News You Really Need To See: “Investors Recruited to Restore Farmland”

“Investors Recruited to Restore Farmland”

The New York Times, December 8, 2014, p.A10

“Conservation groups announced plans on Sunday to restore degraded land across Latin America with financing from private investment funds.  The project, announced at a conference on climate change in Lima, Peru, is an effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions by improving the productivity of current farmland, reducing the need to turn over additional land for food production.  The region has lost some 36 million hectares, or 89 million acres, of forest and grasslands to agriculture since 2000, said Walter Vergara, a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute in Washington, one of the conservation groups supporting the project.  Latin America accounts for 13 percent of global food trade, a figure that has been growing over the past several decades, according to the World Bank. … The institute estimates that converting land to farms and using it for agriculture and livestock accounts for almost half of all greenhouse gas emissions in the region. … The project, called Initiative 20×20, intends to restore about 49 million acres of degraded land — an area larger than Uruguay — including about 21 million acres in Mexico.  A separate project is planned to cover Brazil exclusively.  But rather than turn to grants from charities, the project is relying on investors seeking to turn a profit. … Degraded land can be restored by adding trees to properties that are currently used for farming or raising livestock, said Clement Chénost, the technical director of the Moringa Fund, a French group that invests in agro-forestry projects in Latin America and Africa.  The fund is also investing $49 million in Latin America.  The addition of trees helps the land retain water, adding to its productivity and providing shelter for animals.  Over the long term, the trees themselves can be sustainably harvested to provide additional income to farmers, he said.  For example, the Moringa Fund is looking to invest in shade-grown coffee in Nicaragua and shade-grown cacao in Peru.  It also plans to invest in restoring degraded pastureland in Colombia and Brazil.  The results can be significant, Mr. Chénost said.  A patch of trees can improve pastureland as much as sixfold, meaning less acreage can sustain more livestock.”

Quickie Analysis:  Interesting initiative.  Let’s hope it works out.

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