Community Bank Environment Fund (EF) – Engendering Grassroots Financing for Marine Protected Areas

Frenz Garcia/ZSL
Published: 18 September 2018
Last edited: 01 April 2019
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From a zero rating on the MPA Management Effectiveness Assessment Tool, Tambaliza is now pegged as a 'bright spot' MPA not only in the municipality of Concepcion but in the whole Northern Iloilo - it is the first legally established MPA with a 200-ha No-take Zone in the province. Tambaliza MPA is proving that bigger MPAs entail more community and stakeholders' involvement and bigger funding requirements but the local community is up to the challenge of sustaining the management of a protected area through their own contributions. Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA, locally known as CoMSCA) in Tambaliza are currently generating up to $1,500 in a year as Environmental Fund (EF) to support the implementation of the management plan of the protected area. ZSL's Net-Works (TM) programme is keen on replicating the success of Tambaliza MPA in other sites. 


Southeast Asia
Scale of implementation
Coral reef
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Protected area governance
Sustainable financing
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Lack of access to long-term funding
Lack of technical capacity
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Poor governance and participation
Sustainable development goals
SDG 14 – Life below water
Other targets
IUCN Green List Standard Component 1 Good Governance
IUCN Green List Standard Component 3 Effective Management


Tambaliza, 5013, Concepcion, Iloilo, Philippines


Only 3 out of 10 MPAs in the Philippines are effectively enforced. The lack of financing to support long-term management is a major barrier and threats that MPAs are facing can be rooted to weak and unsustained MPA management – intrusion of illegal and commercial fishers, weak enforcement of regulations, limited community support, lack of enforcement facilities, and generally scarce community knowledge about the ocean and MPAs.


Direct beneficiaries: Tambaliza MPA management committee, Tambaliza fisherfolk organization, local government unit, Tambaliza fishers

Indirect beneficiaries: Other community members and fishers from surrounding localities

How do the building blocks interact?

For communities to attain self-realization that they must invest individual efforts to collective conservation actions, they must first gain knowledge of the value of the ocean in sustaining human life and understanding of their role as stewards of the ocean to which they are connected. Only upon this self-realization that the conversation on EF individual contributions can be started and broad EF goals can be defined in the VSLA constitution and by-laws. VSLAs do not have written long-term and short-term plans. But they can use existing local plans, such as village development plans, Disaster Risk Reduction Plans, Coastal Resource Management Plans, MPA management plans, people’s organizations strategic and operational plans, as references for the identification of possible projects or activities that may be supported by the VSLA EF. Community organizers may facilitate a simple participatory process of identifying exact possible uses of EF. Using existing plans as 'shopping list' of EF uses also increase efficacy of EF in attracting additional funds from local government to support the intended EF utility.   


The Environmental Fund (EF) is demonstrating the capacity of poor villages, not only to save and help fellow poor during emergencies and financial constraints but, to contribute to conservation initiatives that was previously thought could only be done by big philanthropies, NGO projects, and state institutions. VSLAs - men and women - are transformed into vital MPA stakeholders who are effectively involved in decision-making and management of the protected area. 

The EF diminishes the threat of financial constraints that limit the capacity of the protected area to achieve its defined objectives. It is proven by science that well-designed, well-enforced ad well-managed MPAs result to more fishes and, for marginal communities that heavily rely on fishing for food and livelihood, more fishes equate to improved income and improved community well-being.  

The EF is advancing the establishment of a 'bright spot' MPA, and the presence of a 'bright spot' can accelerate the scaling up and replication of this approach. 




Next to sweat and blood, what can be more significant contribution to MPA implementation than impoverished communities shelling out portion of income just to establish VSLA EF? This grassroots philanthropy our partner communities are doing involves altruistic act of forfeiting benefits poor families derive from meagre income for the greater good.

The grassroots funding are modest in relation to the total financial requirement for effective MPA management. Thus, the approach of using the EF to attract and compel local governments to regularly allocate funding for MPA management is a vital element of the scheme. The integration of EF into the whole pot of funding for MPA also exacts greater accountability from local MPA management authorities.

The Tambaliza MPA within the Pan de Azucar Seascape in the Visayan Sea existed since 2000, but its declaration lacked the delineation and management schemes. It was considered a 'paper park' that showed poor coral cover and fish population. The results of habitat mapping, biological assessments and numerous consultations paved for the strengthening of the MPA with an approved size of 752 ha with 205-ha No-take Zone.

But the challenge is how to implement regulations over a protected area that is significantly larger than the average national size of between 10 and 30 hectares. Funding resources for the Tambaliza MPA allow for the procurement of enforcement facilities like a patrol boat but one patrol do not suffice to create effective visibility against intrusion.

Existing since 2014 are VSLAs that serve as community bank, on-site buying station for discarded nets (Net-Works), and platform for conservation education. To give back to the ocean to which they are connected, they agreed that each member of the group will contribute weekly to the EF throughout the 52-week cycle of VSLA. To date, there are 14 VSLA groups in Tambaliza that can generate $1,500 in a year. Recognizing the need to support the implementation of the wide MPA, the VSLAs conducted coastal clean-ups, supported mangrove rehabilitation, and pooled together their EF to purchase two more boats that will complement operation of the MPA patrol boat.

Through Village Agents, organizing of more VSLAs are ongoing. To alleviate fishing pressure, ecological seaweed farming was introduced with an intention to also generate Environmental Fund from the seaweed income. By these, Environmental Fund is continuously generated and assure the sustained management of the MPA.



Contributed by

Frenz Garcia

Other contributors

Zoological Society of London