Washington, D.C. (September 10th, 2009) – An innovative finance program will help to protect seven of the world’s most precious and endangered natural wonders, the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Foundation and Conservation International announced today.
The $2 million program will offer grants and affordable loans for local entrepreneurs around World Heritage sites in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The goal is to promote the development of companies run by community members, while at the same time reducing poverty and conserving the biological diversity of the following places:
• Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (Belize), the largest barrier reef in the Northern Hemisphere and habitat for marine turtles, manatees and crocodiles;
• Morne Trois Pitons National Park (Dominica), where lush-green tropical forest blends with extraordinary volcanic features, like hot springs and a “boiling lake”;
• Mount Kenya (Kenya), an extinct volcano that supports 12 glaciers, a bamboo forest, buffalo, elephants, leopards and giant forest hogs;
• Sian Ka’an (Mexico), which contains 40 different sites of prehispanic cultures and is famous for its amphibians, reptiles and cats such as the jaguar, puma and ocelot;
• Puerto Princesa National Park (Philippines), home to the world’s longest underground river. Its tunnels and chambers are home to large populations of birds and bats;
• Kilimanjaro National Park (Tanzania), the highest point in Africa with its snowy peak looming over the savannah;
• Dry Forests of the South-West (Madagascar), deciduous forests that cover vital subterranean water sources and are home to lemurs and other species found nowhere else. (Submitted on Madagascar’s Tentative List for consideration as a future World Heritage site.)
These World Heritage sites are considered of exceptional value to humanity by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for their unique natural beauty or scientific importance.
The World Heritage Local Ecological Entrepreneurship Program (WH-LEEP) is a partnership among the United Nations Foundation, United Nations Development Programme / Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (UNDP / GEF SGP) and Conservation International’s Verde Ventures investment fund. The participation of Verde Ventures in the WH-LEEP is enabled in part by funding from Daiwa Securities.
The WH-LEEP is one of the few lines of credit to take a “blended capital” approach, which means that it provides loans and grants at the same time to help small businesses to develop to a big enough size that makes them eligible to borrow from commercial banks.
“We are providing these resources to enable community enterprises to grow and prosper, while at the same time ensure that people are thriving and the environment is healthy,” said Jennifer Morris, Senior Vice President of Ecosystem Finance at Conservation International.
Erika Harms, Executive Director for Sustainable Development at the United Nations Foundation, said: “we have worked for years bringing new market opportunities to sustainable community-based enterprises and have seen them struggle due to their inability to access affordable credit. WH-LEEP will help fill in this missing piece.”
Olav Kjorven, Assistant Administrator and Director of the UNDP Bureau for Development Policy, noted that “the WH-LEEP partnership is testing innovative new models to blend the comparative strengths of the United Nations in planning for sustainable human development with the acumen of private sector entrepreneurship.”
Examples of eligible businesses include sustainable agriculture, ecotourism services and harvest of forest products such as oils, nuts and fibers. The funds may be used to implement activities in a business growth plan, supporting activities such as marketing, product improvement and guide training and certification. Businesses that perform well may qualify for additional funding and progressively lower interest rates. Applications are open now for the sites in Belize, Kenya, Mexico and Tanzania. Businesses in Dominica, Madagascar and Philippines will be able to apply as of October 2010.
Photos available here: http://bit.ly/W9uWG
For more information contact:
Patricia Yakabe Malentaqui, Press Officer, Conservation International
Mobile: (+1) 202 906-0062
Office: (+1) 703 341 2471
Shawn Parell, Communications Associate, United Nations Foundation
Notes to the Editor:
UNESCO’s World Heritage List: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list
Verde Ventures is an investment fund managed by Conservation International to provide support for small- and medium-sized businesses that contribute to healthy ecosystems and human well-being. www.conservation.org/verdeventures
The United Nations Foundation is an advocate for the UN and a platform for connecting people, ideas, and capital to help the United Nations solve global problems. We build partnerships, grow constituencies, mobilize resources and advocate policy changes to support the UN’s work for individual and global progress. The UN Foundation’s work—focused on select global problems—is decreasing child mortality, improving disaster relief, protecting diverse cultures and environments, creating a clean energy future, empowering women and girls, and improving U.S.-UN relations. www.UNFoundation.org
The GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) is implemented by UNDP on behalf of the three implementing agencies of the Global Environment Facility. Launched in 1992, SGP is rooted in the belief that global environmental problems can best be addressed if local people are involved and direct community benefits and ownership are generated. In 17 years of operation, SGP has worked with thousands of community-based organizations and nongovernmental organizations in more than 100 countries. http://sgp.undp.org/