Unlocking Investment in Africa's Sustainable Landscapes

Sharing successful techniques for landscape restoration pays off. (Photo courtesy Global Landscapes Forum) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

KIGALI, Rwanda, May 18, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Businesses can realize many benefits by investing in restoration of forests, rivers and freshwater, new research finds. Corporations increasingly recognize that working in landscape partnerships can help them address critical issues beyond their immediate supply chains.

Yet, today, only a quarter of the 428 large, multi-stakeholder landscape partnerships surveyed for the research report include businesses.

The report was presented in Kigali on May 16 at the inaugural Forest and Landscape Investment Forum organized by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The Forum attracted project developers and business leaders from African countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, and investors from all over the world to explore a marketplace for effective forest and landscape investment opportunities. Delegates came from

“The importance of promoting a broad spectrum of investments in forests and landscapes in East Africa can’t be underestimated,” said Douglas McGuire, coordinator of the Forest and Landscape Restoration Mechanism for FAO.

“We can no longer afford to miss out on funding opportunities,” said McGuire. “There is so much talent and enthusiasm out there, and it is our hope that this event will make those important connections between project developers and investors that until now have been missing.”

The research report, “Business for Sustainable Landscapes: An action agenda for sustainable development,” is based on an 18-month consultation with input from more than 40 organizations.

It shows how public-private-civic partnerships for integrated landscape management are emerging to address the difficult problems of natural resource degradation, competition, and conflict.

Innovative financial instruments designed to support landscape investments – new blended finance schemes, impact investment funds, investment screens and standards, and investment strategies in sustainable supply chain programs – are attracting investment, the report shows, but the authors point out that greater participation is needed.

The report was produced by EcoAgriculture Partners, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) , the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Platform, and the Sustainable Food Lab , under the auspices of the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative .

It outlines an action agenda with concrete steps that businesses, finance institutions, governments and landscape program leaders can take to strengthen these partnerships and advance a socio-economic transformation based on sustainable production and economic growth.

“Innovative financial instruments designed to support landscape investments are emerging, and they have the potential to help drive nature-based solutions, such as forest landscape restoration and climate-smart supply chains,” says Stewart Maginnis, global director of IUCN, which co-authored the report.

“IUCN’s Regional Forest Landscape Restoration Hub for Eastern and Southern Africa, which was established last year, is an excellent example of how increased coordination at a landscape level can catalyze resources and technical capacity to deliver tangible benefits for communities,” said Maginnis.

The Forest & Landscape Investment Forum was intended to advance efforts to achieve the Bonn Challenge and the AFR100 target of restoring 100 million hectares of degraded land in Africa by 2030.

Ambitious restoration goals will require large investments. A recent analysis by the FAO and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, up to US$49 billion worth of investments are needed every year to achieve this and other restoration goals.

Today, investments in forests and landscapes are being made, but they unevenly distributed. While most are made in Latin America, only one percent are in Africa.

“Although landscapes are still not a natural business environment for most companies, the frontrunners are now starting to grasp the potential, take responsibility beyond their direct interests and seek collaborative solutions to address issues like water scarcity, deforestation or ecosystem services by landscape projects,” says Peter Erik Ywema, director for strategy and engagement, SAI Platform.

The nonprofit SAI Platform is the primary global food and drink value chain initiative for sustainable agriculture, founded in 2002 by the multinational corporations Nestlé, Unilever and Danone. Working at the precompetitive level, the SAI Platform’s more than 90 members share knowledge and best practices to support sustainable mInstream agriculture involving stakeholders throughout the food value chain.

The report’s action agenda suggests that to be most effective, landscape partnerships should:

  • Develop a landscape financing strategy
  • Get creative in blending finance
  • Heat up the incubators
  • Ensure finance reaches the farmers and resource managers
  • Leverage grant funds for enabling investments, for asset investments that do not generate financial returns, and to leverage private finance.
  • Socialize innovations among peer institutions

“Investors can do much more to identify promising integrated landscape investments. Innovative investment models from groups like Commonland, IUCN, The Nature Conservancy’s NatureVest, the Livelihoods Fund, African Wildlife Foundation’s African

Wildlife Capital, and the Coalition for Private Investment in Conservation, are demonstrating ways to link agriculture

and conservation to contribute to landscape goals, incubating and providing finance for them,” the report advises.

Potential investments by local businesses and farmer cooperatives often need to be supported during the development phase to reach the point where they are attractive to debt or equity financiers.

The report points out “an urgent need for major development finance institutions to establish business incubators with public-civic-private funding to provide pre-financing and advisory services to improve business performance/design and consistency with landscape goals.”

These services and funding could be paid back once the business becomes profitable.

“Collaborative landscape approaches align stakeholders in a particular place to resolve complex issues that cannot be successfully resolved by actors working alone,” said Sara Scherr, president of EcoAgriculture Partners and one of the key authors of the report.

“These partnerships reflect growing recognition that long-term business success is tied to healthy communities and ecosystems.”

Featured Image: This Kenyan farmer is happy with his thriving papaya grove, showing what investment can accomplish. (Photo by the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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