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Keywords:

  • Conservation finance;
  • environmental mortgages;
  • incentives;
  • microfinance;
  • return on investment

Abstract

A central challenge in conservation is to create value effectively around local resources that will lead to better environmental stewardship. Historically, conservationists have either used indirect approaches, such as the promotion of alternate industries like eco-tourism, or more recently direct approaches, such as land purchases and cash payments. While direct payment programs, through conservation incentive agreements and regular payments for ecosystem preservation, are being trialed in low-income nations, the lack of enforceable property rights and contractual laws can present challenges when trying to influence conservation outcomes in local communities. We suggest an alternative approach—debt-based investment—that capitalizes environmental assets locally and makes that capital available to local communities through collateralized lending, microfinance approaches, and access to affordable financial services. Tying the value of capital in a conservation lending trust to the global value for intact environmental resources will create incentives for local environmental stewardship while providing economic access to what is often a poor community's most valuable asset—intact natural resources.