Overseas Private Investment Corporation Helps Capitalize Conservation International�s Fund Linking Business & Conservation

4/21/2004

First disbursement through Verde Ventures Fund to support Indonesian vanilla farmers protect environmentally sensitive ecosystem in Sumatra

Washington, DC – The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and Conservation International (CI) today announced a $2.5 million direct loan by OPIC to help capitalize CI’s Verde Ventures fund which advances conservation efforts through investment in environmentally sensitive businesses.

The first disbursement of OPIC’s loan through the Verde Ventures Fund will be used to provide a three-year, $300,000 low interest loan to finance the efforts of 250 Indonesian vanilla farmers in Sumatra to protect, restore and maintain an estimated 12,300 acres of environmentally-sensitive habitat in and around their farmland. Vanilla, which grows best among primary forest cover, represents one of the only viable options for farmers in Sumatra to earn a living without destroying what is left of Sumatra’s forests.

Because these farmers grow their vanilla within the Gunung Leuser Ecosystem, which includes one of Sumatra’s most important national parks, integrating conservation efforts into farming practices provide a valuable layer of protection to the region. The Gunung Leuser Ecosystem includes the Critically Endangered Sumatran orangutan and at least seven of the nine Indonesian cat species, including the clouded leopard, Asian golden cat, and marbled cat – all listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

“Investment in environmentally-conscious businesses, such as those supported by Conservation International’s new fund, will be essential to preserving biodiversity, and to enlisting local populations in this important work,” OPIC President and CEO Dr. Peter Watson said. “OPIC is excited by the opportunity to work with Conservation International, a respected actor in international conservation efforts.”

These on the ground conservation efforts on the island of Sumatra are being led by ForesTrade Indonesia (FTI), a subsidiary of ForesTrade Inc, a Vermont based company that fosters sustainable small farm development, biodiversity conservation, and supports social and economic progress in the farming communities in Indonesia and Guatemala. FTI pays an incentive to ensure farmer commitments to organic, sustainable production while maintaining crucial forest remnants.

Supporting the efforts of small business in countries like Indonesia to adopt environmentally sensitive practices is part of CI’s strategy to protect the world’s most threatened place. Indonesia is one of the biologically richest and most diverse ecosystems on Earth. As the world’s fourth most populated country, however, the region’s unique biodiversity is under increasing threat.

The island of Sumatra lies within the Sundaland Biodiversity Hotspot, which also includes Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur. A preponderance of species diversity is found exclusively within the world’s biodiversity hotspots, which combined cover a very small percentage of the Earth’s land surface. Each hotspot has already lost the majority of its original species habitat, and the remainder faces imminent threat of further destruction.

“Verde Ventures supports the adoption of environmentally sound business practices and is vital to achieving our mission of protecting the world’s biodiversity while ensuring that local communities have sustainable economic opportunities,” said Peter Seligmann, Chairman and CEO of CI. “We are encouraged to have partners like OPIC support this vision and help us achieve real conservation outcomes.”

Verde Ventures is currently a $6 million investment fund owned and managed by Conservation International which strengthens small and medium-sized enterprises that are strategically important to biodiversity conservation. The fund provides debt and equity financing of $100,000-$500,000 to businesses contributing to biodiversity conservation in CI's priority areas.

CI is responsible for evaluating and selecting potential borrowers, and when using OPIC funds, projects are subject to final review by OPIC.

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Conservation International believes that the Earth’s natural heritage must be maintained if future generations are to thrive spiritually, culturally and economically. CI is currently working on projects in more than 40 countries on four continents to protect global biodiversity and demonstrate that human societies can live harmoniously with nature. CI develops scientific, policy, and economic solutions to protect threatened natural ecosystems that are rich in biodiversity. To find out more, visit www.conservation.org.  

OPIC was established as an agency of the U.S. government in 1971. It helps U.S. businesses invest overseas, fosters economic development in new and emerging markets, complements the private sector in managing risks associated with foreign direct investment, and supports U.S. foreign policy. Because OPIC charges market-based fees for its products, it operates on a self-sustaining basis at no net cost to taxpayers.

OPIC’s political risk insurance and financing help U.S. businesses of all sizes invest in more than 150 emerging markets and developing nations worldwide. Over the agency’s 32-year history, OPIC has supported $145 billion worth of investments that have helped developing countries to generate more than 680,000 host-country jobs. OPIC projects have also generated $65 billion in U.S. exports and created more than 254,000 American jobs. Visit OPIC on the web at www.opic.gov.  

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