From boosting agricultural yields to creating jobs and fighting climate change, there are multiple benefits to making degraded land healthy again. Landscape restoration creates environmental and economic benefits by revitalizing ecosystems and rural communities.
Across the world, companies with a wide range of business models are making money from planting trees and transforming agriculture.
These restoration businesses are proving that restoring degraded forests and agricultural lands is not only good for the planet but a good business opportunity as well.
How can the movement to restore land make use of this unique opportunity and expand to its full potential?
Entrepreneurs are the secret weapon. WRI’s Global Restoration Initiative created the Land Accelerator to train and support entrepreneurs whose companies restore degraded land. By fostering entrepreneurship, this first-of-its-kind four-month program provides a cost-effective approach to restore – and develop – rural areas around the world.
The valuable network of business and investment opportunities that the Land Accelerator is building can also help accelerate restoration across its target regions of Africa, Latin America, and South Asia. There are thousands of inspiring restoration entrepreneurs out there, and 1,600 have already applied to the Land Accelerator.
The 56 alumni of the program report that they have created 2,700 jobs, worked with 120,500 farmers, restored 101,200 hectares, and grown 3.1 million trees.
How does it work?
In rural areas, where producing agricultural commodities on restored land is often cost-effective, entrepreneurs face limited access to capital and technical expertise.
The solution: The Land Accelerator, through its week-long bootcamps and in-depth mentorship, empowers entrepreneurs to pitch impact investors and sell their products more effectively.
Participants, including the entrepreneurs, the trainers, and investors, become part of a network that shares knowledge and technical expertise.
After two cohorts, the Land Accelerator restoration entrepreneurship model is spreading across Africa, making a case for healthy landscapes as a cost-effective path toward sustainable development. The Accelerator is also backed by the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100), an alliance of countries dedicated to beginning the restoration of 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030.
Watch Accelerator alumnus Addisu Hailu of Ethiopia explain how he has grown his bamboo business into a supplier for Ikea:
In South Asia
In June 2020, WRI, with partners Sangam Ventures and Startup India, chose 15 entrepreneurs from across the region to join South Asia's first Land Accelerator cohort.
In December, they completed the four-month program and presented their innovative restoration businesses to a room of investors. Learn more below:
In Latin America
In collaboration with Initiative 20x20, Latin America's restoration movement, WRI is hosting the region's first Land Accelerator in 2021. The cohort includes 15 innovators from across the region, working in fields like agroforestry, sustainable furniture and ecotourism.
Funding Restoration Entrepreneurs
Restoration entrepreneurs often have trouble attracting finance because they are too big for microfinance and too small for traditional bank loans. To solve that problem for alumni of the Land Accelerator and derisk investing in restoration, WRI developed the Rural Prosperity Bond in collaboration with the Global Innovative Lab for Climate Finance.
In the coming years, the Bond hopes to mobilize $70 million in the form of 400 affordable loans to Land Accelerator companies. By helping small businesses restore 100,000 hectares of land, the Bond, if fully capitalized, could sequester 850,000 tons of CO2.
The 2020 Land Accelerator South Asia | Online | December 2020
For its first cohort in South Asia, the Land Accelerator brought together 15 entrepreneurs from across the region. The six-month training program culminated in a Demo Day where companies pitched to investors. In total, the group received 75 requests for investor follow-up calls! Watch their pitches here and here.
The 2019 Land Accelerator | Nairobi, Kenya | September 2019
Out of the 335 businesses that applied to the 2019 Land Accelerator, 14 entrepreneurs from 8 African countries joined us in Nairobi. After a week of training from investors, alumni, and technical experts, they pitched to a room full of investors and entrepreneurs. Watch their pitches here!
Investment Workshop | Niamey, Niger | March 2019
WRI convened 11 Nigerien restoration entrepreneurs to accelerate investment in the country’s promising agriculture sector. Over this two-day workshop, the participants learned how to integrate resilience to climate change into their business models and present their companies to impact investors.
The 2018 Land Accelerator | Nairobi, Kenya | December 2018
The first Land Accelerator brought together 12 restoration entrepreneurs from across Africa to Nairobi to learn how to scale up their businesses. Some have already seen success: One business raised $100,000 and received several large orders, while another won a $10,000 cash prize for its pitch. Learn more here.