Several types of project are used to channel MFF activities. Since 2008, both small-scale and larger projects have been implemented in the member countries. From 2010, regional projects have been introduced as a way of addressing topics relevant to the whole MFF region.

Small-scale projects
The Small Grant Facility is the mechanism though which funds are provided for small-scale projects. Each member country receives funds to establish a Small Grant Facility to deliver projects under two categories: less than US$10,000, and between US$10,000 to US$25,000. MFF also encourages co-financing of these projects, especially by the private sector.

Small Grant Facility projects are an important approach for supporting local action in the form of community-based project activities.

The National Coordinating Body (NCB) in each country has full ownership of the Small Grant Facility, by calling for proposals and selecting the projects for funding. The projects themselves are managed for each NCB by the country office of IUCN or UNDP.

Between 2008 and 2011, more than 80 Small Grant Facility projects were carried out across the MFF region. These focused primarily on supporting NGOs and community-based organizations working to meet the needs of coastal communities. By linking these projects to government agencies, much interest has been generated among officials in scaling up their learning to other agencies and to policy makers. For example, the research-oriented projects in India have encouraged the Ministry of Environment and Forests to provide funds to build upon MFF’s work.

Larger projects
The second form of MFF project funding is through larger, longer-term funding, ranging in value from US$50,000 up to a current maximum of US$100,000 (ongoing projects from Phase 1 have a higher limit). These larger projects must go through a multiple-stage approval process. Following the NCB call for proposals and preliminary review, the project proponents may refine or adjust their proposals. Once the NCB endorses a proposal, it is forwarded to the MFF Secretariat for the second stage of evaluation.

Proposals are then submitted to an independent Technical Advisory Panel for appraisal. The panel’s findings are used by the Regional Steering Committee to confirm which projects will be funded.

Regional projects
MFF regional projects span several countries to consolidate existing knowledge on best practices in coastal resource management and to conduct research on emerging issues to acquire new knowledge.

Each regional project has the direct support of at least three MFF member countries, with a strong leading partner organization selected from MFF’s core institutional partners.

Monitoring, learning and evaluation
MFF has developed a Monitoring, Learning and Evaluation (MLE) framework to provide a logical, consistent and strategic approach for the monitoring of projects. This process links and integrates activities between the regional and national programme level and the project level.

Small teams, comprising two NCB members, a member of the Secretariat and an independent expert, visit countries to monitor projects and interact with national focal points and other NCB members. Using an appreciative enquiry approach, a priority for MFF is to evaluate and draw lessons from the large volume of results generated during MFF activities. This monitoring mechanism improves communication and the flow of information between projects and NCBs, and between countries and the region via the involvement of NCB members and the Secretariat at Regional Steering Committee meetings and other regional events.

The majority of small projects have contributed to alleviating poverty and empowering communities through the development of sustainable livelihoods. Results of these projects have also led to behavioural changes that have reduced pressure on natural resources, particularly by reducing illegal fishing practices. At the same time they have provided additional sources of income. For example, the cultivation of Aloe vera in a Sri Lankan community has increased the monthly income of traditional fisher families by 26 per cent, while reducing local fishing effort by 5 per cent.

Projects have also contributed to improving coastal governance by supporting Integrated Coastal Management and by influencing national policies. An MFF supported scientific survey in Gujarat, India, found two new mangrove tree species for that state, prompting the state government to declare part of this area a biodiversity heritage site.

The extended timeline and scope of larger projects have demonstrated impacts on creating alternative sustainable livelihoods and community participation in resource management. An organization working in the Maldives with innovative technologies and strategies for food security is producing useful learning tools for raising awareness about local climate change that can be applied elsewhere. This project is also illustrating how MFF is supporting gender equality, while integrating climate change issues and sustainable agricultural practices.

In Sri Lanka, work to promote community participation in integrated coastal management has provided a successful model of multi-stakeholder participation in managing a coastal area and has the potential to be replicated around the country. This project has also helped demonstrate the value of sustainable business practices as an alternative to traditional fishing livelihoods, and to pilot local sources of financing for enhancement of livelihoods.

An ongoing evaluation of the effectiveness of management in Thailand’s marine and coastal protected areas has strong potential to influence national policy for protected area management. This project is validating the process and principles of good systems-level management, an important requirement for a successful nomination of the Andaman marine complex for UNESCO world heritage status.