A new, first of its kind impact investment was launched 7 November to bring much-needed financial support for sustainable development in the Brazilian Amazon. The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), as a cornerstone investor in the Althelia Biodiversity Fund Brazil (ABF)*, sees this as a unique opportunity to support new economic models that promote biodiversity while using its core expertise to evaluate, understand, and share the learning that this model generates, globally. It is novel in many respects.

First, it fills a gap. There is a need to provide flexible venture and growth finance for sustainable businesses that want to have a transformational, positive impact on Amazon biodiversity and local communities. The practice of ‘impact investing’ in Brazil is rapidly expanding and can facilitate better access to finance for forest-dependent communities, companies, and entrepreneurs. Through CIAT’s support for this new investment fund, we hope it will bring new opportunities for businesses that have the potential to both conserve natural capital and create sustainable economic growth and livelihoods for hard-to-reach communities in the Brazilian Amazon.

Transformation is a key element of why we invested in the fund. Along with promoting protected areas, sustainable development initiatives in the Amazon must engage the private sector and use sustainable, conservation-oriented businesses as drivers of environmental protection. As long as commodity soybean and beef are the primary products coming out of the Amazon, there will be conflict in balancing environmental concerns with economic development.

“Long-term sustainable development in the Amazon should involve businesses that value and harness the biodiversity and natural capital of the region,” said Anna Toness, Environment Office Director of USAID-Brazil at the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia. “Businesses should not only deliver economic development but also conserve, sustain, and empower local communities.”

The investment fund will endeavor to increase demand for sustainable Amazonian products that can systematically replace illegal, unsustainable practices with legal, sustainable alternatives.

ABF was co-designed by USAID, a global development donor; CIAT, a research-for-development organization; and Mirova Natural Capital (MNC), a global impact asset manager. USAID played an important risk-reduction role for the fund by using its Development Credit Authority (DCA), which provided a 50% loan guarantee and a US$15 million grant to CIAT to further biodiversity conservation and sustainable development goals in the Brazilian Amazon. Given the closely aligned goals of the fund, CIAT invested US$15 million in ABF, becoming the cornerstone investor. The investment on the part of CIAT is aligned to the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

For CIAT, this initiative represents a diversification into impact investment. The goals of the fund are well aligned with CIAT’s goals to protect, restore, and improve natural capital and community livelihoods. As a research-for-development organization, we have more than 40 years of research experience in the Amazon and the technical capacity and knowledge to develop and evaluate sustainable practices and businesses.

“If as an institution we are to deliver impact at scale, we must connect with the rapidly emerging sustainable finance sector and bring our knowledge products and technical capacity to bear on large-scale development initiatives,” said Andy Jarvis, CIAT’s Decision and Policy Area Research Director.

A broader partnership

CIAT’s investment in ABF is nested in a broader partnership with USAID, where CIAT is co-facilitating a platform to incubate small enterprises and grow new economic models for development that take on socio-environmental challenges. The Partnership Platform for the Amazon (PPA) is an organic, rapidly growing collective action platform led by private sector companies whose aim is to develop and identify innovative solutions for sustainable development and conservation of the Amazon’s biodiversity, forests, and natural resources.

CIAT is monitoring and evaluating the biodiversity and other environmental benefits that are brought about by these enterprises, and helping cultivate a pipeline of proven initiatives that may graduate from the PPA for scaled-up funding from ABF. Together with Brazilian scientific and government partners, USAID and CIAT will do a ten-year evaluation of a subset of fund investments. The evaluation will include state-of-the-art geospatial analysis of land-use change and degradation, combined with biodiversity monitoring of key species.

The efforts being undertaken by the PPA and ABF provide the basis to examine how environment, economics, and social wellbeing can best be balanced to contribute to sustainable development in the Amazon, and potentially elsewhere. We plan to systematically monitor and learn how public-private partnerships and sustainable businesses can deliver biodiversity conservation goals, drive climate action, and generate other social and environmental benefits for local communities.

“It’s an exciting learning agenda, with tremendous potential for positive impact. Unlocking private finance for Amazon conservation enterprises and new economic models is a game-changer for biodiversity conservation in the Amazon, and stopping and reversing deforestation in the Amazon region,” said Jarvis.

* The Althelia Biodiversity Fund Brazil is a Brazilian FIP authorized by the Comissão de Valores Mobiliários (CVM). Vox Capital Consultoria e Assessoria Ltda is the administrator of the Fund and is duly authorized by the CVM as an investment fund administrator. Mirova Natural Capital Limited is an investment advisor to ABF Brazil.

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