Enterprises working to reduce poverty and conserve biodiversity in developing countries can soon receive a boost from a $1 million pilot initiative launched in April by the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) Equator Initiative and Conservation International (CI).
While most of the world’s rural poor live in biodiversity-rich regions of the tropics, the riches of nature have not been translated into sustainable incomes for these populations. Instead, ongoing massive biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation have deepened poverty and insecurity.
The new initiative—Equator Ventures—will support small- and medium-sized sustainable enterprises that try to reverse this trend.
An 18-month pilot stage will draw on UNDP’s expertise in helping strengthen community-based organizations and CI’s successful Verde Ventures fund, which invests in businesses that are strategically important to conservation.
Verde Ventures, together with the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund and the Global Conservation Fund, are at the heart of CI's conservation funding program. The three funds work in complementary ways and leverage each other’s investments to achieve maximum conservation outcomes per dollar spent.
Commenting on the new Equator Ventures initiative, Jeffrey Sachs, head of the UN Millennium Project, said, "Grassroots entrepreneurship has the potential to transform the way we think about development through its ability to bring great environmental benefits while also raising incomes.”
Olav Kjorven, director of UNDP’s Energy and Environment Group, also highlighted Equator Ventures’ critical niche. “The Equator Ventures partnership addresses a major gap in sustainable development finance that goes beyond micro-finance on the one hand, and project finance on the other," he said.
Additional financing and support for Equator Ventures comes from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund and the Dutch DOEN Foundation, which provides funding to organizations and projects in the fields of development cooperation, human rights, nature and the environment, welfare, and culture.
For more information on Equator Ventures, eligibility, and how to apply, visit UNDP's Equator Initiative web site.