Financial partnerships for biodiversity

Jen Morris, Chief Operating Officer at Conservation International, discusses successful mechanisms for funding biodiversity hotspot protection. 

Jen Morris, Chief Operating Officer at Conservation International Photo: Conservation International / Jeff Gale

While nature is a source of tremendous value, this value is often invisible. When a city dweller turns on the tap in their kitchen, they probably don't think about the forests upstream that help keep this water clean – or the animals that disperse the seeds that turn into trees. Nature provides vital, unmatchable and ongoing returns to all of humanity – and at Conservation International (CI), we recognise that an investment in our planet is an investment in our future. We’re using sound science, effective policy and dynamic partnerships to protect nature – our global biodiversity – and the benefits it provides to everyone.  

CI helps communities recognise this value and fund conservation projects that protect the essential services nature provides. One mechanism CI employs to facilitate and fund this work, which focusses on the protection of biodiversity hotspots, is the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). CI founded CEPF together with the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility 15 years ago to provide grants for civil society organisations working to protect biodiversity in the developing and transitional countries where the hotspots are located.

Since 2000, l'Agence Française de Développement, the European Union, the Government of Japan and the MacArthur Foundation have joined the partnership, and CEPF has provided $196 million in grants to 2,060 non-governmental organisations in more than 92 countries and territories located in 23 biodiversity hotspots. With that investment, CEPF grantees have contributed to the creation of more than 130,000 km2 of protected area, strengthened the management of more than 370,000 km2 of key biodiversity areas, supported more than 1,200 IUCN Red-Listed species and leveraged an additional $350 million in conservation funding while providing direct benefits to more than 2,300 communities.  

A prime example of the work CEPF has done to protect biodiversity and illustrate its value began in 2013 in Central and Western Jamaica. The country’s forest habitats are threatened by the expanding agricultural footprint of coffee. This issue is not limited to Jamaica: agriculture is responsible for 80% of forest loss each year. To help address this, CEPF funded a project implemented by the Humboldt State University Sponsored Programs Foundation and the Jamaican Coffee Industry Board to document the value of existing forests and to identify management practices that would protect forests and also secure the livelihoods provided by agriculture.

Researchers found that the benefits of planting shade trees outweighed the benefits of clearing the land for subsistence agriculture. These trees serve as so-called ‘insect hotels’ which attract insect-eating birds that also happen to eat coffee berry borers – beetles that can quickly destroy coffee crops and the livelihoods of Jamaican farmers. By planting these insect hotels near their coffee plants, farmers protect their coffee, earn more income and protect valuable watersheds – everybody wins (except for the beetles – sorry, beetle fans).

Having worked in conservation for two decades, I am imbued with a deep love of nature. But even if you do not love spending time outdoors, we all need nature and it’s imperative to understand why nature and biodiversity are important for people. We need to understand what is at stake when we lose biodiversity, and how we can invest in protecting it now so future generations can continue to enjoy it and benefit from everything nature provides. 

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