Why accelerating ecosystem restoration in the Sahel must be a priority this decade

13 Nov 2020

Nicole Schwab
Published on 13 Nov 2020 in The Guardian

Unlocking private sector investment and support for restoration has been historically challenging. Market-creation enabling public policies, decentralized governance structure guaranteeing local community ownership, efficient and effective monitoring and clear land tenure rights arguably all play a critical role of favouring investments into products of the Sahel.

Private-sector players can harness three opportunities now to increase both the supply and demand for investable projects:

  1. Investment through carbon finance. The Great Green Wall has a soil carbon sequestration potential of 250 million tonnes by 2030. With companies around the world stepping up their climate commitments, demand for high-integrity carbon offsetting, particularly for nature-based solutions such as agroforestry, are surging. New standards for measuring soil carbon are allowing the carbon certification of improved agricultural land management, which can contribute to scaling up the current flow of carbon finance into climate-smart agriculture in the Sahel.
  2. Scale innovative investment funds and accelerator programs for agroforestry SMEs. Small and medium-sized businesses often fall in the “missing middle”, where access to growth finance is constrained. The challenge is even higher for ecopreneurs seeking to deliver social and environmental returns alongside financial returns, operating in an often poorly understood region such as the Sahel.
    Over the past decade, a number of funds have emerged that seek to fill that gap faced by ecopreneurs in the Sahel. Examples include the Moringa Fund, the Land Degradation Neutrality Fund, Sahel Capital, CDC and XSML Impact Investing. Further scaling such vehicles will allow for pooling of various types of private sector finance and help overcome transaction costs linked to investment in individual projects.
  3. Support and empower an ecopreneurship movement. For such new investment vehicles to be able to deploy funds at scale into the Sahel, the region needs many more investable restoration projects to emerge. While traditional project-based technical assistance plays a key role, so does the inspiration and empowerment of a whole generation of youth leaders to become ecopreneurs and join the restoration movement. Practitioners platforms such as the Global Landscapes Forum, novel accelerator programs such as WRI’s Land Accelerator or GrowthAfrica, and youth networks such as the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Network, Youth4Nature and others are examples of network actors that are supporting such a movement ecopreneurs globally, including in the Sahel.

With the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030, the world has an opportunity to further the restoration movement and inspire more regenerative ecopreneurship globally.


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