SCOTTISH International Development Organisations have been invited to apply for a share of half a million pounds worth of funding for projects overseas.

The Scottish Government's small grants programme for such organisations has now opened from groups ranging from Churches to developed charities.

NGO's can apply for one of three types of funding each year under the headings of Project, Feasibility and Capacity Building.

Project funding is for specific activity, feasibility funding is used to research or pilot a new approach and the capacity building grants are used to reinforce or expand existing projects.

The programme is now in its third year, and successful applicants in the past have ranged from a scheme to develop a phone based emergency response system to the training of 900 nurses.

International Development Secretary Humza Yousef said: "It has been incredible how many people have been involved in international development projects in some shape or form, many of them doing small scale projects.

"During our grant rounds, funds are usually given to large-scale NGOs, where the projects are on a different level and are worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

"What we do not want to do is send out a signal that we are not interested in the work that Scots have been doing across the country, and this fund is being made available to a whole range of small projects."

He added: "These projects have made a real difference in people's lives, often in some of the most difficult areas of the developing world.

"One which received £50,000 to work against infant mortality in India has been able to help more than 2,000 mothers. These projects have saved lives."

Awards are available to a maximum of £60,000 for project grants over a three year period, or a maximum of £10,000 for feasibility and capacity building grants that run over one year.

The Programme is specifically intended to accommodate smaller requests for funding to contribute to current the Scottish Government's International Development policies and goals.

Projects must focus on Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Indian States of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa to be eligible.

Gillian Wilson, Chief Executive of the Network of International Development Organisations in Scotland (NIDOS), said: "NIDOS is thrilled that the third round of the Small Grants Programme is being announced.

"This programme, available to fund projects in seven different countries in Africa and Asia, is an innovative channel for partnership between communities overseas and in Scotland and has already shown great value over the last two years."

David Hope-Jones, Principal Officer of the Scotland Malawi Partnership, added: "We are delighted with this latest announcement and give the Small Grants Programme our full support. By working with and through smaller, often community-led organisations, the Scottish Government has been able to have a remarkable impact in countries such as Malawi."