Unlocking Investment in Africa’s Sustainable Landscapes

Sharing successful techniques for landscape restoration pays off. (Photo courtesy Global Landscapes Forum) Posted for media use.

Sharing successful techniques for landscape restoration pays off. (Photo courtesy Global Landscapes Forum) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

KIGALI, Rwanda, May 18, 2017 ( News) – Businesses can realize many benefits by investing in restoration of forests, rivers and freshwater, new research finds. Corporations increasingly recognize that working in landscape partnerships can help them address critical issues beyond their immediate supply chains.

Yet, today, only a quarter of the 428 large, multi-stakeholder landscape partnerships surveyed for the research report include businesses.

The report was presented in Kigali on May 16 at the inaugural Forest and Landscape Investment Forum organized by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The Forum attracted project developers and business leaders from African countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, and investors from all over the world to explore a marketplace for effective forest and landscape investment opportunities. Delegates came from

“The importance of promoting a broad spectrum of investments in forests and landscapes in East Africa can’t be underestimated,” said Douglas McGuire, coordinator of the Forest and Landscape Restoration Mechanism for FAO.

“We can no longer afford to miss out on funding opportunities,” said McGuire. “There is so much talent and enthusiasm out there, and it is our hope that this event will make those important connections between project developers and investors that until now have been missing.”

The research report, “Business for Sustainable Landscapes: An action agenda for sustainable development,” is based on an 18-month consultation with input from more than 40 organizations.

It shows how public-private-civic partnerships for integrated landscape management are emerging to address the difficult problems of natural resource degradation, competition, and conflict.

Innovative financial instruments designed to support landscape investments – new blended finance schemes, impact investment funds, investment screens and standards, and investment strategies in sustainable supply chain programs – are attracting investment, the report shows, but the authors point out that greater participation is needed.

The report was produced by EcoAgriculture Partners, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) <>, the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Platform, and the Sustainable Food Lab , under the auspices of the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative .

It outlines an action agenda with concrete steps that businesses, finance institutions, governments and landscape program leaders can take to strengthen these partnerships and advance a socio-economic transformation based on sustainable production and economic growth.

“Innovative financial instruments designed to support landscape investments are emerging, and they have the potential to help drive nature-based solutions, such as forest landscape restoration and climate-smart supply chains,” says Stewart Maginnis, global director of IUCN, which co-authored the report.

“IUCN’s Regional Forest Landscape Restoration Hub for Eastern and Southern Africa, which was established last year, is an excellent example of how increased coordination at a landscape level can catalyze resources and technical capacity to deliver tangible benefits for communities,” said Maginnis.

The Forest & Landscape Investment Forum was intended to advance efforts to achieve the Bonn Challenge and the AFR100 target of restoring 100 million hectares of degraded land in Africa by 2030.

Ambitious restoration goals will require large investments. A recent analysis by the FAO and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, up to US$49 billion worth of investments are needed every year to achieve this and other restoration goals.

Today, investments in forests and landscapes are being made, but they unevenly distributed. While most are made in Latin America, only one percent are in Africa.

“Although landscapes are still not a natural business environment for most companies, the frontrunners are now starting to grasp the potential, take responsibility beyond their direct interests and seek collaborative solutions to address issues like water scarcity, deforestation or ecosystem services by landscape projects,” says Peter Erik Ywema, director for strategy and engagement, SAI Platform.

The nonprofit SAI Platform is the primary global food and drink value chain initiative for sustainable agriculture, founded in 2002 by the multinational corporations Nestlé, Unilever and Danone. Working at the precompetitive level, the SAI Platform’s more than 90 members share knowledge and best practices to support sustainable mInstream agriculture involving stakeholders throughout the food value chain.

The report’s action agenda suggests that to be most effective, landscape partnerships should:

  • Develop a landscape financing strategy
  • Get creative in blending finance
  • Heat up the incubators
  • Ensure finance reaches the farmers and resource managers
  • Leverage grant funds for enabling investments, for asset investments that do not generate financial returns, and to leverage private finance.
  • Socialize innovations among peer institutions

“Investors can do much more to identify promising integrated landscape investments. Innovative investment models from groups like Commonland, IUCN, The Nature Conservancy’s NatureVest, the Livelihoods Fund, African Wildlife Foundation’s African

Wildlife Capital, and the Coalition for Private Investment in Conservation, are demonstrating ways to link agriculture

and conservation to contribute to landscape goals, incubating and providing finance for them,” the report advises.

Potential investments by local businesses and farmer cooperatives often need to be supported during the development phase to reach the point where they are attractive to debt or equity financiers.

The report points out “an urgent need for major development finance institutions to establish business incubators with public-civic-private funding to provide pre-financing and advisory services to improve business performance/design and consistency with landscape goals.”

These services and funding could be paid back once the business becomes profitable.

“Collaborative landscape approaches align stakeholders in a particular place to resolve complex issues that cannot be successfully resolved by actors working alone,” said Sara Scherr, president of EcoAgriculture Partners and one of the key authors of the report.

“These partnerships reflect growing recognition that long-term business success is tied to healthy communities and ecosystems.”

Featured Image: This Kenyan farmer is happy with his thriving papaya grove, showing what investment can accomplish. (Photo by the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)) Creative Commons license via Flickr


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Ranking the Top 10 Global Green Cities


Gardens by the Bay, Singapore (Photo by Jean Baptiste Roux) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

 SINGAPORE, August 3, 2016 ( News ) – Mirror, mirror on the wall, whose city is the greenest of them all? The mirror held up by the corporate strategy consulting firm Solidiance reflects the answer in a new report  that compares the performance of 10 global cities and their green buildings.

