Leveraging finance for nature in Latin America and the Caribbean

Ideas, questions and solutions at the Finance for Nature Digital Forum

A Kichwa villager looks at a tree before cutting it down to clear an area to sow corn to feed his animals near the Napo River, Orellana, Ecuador. Tomas Munita/CIFOR, Flickr
18 July 2023
Eden Flaherty
18 July 2023
Eden Flaherty

This post is also available in: Español

How can the finance sector support Latin American and Caribbean communities and enterprises in stewarding their lands?

Last week, hundreds of participants from 62 countries tuned into the Finance for Nature Digital Forum: Investing in Equitable Futures to tackle this pressing question.

Hosted by the Global Landscapes Forum with support from the governments of Germany and Luxembourg, the one-day online event brought together community representatives, business leaders, financiers, policymakers and scientists, all focused on supporting the stewardship of local communities and enterprises in the region.

“It is of utmost importance that natural capital markets for nature-based solutions are carefully designed in order to allow the active involvement and decision making of local communities in the lead for equity and fairness,” said Cherryl Dentzer, advisor on international climate finance at Luxembourg’s Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development, at the opening of the forum.

This sentiment was echoed throughout the three main sessions, which covered sustainable agriculture, how climate finance can reach Indigenous Peoples, and a Dragons’ Den-style pitching session for innovative solutions.

Small forestry in the Peruvian Amazon
Small forestry in the Peruvian Amazon. Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

Agricultural dilemmas

Agriculture has a devastating environmental impact, from deforestation and biodiversity loss to land and water degradation to pollution from pesticides, fertilizers and other farming chemicals. However, it’s also vital to the survival of almost everyone on the planet and plays a key role in the economies of many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Agriculture provides a lot of work in Brazil despite the consequences of global climate change,” said Fabiane Sebaio, executive secretary of the Cerrado das Águas Consortium (CCA). But that may not be the case for long, she warned.

“If the temperature continues to rise according to estimates, coffee will migrate from our region,” Sebaio explained. Coffee is just one of numerous commodities that could suffer the same fate.

However, switching to more sustainable agricultural practices can pose many challenges, especially financing – whether that’s access to funds or problems in the structures being used.

“You may not find that a credit policy that works for one biome works for another,” explained Dailson Andrade Santos, manager of private markets at Cooperativa Agropecuária Familiar de Canudos, Uauá e Curuçá. “Brazilian credit policy is still very standardized, while Brazil is very diverse.”

These particularities must be taken into account when developing finance for sustainable agriculture in the region, speakers said.

“By introducing a more personalized credit system that takes into consideration the specific needs of farmers, we significantly reduced the default rate, which now stands at nearly zero,” said Gabriel Chaves, rural development manager at Tabôa.

Coffee beans

Family farmer displaying his coffee in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Turning ideas into action

The second session saw three investment-ready projects in Latin America and the Caribbean pitch to a panel of three expert investors.

The panelists took into account the potential for environmental impact, financial feasibility, and scalability of the three pitches, before asking probing questions and offering valuable advice.

The first project put forward was Ecosystem Regeneration Associates (ERA), which offers carbon credits based in the Brazilian Cerrado. When quizzed about its social impact, goals and community involvement, ERA’s founder and CEO Hannah Simmons emphasized the increased opportunities for women in agroforestry compared to other practices, such as cattle farming.

Next up was Diwö Ambiental, represented by communications director and volunteering coordinator Jimena Araya. Founded in 2016 and based in Costa Rica, the NGO uses nature-based solutions for land restoration with a focus on the socio-environmental impact. As it can often be difficult to measure real-world impact, Diwö Ambiental is leveraging a wealth of technological solutions to ensure their projects are on track and impactful, from photo and video documentation to satellite monitoring and drones.

The final pitch of the day was Defensores de la Naturaleza Foundation, pitched by managing director Javier Márquez. The Guatemala-based organization has been working to protect nature for decades, but as Márquez pointed out in his pitch, they have become reliant on grants and are now looking into other revenue streams. A discussion followed revolving around funding stages, partners and how an injection of finance would be managed, highlighting the complexities of fundraising in the climate adaptation space.

Agroforestry in Peru
A smallholder agroforestry farmer in the Peruvian Amazon. Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

Indigenous finance

While climate finance is being activated in some sectors, it’s still severely lacking in others. Fabiola Muñoz Dodero, coordinator in Peru for the Governors for Climate & Forest (GCF) Task Force, opened the third session of the day by explaining that despite having the knowledge and practices to manage their territories in a sustainable manner, Indigenous communities still receive barely any related investment — less than 2 percent, according to panelist Aldo Soto, managing director and co-founder of Amazonia Impact Ventures.

This struck at the core question that the four speakers would be discussing: How can climate finance reach Indigenous Peoples?

The answers aren’t so simple, but the panel of experts explored various ideas including the need for “specialized organizations” that can “bridge the gap between Indigenous communities and financial resources,” as Soto pointed out, as well as the need for empathy from all stakeholders.

“Maybe innovation is more than anything in the attitude of how you approach each other, and that may mean that you find each other in respect and empathy before you discuss interest rates.” said Mareike Hussels, blended finance manager at Triodos Investment Management.

This sentiment was shared by Juan Carlos Jintiach, executive secretary of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities (GATC). “When empathy is present, it fosters an environment where active listening takes place, allowing for a deeper understanding of the motivations behind others’ requests,” he said.

“Hard work, trust, and empathy are essential to find common ground and collaborate effectively. We need to keep educating ourselves.”

This article is focused on sustainable finance for nature-based solutions in the context of the Luxembourg–GLF Finance for Nature Platform, a partnership between the Government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the Global Landscapes Forum.

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