As I sit down to write my New Year’s greetings, an American children’s story from the 1930s comes to mind. In The Little Engine That Could, a small locomotive struggles to haul a heavy load up a daunting, winding mountain track—a job that larger engines refused to undertake.
Over its first six years, CNF often seemed to face a similarly formidable journey. But as with that little engine, we adopted the “I think I can, I think I can” attitude and persisted in the belief that our small but focused foundation could succeed. Last year, that approach was rewarded.
12 Parks in 3 Countries
With nearly €800,000 in grants made in 2013 in 12 national parks and nature reserves, CNF’s investment in South Caucasus nature has nearly doubled in the last two years.
A Lean Mean Conservation Team
- Supporting Sustainability in Armenia—we provided beehives and horses to Khosrov Forest Reserve, helping the park generate new income.
- Improving infrastructure in Georgia—we refurbished badly deteriorating tourist bungalows in Vashlovani National Park, saving a major World Bank investment from ruin.
- Increasing support in Azerbaijan—we signed new projects to support Shirvan and Shahdag National Parks—key new steps towards fulfilling our regional mission.
- With talented national coordinators in place in Armenia and Georgia and program director Daniel Sepic now on the ground, the CNF Caucasus program office is up, running. and working to ensure that our program is properly targeted and making a difference.
- CNF’s boards, both fiduciary and advisory, continued their extraordinary volunteer work in supervising and supporting our project. We added four new advisory board members in 2013.
- Overall, CNF’s ratio of administrative costs to total program expense declined to a remarkable 15%, and we plan to continue to operate our organization at this lean and efficient level.
Total long-term capital at year’s end stands at €25 million, more than halfway to our goal of €40 million. We are deeply grateful for Germany and our many private donors for their continuing strong commitment to our mission of protecting and modernizing the vast wilderness areas on Europe’s eastern rim.
- The German government—through BMZ and KfW* renewed its confidence in our work by adding €3 million to our endowment in December.
- A week-long donor visit to our projects in Armenia and Georgia in September attracted new individual supporters and ambassadors for CNF, as well as strong interest from the Ministries and local media.
- Overall, including support from two new sponsors who pledged direct support for significant projects in the parks, private commitments amounted to a healthy €270,000 in 2013.
Of course challenges lie ahead. The protection of the rich South Caucasus biodiversity will require more funding for more parks for another fifteen years or more, and we are targeting to increase our portfolio to 20 parks by 2020. But CNF can now echo the words of the little engine when against the odds it reached the top of the mountain: “I thought I could, I thought I could…”.
Sincere thanks to all of you who believed in us, and best wishes for the New Year.
*BMZ is Germany’s Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and KfW is the country’s development bank.