Prespa Ohrid Nature Trust (PONT) – an innovative partnership enhancing conservation and cooperation

Published: 23 July 2018
Last edited: 29 September 2023
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PONT is a transboundary conservation trust fund established in 2015 with funding from MAVA and BMZ/KfW. Their aim was to support the increasing environmental needs of the Prespa-Ohrid region to respond to the lack of sufficient funding for conservation efforts. In 2023, the PONT Focus Region is a Biodiversity Hotspot covering 1.6 million hectares in Albania, Greece and North Macedonia with further room for geographical expansion. The region has exceptional habitat diversity, supporting viable populations of endemic and rare species. Connectivity corridors help consolidate the landscape elements to ensure species movement between areas under protection (PAs). To ensure sustainable conservation and effective management of PAs, cooperation within and across borders is crucial. PONT has secured long-term financing (~€3 million/year drawdown until 2040), which is additionally used to leverage co-financing of activities. Grants support conservation objectives and capacity development. Shared services reduce administrative costs.


East Europe
West and South Europe
Scale of implementation
Forest ecosystems
Freshwater ecosystems
Grassland ecosystems
Pool, lake, pond
River, stream
Temperate deciduous forest
Temperate grassland, savanna, shrubland
Wetland (swamp, marsh, peatland)
Connectivity / transboundary conservation
Ecosystem services
Local actors
Outreach & communications
Protected and conserved areas governance
Protected and conserved areas management planning
Species management
Sustainable financing
Sustainable livelihoods
Traditional knowledge
Watershed management
World Heritage
Loss of Biodiversity
Ecosystem loss
Pollution (incl. eutrophication and litter)
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Lack of access to long-term funding
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Changes in socio-cultural context
Lack of technical capacity
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Poor governance and participation
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 14 – Life below water
SDG 15 – Life on land
SDG 16 – Peace, justice and strong institutions
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 20: Mobilizing resources from all sources


Pustec, Korçë, Albania | Prespa NP Albania, Prespa NP Greece, Galicica NP, Pelister NP, Prespa Lake Monument of Nature, Ezerani Nature Park, Albanian Alps NP; Korab-Koritnik Nature Park, Shar Mountain NP; Vevcani Springs Monument of Nature, Shebenik NP, Lake Ohrid
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Environmental: Conservation isn't a priority for the three national governments. The PA management bodies are weak in terms of conservation expertise and funding. Transboundary cooperation functions informally. The most important conservation challenges of the Prespa Lakes are related to water quality and eutrophication. Climate change is expected to cause a decline in suitable climate conditions, a slower natural migration of species, and the degradation of many natural habitats.


Socio-economic: High emigration rates and a consequent loss of social capital. The area is inhabited by an ethnically diverse mix of people with high unemployment rates, poor local economic conditions with difficulties in trading local products, and a lack of basic infrastructure. Civil society is weak in Albania and North Macedonia, though stronger in Greece. It is a rural area dominated by agriculture and some income from stockbreeding, fisheries, forestry and tourism.


The direct beneficiaries are the protected area management bodies, NGOs and research institutes operating in the three different countries. The indirect beneficiaries are the people living in the PONT Focus region.

How do the building blocks interact?

The transboundary conservation trust fund called PONT was established under a partnership between MAVA Foundation and KfW (on behalf of the German Government). It has financially facilitated conservation NGOs and protected area (PA) management bodies in the PONT Focus region. Sustainable financing is focused on identified lessons learned and gaps in conservation management. PONT works in cooperation with leading local NGOs, PA management bodies and other stakeholders in the region. Through the long-term support and core financing of the PA bodies and the NGO network in the region, additional funding has been attracted for planned projects and activities including connectivity conservation. This has enabled daily operations and key programme activities to be sustained as well as allowing for important conservation-based projects for both the benefit of people and nature. The pooling of administrative services between four funds, through the shared service office Nature Trust Alliance, has led to a cost reduction which allows for more money to be allocated to the PONT grant programme and conservation objectives.


Through a partnership between MAVA and KfW (on behalf of the BMZ), and with the support of other donors, PONT has sustainable financing for 40 partners (10 PAs and 30 Environmental Actors (EAs, mainly NGOs)) till 2040. In 2023, a territory of 351,234 ha of PAs is supported. PONT finances 24 strategic partnerships between PAs and EAs. So far, long-term conservation interventions target 7 priority natura 2000 habitats, 35 priority natura 2000 species, and 34 endemic species. A total of 18 green businesses are supported. The first interventions to enhance connectivity conservation started.


The core financing provided by the transboundary conservation trust fund enables the PONT partners to leverage additional funding for planned projects. The funding allows the NGO partners to run local offices and to work on their programmes in close cooperation with the PA management bodies over a long period of time. In 2022, the administrative cost ratio of PONT itself was 10.1%


PONT has contributed to advances in sensitive policy areas such as withdrawal of logging in PAs, especially Galicica NP, and promoted collaborative dialogue and actions to reduce regional tensions. In the new Albanian Alps NP and Shar Mountain NP, a critical contribution ensured a swift and impactful establishment of the administrative structure and initiation of operations and the effective implementation of the PA management plan.



Andon Bojadzi of Galicica National Park illustrates the importance of broad participation in protected area management planning. During the establishment of the management plan for Galicica National Park, a representative stakeholder council was established and consulted on the preparation of a management plan. All the villages located in and at the edge of Galicica National Park were involved in the zonation process and understood its contents. At a later stage the government of North Macedonia tried to alter the management plan of Galicica National Park to create a ski resort and access road. These developments threatened the World Heritage Status of the Lake Ohrid Region of which Galicica National Park is a part. The Galicica National Park authority by itself was not able to halt these plans, however together with the civil society and communities, they were stopped.


The previous management plan for Galiccia National Park was supported by KfW. Now the KfW helped to establish PONT and funding from PONT was used to update and establish the new management plan for Galicica National Park and the implementation thereof.


This includes funding for the consultation with communities. This is the first thing Andon Bojadzi did during the update of the management plan. Through the help of the local communities and local partnerships he feels much stronger to achieve his ambitions and goals. PONT helps him to work on these partnerships in the long-term.


Another ambition of Andon Bojadzi to make Galicica National Park independent from timber logging for the payment of staff salaries was realised in 2020. Although the government doesn't provide any funding for the management of Galicica National Park he managed to become independent on logging each year to pay the costs for the management. Gate entrance fees and tourism activities, together with the long-term sustainable support by PONT, is currently enough to manage the national park in partnership with the local community.

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Mirjam de Koning PONT