The Bezos Earth Fund has just announced US$22.8 million in grants to several organisations and projects, including Palladium’s Regeneration, to support locally led restoration of 600,000 hectares of land critical for climate and livelihoods in Africa.
Regeneration is a partnership between Palladium and Systemiq that works across East and West Africa supporting sustainable cocoa and coffee businesses.
“We’ll be using the funding from the Earth Fund to support 14 small and medium-sized local African companies that are already involved in land restoration activities – we call them our restoration champions,” explains Ben Aschenaki, Project Director at Regeneration. “Collectively, these companies will manage about 6500 hectares of land, and our hope is that the training we provide will help them better scale up their businesses.”
Regeneration will work closely with the enterprises to build and refine their business plans (including marketing, financial, operational, stakeholder management, and risk management). Then, they’ll facilitate negotiations with international and local companies in Regeneration’s network to buy their goods.
The team hopes to mobilise US$9.1 million in private finance for the grant recipients.
The new funding from the Earth Fund will restore two African landscapes that are critical for carbon, biodiversity, and human wellbeing: the Greater Rift Valley in Kenya and the Lake Kivu and Rusizi River Basin in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi. The Greater Rift Valley is home to Kenya’s water towers and a breadbasket for the region, and the Lake Kivu and Rusizi River Basin are part of the second-largest rainforest in the world and home to five million people.
Restoration at this scale can sequester 42 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2050 – the equivalent of taking more than 9.3 million gasoline-powered vehicles off the road per year.
“Locally led and managed restoration efforts are more likely to deliver long term success and can bring climate and biodiversity benefits along with economic prosperity for communities,” says Wanjira Mathai, the Earth Fund’s advisor for Africa and Managing Director at the World Resources Institute. “The bottom line is without the local leadership, local wisdom, and passion, scaling restoration across Africa would be impossible. Already, Africa is home to some of our planet’s greatest restoration successes, and this funding will support locally led restoration to re-green our beautiful African continent.”
As part of the Earth Fund’s US$1 billion commitment to landscape restoration globally, the funding adds to the US$42.2 million granted previously to accelerate Africa’s restoration movement, AFR100.
The AFR100, with which Palladium teams have been working closely for years, is a country-led effort to restore 100 million hectares of land in Africa by 2030. This injection of capital is yet another important step towards that quickly approaching goal.
“In addition to providing small companies with grants and concessional loans, we’ve seen over the years how important it is to also have an exit strategy and that’s the market piece,” explains Aschenaki. “By ensuring the companies we’re working with get offtake agreements, it goes beyond loans and allows them to be self-sufficient to continue restoring the land.”
And the team has proof that this strategy works.
Aschenaki says that Regeneration’s finance facility, Rebuild, provides returnable grants to support sustainable cocoa and coffee businesses, through which over 100,000 hectares of land have been put under Sustainable Land Management. Rebuild has also mobilised €4.5 million of private finance and reached more than 50,000 beneficiaries since 2020.
By investing in Africa’s ‘new restoration economy,’ locally led efforts are restoring vital land, creating full and part-time jobs, and acting as models that will and can be scaled up across millions of hectares of land both in Africa and around the world. “This is very exciting,” Aschenaki adds. “We’re hoping that this round of funding will show that the private sector has an important role to play in restoring land in Africa and can act as a major catalyst in the business of restoration.”