WASHINGTON (Landscape News) — Agroforestry-focused nonprofit Fairventures Worldwide hopes to scale up its Indonesian operations by securing investment at a Dragons’ Den event at an upcoming Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) Investment Case Symposium in Washington.
Since 2013, the organization has worked in Central Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo, rehabilitating degraded areas through commercial reforestation. Fairventures takes a holistic landscape approach to the work, which is centered around “helping local communities to establish multi-species plantations with different timber species, local food crops and non-timber forest products,” says project manager Wolfgang Baum.
The firm offers training, seedlings, marketing advice and more “to provide local people with a good livelihood opportunity and to help them move towards a more sustainable economic approach,” Baum explains.
The logic goes that if communities can earn sustainable incomes from plantation forestry, the impetus to slash and burn existing natural forests will be reduced.
The initiative further incentivizes natural forest protection by helping locals make money from sustainably harvesting non-timber forest products in protected zones.
One such product is rattan, a light, durable and flexible palm, which can be used for furniture, shelter and handicrafts, and which grows best under forest cover – thus providing a clear motivation for keeping existing forests standing.
The program is proving particularly valuable to the indigenous Dayak people of the area, says project officer Panduh Tuka, as they have few other options for making a living, other than hit-and-miss gold mining, and unprofitable rubber tapping.
“Hopefully through this program, indigenous people will have a better bargaining position,” says Yanedi Jagau, managing director of the Borneo Institute, a local non-governmental organization partnering with Fairventures to deliver the program.
“Planting the trees gives them a better price than the other livelihood options available, and provides them with new opportunities,” he said.
Together with smallholder farmers, Fairventures initiatives have led to the planting of around a million trees so far. On the back of that success, they are now aiming to expand their commercial operations to manage a landscape of 4,000 hectares in Kalimantan – including around 1,500 hectares of agroforestry, and economic activities on a further 2,500 hectares of conservation zones.
Fairventures now hopes to scale up to 100,000 hectares or more within the coming decade. According to Robert Buermann, the firm’s head of business development, they’re looking for a “hybrid financing solution” in order to do so, “so any money we raise will be used to enable this next scaling step.”
“This is an attractive investment opportunity in landscape management, which represents a system change for Indonesia towards a sustainable timber industry while creating sustainable income opportunities for the local population and conserving natural forest areas,” he said.
And that’s where the “dragons” – high-level venture capitalists and policymakers at the GLF Investment Case Symposium – may be able to help.
During the “Dragons’ Den” competition, Buermann will make his organization’s case for business financing to the tune of $17.4 million, alongside representatives of three other investment-ready projects.
You can watch Fairventures fortunes in the Den unfold live by registering to view the event online, and tuning in at 15:30 ET (20:30 GMT) on May 30.