Small grants with big impacts

The Danube Regional Project's Small Grants Programme is helping to support projects that target the reduction of hazardous toxins and pesticides from the Danube River Basin.

Credit: Daphne
School children get up close to study a model of the Morava River Basin in Slovakia to understand river dynamics such as flooding and mixing.

The few houses scattered near the Hnilec River 75 km outside Kosice, Slovakia, are like many distant rural settlements. They find it hard to get EU or national funding to clean their wastewater, as most such funding goes to large cities and large treatment plants.

"Our system fills the gap," says Project Manager Robert Zvara of the NGO 'Creative'. "It's inexpensive, environmentally-friendly and low maintenance, so it's helpful not only for distant communities in Slovakia but also throughout the Danube Basin." The system sends household sewage through pipes funded by the local municipality to improved settling tanks and a newly constructed reed bed that removes nutrients – without using electricity! "The quality of output water released to the creek doubles national standards and helps maintain the quality of the nearby protected EU Natura 2000 meadow lands," says Zvara.

Granting help to reduce pollution.
This 'Creative' project is just one of 60 national projects funded through the first round of the UNDP/GEF Danube Regional Project’s (DRP) 2 million USD Small Grants Programme for Danube NGOs. The programme focuses on reducing nutrient and toxic pollution, one of the biggest problems for the Danube recently confirmed by the ICPDR's Danube River Basin Analysis (Roof Report 2004). Nutrient pollution has led to poorer water quality and has helped create a severe ecological imbalance in the Black Sea with many species heavily impacted. Hazardous toxins and pesticides are also found throughout the basin, at times in alarming concentrations.

Finding alternatives for farmers.
Further south in post-war Vukovar, Croatia, national grant recipient ' Europe House Vukovar' is trying to motivate farmers and local authorities to switch from conventional to organic farming. "Farmers are up against tremendous barriers here," says Project Manager Novica Grajic. " Unemployment is 70%. State support for agriculture is low. Local authorities want to show that farmers are producing again since the war so they want production to be quick, and that means using lots of pesticides and fertilisers, happily supported by local 'agricultural pharmacies'. It’s not easy showing the benefits of organic agriculture, but we need to start somewhere."

Managed by the REC, the grants programme was made available to the 11 countries of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine.

Danube NGOs are now invited to apply for the second round of DRP Small Grants at the regional level. Regional grants are up to USD 35,000 each. In exceptional cases, the amount can exceed this limit by 50%. The deadline for submitting concept papers is September 2, 2005.

For more information, please visit:

Paul Csagoly
is a communications consultant with the UNDP/GEF Danube Regional Project
through which he assists with writing stories about people and nature in the Danube River Basin.