of two TIPAs sites. Communities have formed and signed a one-year agreements with the forestry service to produce and maintain the nurseries which are expected to produce a minimum of 1,000 plants for use in assisted regeneration of the forest in these areas with long-term benefits to the local communities.


Generally, the lack of continued funding and adequate resources makes it difficult to provide the long-term support and partnership for true capacity building activities. However, the project benefited from Kew’s >30-year track record in countries such as Ethiopia and the strong, trusted relationships developed over that time. There were also issues related to securing visas for early career developing country researchers. During the awareness training in Guinea the main challenge encountered was access to the villages during the rainy season and the low level of education. This was overcome by significantly modifying the material to be more accessible. For the nurseries, the main challenges arose from aquiring enough seed of threatened species and propagating them successfully since few of these species have been propagated before. To overcome this, data is being collected on the techniques used for future propagation protocols.

Lessons learnt and next steps

Key to successful implementation is long-term partnership with host countries beyond the activity of a single grant. Attendance of the training workshop followed by participation in the internship programme was a very successful combination that allowed project interns to refine their skills and start contributing to project assessment outputs and deliverables with almost immediate effect.

Awareness training in both communities and schools can easily be replicated and will be continued at communities in the TIPAs sites of Mt Béro and Diécké. The use of visual materials, translation into local languages, and participatory approaches are essential for good understanding by the communities. The approach followed to establish the nurseries is a simple and effective intervention but necessitates community involvement. Continued awareness training on the importance and benefits of biodiversity and the wider environment is necessary to ensure successful implementation.

Waste not, want not: Investing the use of disposable nappies and black wattle biochar for land rehabilitation in the upper uMkhomazi River Catchment (Environmental Pollution programme)

Residents in communal lands in the upper uMkhomazi River Catchment, in the KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa, do not have access to waste collection services. This results in the rise of improper and indiscriminate waste disposal including disposable nappies thrown away from the homestead, often in water courses, posing potential health and environmental risks. Faecal matter in nappies can contain pathogens and potential toxins. However, they are also a source of nutrients – particularly nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium – that can be used for agricultural purposes. Burying nappies can enhance soil water holding capacity (through superabsorbent polymers (SAPs) contained in disposable nappies) and improve soil nutrient supply. Therefore, they can help rehabilitate degraded and nutrient-poor soils.

In the upper uMkhomazi Catchment there are ~7,500 ha of abandoned cultivated lands which have become degraded due to erosion and bush encroachment by black wattle (Acacia mearnsii). Clearing these trees/bushes could improve the ecosystem health and converting the wood to biochar can provide a source of carbon to improve soil biological processes and restore degraded soils.

This project aims to assess the utility of simple, low cost, and culturally acceptable options for the use of disposable nappies and biochar from black wattle, both individually and in combination, as in-field soil amendment media in degraded and abandoned agricultural lands at selected sites in the upper uMkhomazi Catchment. The initial experiments included two species of fodder plants (Napier Fodder and Vetiver Grass) and will be monitored over a period of two years (i.e., two growing seasons under rainfed conditions) with measurements of biomass yield, sediment capture, soil biological indicators, soil fertility, soil chemistry, soil water, pollution, and pathogens.

Positive impacts

This is the first year of a 3-year programme. Although too early to fully determine and measure the impacts, preliminary measurements suggest that treatments that included fertiliser show greater crop growth.


A hot, dry spell delayed the monitoring of the vetiver grass component of the trials for the first growing season. The team planted replacement tillers and provided temporary irrigation to assist with propagation. The dry spell is likely a consequence of climate change, and more frequent and erratic dry or wet climate events could be expected in the future.

Lessons learnt and next steps

Results from the first growing season show that this type of intervention yields positive outcomes. However, longer-term monitoring from multiple growing seasons will be needed to determine the full impact on the soil and plant growth and subsequent replicability.