How can we fund landscape restoration and sustainable livelihoods on continental scales?
David Plattner has a few ideas. He is Chief Visionary Officer of m2e (Meters Squared Earth), a private sector company that is endorsed and mandated by the African Union (AU) to create livelihoods across the Great Green Wall, a U.N.-backed environmental and economic initiative of epic proportions.
Starting in 2019, the Great Green Wall will span over 34 countries (or 70 percent) of the African continent, covering 20 trillion square meters from Egypt to South Africa.
Initially envisioned as a literal wall of trees stretching from Senegal to Djibouti in a bid to combat desertification, it has been re-imagined as a mosaic of landscapes that serves environmental restoration purposes and provides much-needed resources for the people living there, many of whom are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
It’s a captivating vision, and an expensive one. The AU has projected that the project will cost $200 billion to implement. “There is no single government, impact fund, NGO or other organization that can do it alone,” says Plattner. “Solving problems at this scale requires amazing partnerships and technology innovation.”
Blockchain is a digital platform, which records and verifies transactions. Each transaction is written to a “block” and the blocks become a “chain,” known as a “blockchain.” Once a block is closed and added to the chain, it remains static, and copies exist only with each user. It also leads to a permanent verifiable record, which cannot be falsified.
The blockchain creates a new world of opportunity for the continent of Africa, where transactions can be immutably and transparently tied to land and people. Tying transaction data to specific tracts of land and farming collectives makes it possible to assess financial risk in ways never before possible in Africa.
The m2e Network is a new financial infrastructure for agriculture in Africa that ranges from micro-financing to supply chain. It is powered by a cutting-edge blockchain platform called Stellar, which was designed to facilitate cross-border payments and extend banking and financial services to the unbanked.
On m2e, micro-lenders can review loan requests from reputable farming collectives and award loans through the platform. Fiat and crypto can be loaned directly or offered as collateral. Funds are deployed to collectives in the fiat currency of their choice, including their local currency.
On the supply-chain side, food distributors and retailers can submit orders directly to reputable farming cooperatives for high-quality African foods and be assured that the farming collectives producing them are operating in compliance with sustainability and conservation standards defined by m2e and its partners.
m2e is also working on advanced geo-economic and geospatial tagging technology that will be announced soon, Plattner said.
Plattner is no stranger to developing creative, interdisciplinary solutions to complex issues. He’s an entrepreneur with an eclectic curriculum vitae who began his career as a musician, moved into the entertainment business, and subsequently became an investment banker. Then, 17 years ago, he moved into the environmental space, went to Brazil, and placed millions of hectares of Amazon rainforest land into conservation agreements.
“At that stage I realized I had to monetize the forest,” he explains. “So that’s when all these creative financing regimes started to be developed.”
A resolute “team player”, he’s looking forward to learning, networking and hopefully expanding m2e’s network coalition as a result of the event. He’ll also be a judge in the nail-biting Dragons’ Den competition, where investment-ready projects in landscape management will pitch their cases to investors and compete for funds of between $5 and $250 million.
The symposium’s goal of building the investment case for sustainable landscapes and restoration sits well with Plattner. “I think the only solution to the challenges we’re facing is eco-nomics. Help the environment, and help the economics of the people. And that work is good for all concerned.”
To find out more about Plattner’s work, visit http://m2e.network.