USAID partnership launches innovative tool to assess the impact of investment on biodiversity conservation

TerraBio, a program that brings together USAID/Brazil, the Alliance of Bioversity International/CIAT and the private sector, will set a new monitoring standard for the Amazon

Develop a monitoring methodology to assess the impact of private sector investment on biodiversity conservation in the Brazilian Amazon, using an innovative model that combines satellite imagery, maps, data and other information. This is the objective of TerraBio, one of the assessment methodologies developed under the partnership between USAID/Brazil and the Alliance of Bioversity International/CIAT, together with a network of local businesses and stakeholders. 

TerraBio will be tested throughout 2020, with a focus on the pilot project developed in the Médio-Juruá Reserve, in the state of Amazonas (AM). Next year, the program should expand to other areas within the Amazon region. At the end of this development stage, the program will be able to provide information on the impact of co-investment efforts on forest habitat and biodiversity. Relying on several indicators, Terrabio will map vegetation loss, degradation and restoration, as well as landscape connectivity, thus providing a wider view of the ecosystem of an expanded region. The program also supports PCAB's strategy for private sector engagement. 

"We need methodologies to monitor and measure the benefits of projects with conservation and social impacts, so that we can learn from our actions and improve our efforts. With TerraBio, we may be able to monitor – almost in real time – what is changing in relation to biodiversity conservation," said Andy Jarvis, Research Director at the Alliance.


Karis Tenneson, Director of Environmental Mapping at the TerraBio implementation team, explained that the focus this year will be on testing the models. A workshop is also in the plans, but the date has not been agreed yet due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has led several countries, including Brazil, to adopt social isolation measures to try to contain the spread of the new coronavirus. "I think this tool will be really useful to help prioritize investments," added Karis.

Last year, a number of workshops were held to discuss the tool, bringing together experts from different organizations, including ICMBio, IPÊ, Imaflora and Embrapa. “The idea was to put our heads together to agree on the best way to measure the impact of an activity on biodiversity over time, and with the use of geospatial models. USAID is proposing this as a priority approach to assess whether sustainable private sector activities in the Amazon do make a difference," said Anna Toness, USAID/Brazil Environment Coordinator, during a workshop held in September.

Investments – In addition to developing TerraBio and other assessment tools, the partnership also has a facilitating role. It aims to catalyze the active participation of businesses to help implement different activities and finance sustainable development. This would help transform the approach to conservation in the Amazon, in addition to improving the well-being of local communities. 

The Legal Amazon hosts 67% of the world's remaining tropical forests. It is rich in biodiversity, and concentrates 20% of all fresh water on our planet. However, according to the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics), although the Brazilian Amazon covers nearly 60% of the country, it only accounts for 8.7% of national GDP (Gross Domestic Product). This is the reason for so much pressure on its natural resources. 

In recent years, the Amazon region has been facing the dual challenge of balancing local sustainable development with income generation, while also having to modernize current practices, especially in view of the increase in deforestation and the loss of biodiversity. In addition, several illegal and unsustainable practices also take place in the area, such as land grabbing and unauthorized logging. This vicious circle can be broken by investment initiatives that encourage financially viable and sustainable products.

USAID/Brazil and the Alliance of Bioversity International/CIAT are also joint facilitators of the Partnership Platform for the Amazon (PPA), which aims to promote private sector engagement and encourage its co-investing in sustainable business models and economic opportunities that strengthen the production and marketing of local products.

“These types of mechanisms yield faster results, do not rely on the public sector, and can be a more efficient alternative, with lasting impacts on conservation," said Environmental Scientist Wendy Francesconi, from the Alliance of Bioversity International/CIAT. 

Financing – Another example of the facilitation work carried out in the region took place in November 2019 with the launch of ABF Brasil, a private equity fund managed by Mirova Natural Capital (under the brand Althelia Funds) together with Vox Capital, a Brazilian investment management company.

This 11-year bond is expected to raise R$ 400 million before reaching maturity, mainly in private capital. The fund will invest in four priority areas: 1) conservation and improvement of the quality of life of local communities; 2) sustainable systems for small farmers, such as agroforestry; 3) sustainable agriculture, reforestation and restoration of degraded areas; and 4) innovation in biodiversity, finance and technology services. 

ABF Brasil has an innovative pay-for-performance and impact structure, which aims to encourage an emphasis on long-term positive results on biodiversity. There will be monitoring mechanisms and annual reporting on the portfolio, with indicators in seven thematic areas, including ecosystem integrity and protection of species, income and community welfare. From the third year onwards, independent impact audits will also take place to validate the results. 

USAID/Brazil has brought the Alliance of Bioversity International/CIAT and other partners together, and helped to codesign the fund. It has also used a mechanism known as Development Credit Authority (DCA) to reduce financial risks by offering ABF a loan guarantee of 50% of its portfolio against losses.