Financing nature and development: scaling up private investment in Southern Africa's community-based conservation

Master Thesis


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The study considers whether blended finance helps scale up private investment in southern Africa's community-based conservation. It examines what are stakeholder's perspectives on the opportunities, barriers and risks of using blended finance to help scale up private investment in this context. Further, it delves into which, if any, of the revenue- generating activities available to communities from conservation are most viable to upscale with blended finance, and via which blended finance tools. The questions were answered via an exploratory sequential mixed methods design, utilising interviews in Phase 1 and a survey completed by 104 respondents in Phase 2. The output from the research is a publicly available inventory of blended investment options for community-based conservation, including seven types of non-tourism, conservation-related revenue streams. Five of these are ranked positively for scalability, wildlife economy, Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) in carbon and restoration, and forestry and agriculture related supply chains. The study suggests some viable space between demand and supply for conservation finance at the community level and provides insight into how to overcome the barriers to these; particularly in the context of communal land, which is a common arrangement for southern African conservation. There are limited first-hand examples of blended finance being used for community-based conservation. The research points to a gap in using insurance and guarantees as blended finance tools to address the challenges of credit risk for investors on communal land; such tools could be catalytic in unlocking private investment in conservation that returns environmental and development benefits in this region. The study addresses the missed opportunity for communities to benefit from conservation at a much greater scale than presently experienced. It also serves to update the working theory of conservation finance to the context of community-based conservation.