June 25, 2014

Financing Strategies for Integrated Landscape Investment: Innovative Successes from Africa

Elise Ursin, EcoAgriculture Partners Seth Shames, EcoAgriculture Partners

Integrated Landscape Management (ILM) is increasingly becoming an important framework for addressing complex and interlinked agricultural and environmental issues and is garnering increased attention throughout Africa. It offers innovative strategies to promote agricultural production, improve rural livelihoods, and organize inter-sectoral planning. However, like so many other efforts, Integrated Landscape Initiatives (ILIs) face major funding challenges. Even when funds are available for the various combinations of financial, social and environmental objectives, they can be difficult to coordinate in synergistic ways at a landscape scale. However, this is not to say that there are no funding pathways for ILM. In fact, leaders of landscape initiatives throughout Africa are finding effective strategies to overcome these financial challenges and act as an example for other initiatives.

In South Africa, the arid Succulent Karoo biome–a significant biodiversity hotspot–suffers from water scarcity, overgrazing of livestock, and soil degradation from heavy mining. The Succulent Karoo Ecosystem Programme (SKEP) is both a conservation and development program that approaches conservation from a “land-use” rather than a “instead of land-use” strategy. It acquires its enabling investments (investments required to lay the groundwork for ILM that will not necessarily turn a profit) from both public and private partners, including the Development Bank of South Africa, Citigroup Foundation, and DeBeers South Africa, as well as municipal and federal governments. Through a small-grants finance mechanism, SKEP funds economic development activities in the region that contribute to the restoration of the environment. At the same time, it invests in incentives for the agricultural and mining sectors to carry out conservation activities in under-funded geographic regions. These kinds of programs, which are actively pursuing conservation through economic development, depend on the cooperation of funding sources to be innovative.

The Little Karoo, one of the Succulent Karoo Ecosystem Programme’s protected areas in South Africa

The Little Karoo, one of the Succulent Karoo Ecosystem Programme’s protected areas in South Africa. Photo: Rafael Medina on Flickr.

The Lake Naivasha water catchment in Kenya, stretching some 3,400 square kilometers, has suffered similar issues. The area’s natural abundance and beauty has attracted both people and commercial entities. Severe drought, slash-and-burn agriculture, and overuse of resources from an ever-growing population threatens the area’s environmental integrity. In the face of deforestation and water pollution, Imarisha Naivasha was created as a public-private partnership that coordinates better environmental practices among relevant institutions and represents key stakeholders in the region. Though it is rooted to the government’s Ministry of Water, Environment, and Natural Resources, Imarisha Naivasha implements all kinds of investment in the local landscape. Its enabling investments come from retailers in the UK, foreign aid, NGOs, Equity Bank, and the Kenyan government. The organization then uses other innovative schemes like water use fees and payment for environmental services (PES) vouchers for commercial flower growers.

These ILM initiatives are examples of how stakeholders can be brought together to raise funds from a variety of sources and target them in a constructive way. On the whole, however, financing remains a very difficult process for landscape management in Africa. Private sector investment is lacking, and these financing strategies are often connected to individual sectors. In order to strengthen financing opportunities for ILIs, better tools are needed for prospective investors to evaluate their business strategies as well as to create stronger cross-sectoral partnerships with stakeholders within landscapes. Even when funds are available, African countries should ensure that resources are better blended, coordinated, and regulated to encourage integrated financing strategies.

To learn more about funding ILMs, you can read the full report: Financing Strategies for Integrated Landscape Investment – Synthesis Report.

For the latest developments in landscape financing, follow what’s happening at the Landscapes for People, Food, and Nature in Africa Conference. Comment below and join the conversation!

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