MUSCAT, Oman – Environmental projects in Oman have received nearly $160,000 in funding from the Ford Motor Company Conservation and Environmental Grants since the programme’s inception in 2000.
Ford’s initiative, which supports grass-roots level projects that protect natural resources and increase environmental awareness, has contributed a total of $1.3 million to more than 150 environmental projects in the Middle East over the past 15 years.
Most of the Oman projects that received funding are designed to help better understand and protect the Sultanate’s spectacular biodiversity.
From 2000 to 2002, the Ford grants provided a total of $25,000 in funding for research into Oman’s whale population. The Muscat-based Oman Whale and Dolphin Research Group received help for three consecutive years for their efforts to study the behaviour, genetics and conservation ecology of the country’s population of humpback whales. The funds helped buy research equipment for field studies and pay for scientists to assist the volunteer group.
The Oman Whale and Dolphin Research Group eventually helped create the foundation for the Environment Society of Oman (ESO), which continues the work on marine mammals. Additional grants helped pay for a project studying the genetic structure, identity and relationships between populations of bottlenose dolphins and Arabian long-beaked common dolphins in waters off Oman.
Other conservation projects by the ESO have also benefitted from the Ford grants, including a programme to educate local residents about the population of endangered Loggerhead turtles on Masirah Island, as well as a study in which microchips were attached to a number of rare sooty falcons. The data received from the birds’ movements gave scientists valuable insights on the location of their main breeding areas.
ESO also received funding for projects to encourage recycling and carry out tree-planting campaigns, as well as to assess the extent of the destruction to Oman’s marine ecosystem by cyclone Gonu, which hit the country in 2007.
Biosphere Expeditions, an international organisation that teams with scientists and volunteers on expeditions to study rare endangered species in the Sultanate and the region has also benefitted from several Ford grants.
In 2009, the organisation received $20,000 for a project in Oman’s Dhofar region, which aimed at ensuring a sustainable future for one of the world’s most threatened leopard species, the Arabian leopard. The project focused on extending the protected area around the Jebel Samhan Nature Reserve and educating the local population about the leopard.
Biosphere Expeditions also received grants for its work to study and protect the vibrant coral reefs in Oman’s Musandam peninsula.
The Conservation and Environmental Grants is part of Ford Motor Company’s efforts to support grass-roots level initiatives that protect and preserve the environment and natural resources in the region.
Winners are chosen by an independent panel of jurors consisting of academics as well as experts from environmental organisations. The judges, who are selected in association with UNESCO Doha (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), look for initiatives that demonstrate a well-defined sense of purpose, a commitment to maximizing available resources and a reputation for meeting objectives and delivering planned programmes and services.
The Ford grants provide a total of $100,000 annually to individuals and community and non-profit groups that have projects currently running in the areas of preservation of the natural environment, environmental education and conservation engineering. The programme is open to applicants from Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.