“Like Drinking Water” – Namibia’s Benedict Libanda Speaks About Accessibility of GCF Finance

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You’re probably the only entity in the world that has 3 projects in 3 GCF modalities approved. How easy was that to do?

At EIF, we learned by doing. In the beginning, we hired a number of external consultants to help us develop and write proposals to the GCF, but this did not work very well. We found it difficult to respond appropriately and there were too many interactions with the GCF as they tried to help us restructure the projects into acceptable form. I then realized that we needed to take matters into our own hands. So we took ownership and started to lead the proposal design internally. This accelerated our own capacity-building – learning by doing. 

In the beginning, one of the strategies we did was to build on projects already implemented using other funds such as the GEF and government projects and scaling these up. These projects were not done by EIF but by other entities in Namibia, but we learned from these and built on them as a strong basis of the initial projects we submitted. These included a project on crop production that built on small pilot activities on conservation agriculture; a community-based project that built on piloted projects that involved communal services. Also, GEF previously funded some projects and there is also one that is yet to be submitted on ecosystem adaptation piloted in 8 countries.

We learned from projects that have already been implemented. These are a good learning point for us to develop new projects from scratch, which we are now starting to do. 

What if you run out of projects you can learn from? 

This is where innovation comes in. We develop new projects in line with the country strategy and programmes. We improve and innovate through the use of methods and tools like crop insurance and other appropriate technologies. For example, the recently approved SAP project concentrated in one area within the country, if successful then it’s possible to replicate and scale this up to other parts of the country.

How were you able within EIF to structure yourself, respond quickly and get your projects to the board? 

We found that institutional positioning is important where no other institution in the market is playing the same role. At EIF, we followed the developments in GCF since the beginning. We looked deeply into the GCF policy frameworks and guidance and aligned ourselves completely with the GCF. This allowed our processes to be consistent with GCF. For example, due diligence processes such as ESS analysis, gender analysis, and economic and financial analyses, are undertaken by EIF units for ESS, gender, and economics. We originally used government resources to build this capacity. The EIF’s annual budget from the government served as the foundation of the institution, and the new GCF funding amplified this capacity even more. 

Since receiving GCF accreditation we have really improved. We were very small before but now we are considered to be very important not only in Namibia but also outside. For example, we were requested to provide inputs to the procurement bill of Namibia. We also started to receive funding from other donors like the Deutsche Bank, and others. GCF accreditation is a “badge of honor,” it’s like the “Oscars” of climate finance– once you receive it, more people go and see the movie.

How has EIFs influence change after getting GCF accreditation? 

We started operations in 2012 and after that, we launched our accreditation process. We already knew what the GCF wants and it only took 6 months. Our status significantly changed since accreditation – we are now a mover and changer in Government beyond climate finance. For example, we are able to influence government policies. We enjoy political support from all levels and that is extremely helpful to the institution. We now also have influence on steering government programmes related to climate change. 

Should other African countries consider setting up an Environment Fund like EIF? 

Yes, definitely, other countries should consider setting up an environment fund like Namibia. Many African countries are struggling to fund and develop climate projects, and there is particular advantage of having a national entity that is able to directly engage with Funds like the GCF. If you only work with the bigger multilateral institutions, sometimes it’s very difficult. For example, countries that don’t have dedicated climate environmental fund tend to go to multilateral development banks, but these institutions have many other projects and priorities that do not necessarily align to the climate priorities of the country. So they are not prioritizing the proposals to GCF.  

What advice can you give to other countries considering accessing GCF resources

If there is specific advise I can give to other countries, it is the importance of institutional strengthening and structuring. Also, it is extremely important to invest in building internal capacity - it’s worth it! Vibrant people who love their jobs, with commitment, leadership, and with professionals who are really into their work are key ingredients of the success of institutions like the EIF. In addition, it is important to have the vision on where do we want to take our institution; a permanent institution that contributes to permanent transformation is important.

Some say GCF is not easily accessible. Do you agree?

In the beginning, when we were doing our first project it was a nightmare - it was really difficult. Our second project was easier, but the third one was like drinking water! Entities need to familiarize themselves with these GCF requirements. When we started, like other countries, we didn’t even know these requirements. What I gradually found is that these critical information are readily available in the GCF website. It’s not hidden. It pays to understand GCF policies!

What is next for EIF and GCF?

We want to help Botswana, Malawi, Swaziland, and other countries get ready to access GCF resources. I am now writing a good practices document from our experiences in engaging with GCF. I hope this will be useful to other countries interested in working closely with GCF. Secondly, I would like EIF to build a track record of micro-projects with the GCF, and later I hope we can upgrade our accreditation so that we can do bigger projects. We want to increase our impacts, not just join the big boys. 


  • March 6, 2018
  • Benedict Libanda is Chief Executive Officer of Namibia’s Environmental Investment Fund
  • The first SAP (Simplified Approval Process) project approved by GCF in March 2018, was for a USD 9.30 million project for Improving rangeland and ecosystem management practices of smallholder farmers under conditions of climate change in Sesfontein, Fransfontein, and Warmquelle areas of the Republic of Namibia with the Environmental Investment Fund (EIF)
  • The first EDA (Enhanced Direct Access) project approved in October 2016, was for USD 9.5 million project for Climate Resilient Agriculture in three of the Vulnerable Extreme northern crop growing regions (CRAVE) with the Environmental Investment Fund (EIF)
  • A regular funding proposal project approved in October 2016, was for USD 10 million project for Empower to Adapt: Creating Climate-Change Resilient Livelihoods through Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) in Namibia with the Environmental Investment Fund (EIF)