— The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Conservation International (CI) today announced the formation of Equator Ventures, a US$1 million joint project to provide loans and grants for small and medium-scale business enterprises that promote poverty reduction and biodiversity conservation in developing countries.
The announcement was made during an evening reception – attended by key members of the development, conservation and diplomatic communities – at German House in New York City.
Equator Ventures is based on a recognition that conservation and income generation are inherently linked and can be mutually supportive goals. The project will be administered by the Equator Initiative, a UNDP partnership that brings together the United Nations, civil society, business, governments and communities to help build the capacity and raise the profile of grassroots efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
Equator Ventures will draw on CI’s successful Verde Ventures programme which invests in conservation-related businesses and which currently has $4 million under management in small and medium-sized conservation investments.
Over an 18-month pilot stage that begins today, Equator Ventures will make loan investments ranging from $30,000 to $500,000 and will offer expert enterprise development support to help clients achieve long-term growth and financial profitability.
"Equator Ventures is dedicated to showing that small entrepreneurs are a key link in the chain towards achieving sustainable development and the Millennium Development Goals," said Jeffrey Sachs, head of the UN Millennium Project. "Grassroots entrepreneurship, through its ability to bring great environmental benefits while also raising incomes, has the potential to transform the way we think about development."
Equator Ventures represents an excellent opportunity to build on the recommendations of the recent UNDP-sponsored report "Unleashing Entrepreneurship," which has been widely praised as an innovative vision for aligning private sector and development priorities in the push to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
"The Equator Ventures partnership fills a critical niche by addressing a major gap in sustainable development finance that goes beyond micro-finance on the one hand, and project finance on the other," said Olav Kjorven, Director of UNDP’s Energy and Environment Group.
Additional financing and support for Equator Ventures comes from the Dutch DOEN Foundation, a conservation and development NGO with an emphasis on enterprise development; and the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, a joint initiative of Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank.
The Equator Initiative (www.equatorinitiative.org) is a UNDP partnership between the United Nations, civil society, business, governments and communities. Partners include the Government of Canada, Conservation International, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the International Development Research Centre, IUCN-The World Conservation Union, The Nature Conservancy, Television Trust for the Environment and the United Nations Foundation. The partners work together to build the capacity and raise the profile of grassroots efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
Verde Ventures, a programme of Conservation International (www.conservation.org
), is currently capitalized with $6.75 million. Its investors include the International Finance Corporation, Global Environment Facility, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Starbucks Coffee Company. To date, Verde Ventures has made investments of just under $4 million and helped directly protect 580,000 hectares (1.2 million acres) while assisting in job creation for over 9,000 people in seven countries.
UNDP is the United Nations worldwide development network. It advocates change and provides countries with access to the knowledge, skills and resources their populations need to improve their lives.
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