To rank these cities’ green building performance, Solidiance developed a set of criteria across four categories. Three focused on the total number of green buildings, their performance and their initiatives, while one category examined each city’s supportive infrastructure, which has a lot to do with fostering a healthy green building movement.

After assessing the 10 Global Cities for green building performance, Paris was determined to be the leader, followed by Singapore and London

Sydney, Tokyo and Hong Kong came in the fourth, fifth and sixth positions, while New York, Dubai, Beijing, and Shanghai filled in the other four slots.

 “Singapore can certainly be considered a leader in the field of green building. The city target for 80 per cent of buildings to achieve BCA Green Mark standards by 2030 is ambitious but achievable, and the Singapore Green Building Council will play a key role in delivering this,” said Terri Wills, CEO of World Green Building Council, United Kingdom.

 Singapore is the “standout leader” in the Green Building Codes and Targets assessment Solidiance reports. While all the Global Cities have outlined city-level green building codes, only three cities have achieved their green building targets. Singapore, Beijing and Shanghai are the only cities with both a green building code and green building targets set out by the city.

Paris and Singapore took the top spots by excelling in all four assessment categories: city-wide green building landscape, green building efficiency and performance, green building policies and targets, and green city culture and environment.

They were the only cities that ranked within the Top Five in every category.

Both Paris and Singapore have strong building efficiency and performance, which shows that both local and international certification standards are yielding high-performance on green buildings.

 London benefits from high yield of green buildings in the city, which can be linked to the fact that the United Kingdom was the first country ever to introduce a green building certification system.

Paris fell just slightly short of Singapore in the absolute number of green buildings in the city, and by not setting out a clear city-wide green building target.

Although Sydney, Tokyo, and Hong Kong performed well on the green city culture and environment criteria, Sydney and Hong Kong were negatively affected with the poor results they achieved on their green building landscape and performance.

Sydney, with 67, had the fewest absolute number of green buildings in the city.

Finally, Dubai, Beijing, and Shanghai were the last cities on the Top 10 list. These three cities are among the most recent to join the green building movement, and Solidiance analysts expect that these rankings will change in the future as these newer ‘green building cities’ are setting ambitious targets in order to catch up to other cities’ levels.

Dubai launched its local green building standard last among these 10 Global Cities, in 2010, resulting in fewer locally certified buildings (8th), and only launched its green building regulations and specifications in 2012.

Despite the slow start, Dubai ranks 5th in internationally certified green buildings (104), and has a total of 147 internationally and locally certified green buildings erected on its cityscape. Dubai already ranks 6th for ‘green buildings as a percentage of total buildings’

The current green building development has been focused on new buildings but is shifting towards existing buildings,” said Vincent Cheng, director of building sustainability at ARUP, Hong Kong, an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists. “For significant progress, the focus of stakeholders in Hong Kong should shift from new to existing buildings which make up the bulk of the building stock. Potentially, more effort can be made to incentivize sustainability for existing buildings, promote microgrid/ renewable systems to reduce dependence on coal-powered electricity, and divert waste from precious landfill space.

When considering the limited number of years that Beijing, Dubai and Shanghai have been working to green their built stock, the achievements of these cities are profound, especially when considering the large number of highly internationally-certified buildings currently standing within these cities,” says Solidiance, explaining the rankings.

Saeed Al Abbar, chairman of the Emirates Green Building Council, United Arab Emirates, states in the study, “It is important to note that a building can be sustainable and incorporate green best practices without having a certification behind it. Certifications, however, are useful tools for measurement and can serve as guidelines for best practice. Nonetheless, Dubai does not have a specific certification or rating systems such as Estidama in Abu Dhabi, but the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system is used and recognised broadly.”

By contrast, Singapore stood out as a pioneer in the industry by setting forth a comprehensive and bold set of policies and targets for greening the city’s built block.

As a city that has committed to greening 80 percent of its built stock by 2030, Singapore proved to be one of the most ambitious on the list of cities evaluated.

Finally, the assessment of the city-level green initiatives established that both Sydney and Hong Kong have set higher than average carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction targets amongst the 10 Global Cities, and have also proven themselves as they perform noticeably well with low CO2 emissions city-wide.

 Paris, Sydney, and Singapore take the highest ranking spots with regards to each city’s green building efficiency. This is due to the three cities not only being very low CO2-polluting cities in general, but also because they each have a very low percentage of emissions which can be attributed to the city’s built-environment.

Roughly eight to 10 million new buildings are constructed each year, worldwide, and now more of them are greener than ever before. Solidiance finds that the number of green buildings is doubling every three years as a response to the current accelerating demand for sustainability.

 Michael Scarpf, head of sustainable construction at the Swiss building materials giant LafargeHolcim told Solidiance, “Singapore and London are the cities which have the highest green building activity, and Costa Rica, France, Singapore, and the United Kingdom are the countries that witness high demand for green building materials.

Buildings are the largest energy-consuming sector, accounting for more than 40 percent of global energy use and responsible for an estimated 30 percent of city-wide emissions, calculates Solidance, which points out that buildings also hold the most promise for global energy savings.

 Featured image: Montparnasse Tower views: Les Invalides, Paris, France (Photo by David McSpadden) Creative Commons license via Flickr