Entrepreneurs from Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia and more come for training, networking and to pitch investors their restoration business plans
NAIROBI (December 3, 2018) – There has never been a better time to invest in land restoration. Entrepreneurs are finding new ways to make money from sustainably managing forests and farms, especially in Africa and Latin America. Some are responding to government incentives, others are responding directly to the market; but all are profiting by breathing new life into unproductive land.
A first-of-its-kind event begins in Nairobi today to help drive more investment in restoration of the world’s degraded and deforested lands: the Land Accelerator. World Resources Institute (WRI), in partnership with Fledge, kicks off this 4-day event to train and mentor 12 entrepreneurs from seven African countries. The program includes business training and technical lectures, and ends with a Demo Day where participants pitch directly to prospective investors. It is the first business accelerator to focus exclusively on enterprises in the land restoration sector.
“Restoring degraded land has the potential to become big business,” said Sofia Faruqi, co-organizer of the event and Manager of WRI’s New Restoration Economy project said. “At a time when the younger generation is shying away from land-based activities, these entrepreneurs are racing toward it because they see a promising business opportunity.”
Globally, more sustainable business models for agriculture and land use could be worth up to US$2.3 trillion and provide over 70 million jobs by 2030. Africa’s young rural entrepreneurs are well aware of this huge economic opportunity. In recent years, hundreds of companies have entered the growing landscape restoration industry, forming an emerging “restoration economy.” They represent a wide range of business models that deliver financial returns for investors while restoring forests and agricultural lands.
Demand for the Land Accelerator program was high with 245 applications; these 12 companies were selected:
Akili Development (Kenya) helps small farmers to make money by connecting their produce to sustainable value chains.
Aoulaye Sesame (Niger) plants sesame, fruit trees and Sahel apple to recover desertified land. It targets the export market with its products.
Asili Oils (Rwanda) manufactures essential oils from seeds of moringa trees. It has a fair trade partnership with Body Shop International.
Chabana Farms (Botswana) makes high-quality organic livestock feed that is sold to farmers, wholesalers and the government.
Edenfield Agriseed (Ethiopia) sells high-quality seeds for indigenous trees, which are collected from forests by rural youth and women groups.
Green Pot Enterprises (Kenya) produces bamboo seedlings in nurseries and establishes bamboo forests to meet the energy and wood deficit.
Kete-Krachi Farms (Ghana) sells cashew nuts for export to North America, Europe and Asia by working with small farmers.
Lentera (Kenya) makes organic fertilizer using silicon to increase soil fertility and drought tolerance.
Moringa Miracles (Malawi) will produce moringa leaf powder, seed and seed oil that can boost smallholder incomes up to 61 percent.
Norelga Macadamia (Rwanda) produces macadamia nuts. Macadamia trees stabilize the soil and help farmers to fight soil erosion.
SA Bamboo Works (Ethiopia) helps to meet the timber deficit in Ethiopia by using bamboo to make flooring and furniture.
Safi Organics (Kenya) makes organic fertilizer that reduces soil acidity and improves farmer yields by up to 30%.
Luni Libes, founder of Fledge, said “As an impact-focused accelerator, Fledge is blown away by the potential of startups in Africa to generate both profit and impact. Over 30 of the enterprises we’ve invested in are African.”
The Land Accelerator will not only help companies reach their next stage of growth, but will also help African countries achieve their national land restoration strategies. So far, 27 African countries have committed to restore 111 million hectares of land through the country-led African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100). By committing to restore land in their countries, the governments participating in AFR100 are taking a huge step to benefit their people now and into the future. A key part of countries’ restoration efforts is now engaging private-sector investors and entrepreneurs to turn those commitments into reality.
“As we’re moving from countries’ restoration pledges to implementation, African citizens recognize the need for impactful action on the ground and there are many inspiring successes already,” said Mamadou Diakhité, AFR100 Secretariat, NEPAD Agency. “Now is a good time to mobilize private sector investment for forest and land restoration. Together we can make Africa’s landscapes more productive and resilient.”
Restoration is also essential in the fight against climate change. Research shows that conserving, restoring and better managing land can deliver roughly one third of the emissions cuts needed to limit global warming below 2°C. Not only that, there is a clear economic incentive to do so. Trees and forests improve water availability, increase food production, make communities more resilient to extreme weather, and combat poverty, particularly in rural regions throughout Africa.
WRI is a global research organization that spans more than 50 countries, with offices in Brazil, China, Europe, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, the United States and more. Our more than 700 experts and staff work closely with leaders to turn big ideas into action at the nexus of environment, economic opportunity and human well-being. More information at wri.org
WRI is a managing partner of the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100), a country-led effort to bring 100 million hectares of land in Africa into restoration. WRI also provides direct technical support to 10 African countries to scale up forest and landscape restoration, thus contributing to food and water security, climate change resilience, and economic development.
Fledge is a conscious company accelerator program based in the United States. Over 100 companies have graduated from Fledge, including 30 in Africa.
The Land Accelerator is made possible by the support from the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the U.S. State Department.