South African spekboom restoration grows

02 September 2011 | News story

Ecological Restoration Capital (ERC), a privately funded restoration venture, has begun large-scale indigenous reforestation throughout South Africa’s Eastern and Western Cape Provinces.

ERC focuses on biodiversity conservation and restoration of native tree and plant species in the in South Africa. The company’s restoration and carbon measurement activities also provide long-term career opportunities in rural communities with systemic unemployment problems. .

Biodiversity Conservation Asset Class:

Whereas many conservation projects are financed through donor funds, ERC works with a range of financiers from the private sector, the development community and many government institutions to ensure the full capitalization of all conservation projects. Though a Payment for Ecosystem Services model approach, the company aims to prove the scalability of biodiversity conservation as an asset class able to attractive private investment. ERC has attracted private funds from Africa, Asia and Europe for its conservation work in South Africa.

The company’s Operational Director, Mr. Hy Martin, says, “We are spearheading a new type of approach to social innovation and to conservation. Our team is using private investment to tackle both the decline in global biodiversity and the lack of economic development at a local level in South Africa.”

ERC produces carbon credits on the voluntary markets for sale to companies seeking low-cost emissions reductions. The team’s strategic focus is geared towards private, corporate buyers of emissions reductions, as opposed to supplying the credits on the global carbon credit markets, which have remained stagnate in the past two years.

Not only is the ERC enterprise in Somerset East the first commercially operational ecological restoration project in the country, but it has significant co-benefits. The creation of jobs is vital to sustaining the rural economies of the small towns in the area. The company is returning the lost natural capital depleted through overstocking of livestock in the past century. As Mike Powell the Ecological Director explains: “Topping up the natural capital will re-create the optimal flow of ecosystem goods and services in these semi-arid landscapes. This will ensure long-term solutions to the creation of jobs and sustainable livelihoods. We are also convinced that our initiative is the only one that currently makes significant and tangible contributions to South Africa meeting its obligations towards three internationally binding conventions – UNFCCC, CBD and UNCCD. This is a profound achievement”

Stimulating Social Enterprise:

ERC focuses not only on ecological restoration, but targets investment towards communities that could benefit from significant economic improvement through this type of catalytic funding. The company’s first biodiversity investment directly employs more than 55 people in an area suffering 60% unemployment with low-growth in the past two decades. The company is pioneering locally focused procurement and management training programs in these Eastern Cape communities. “The people that have lived on the land know it best. ERC encourages local management hiring and career progression for members of the local communities because we understand this,” Martin mentions.

The management teams consist of local community members with a majority of operations and enterprise development taking place in those areas of low wages and high unemployment in South Africa. ERC operations aim to increase awareness about ecological degradation, market linkages, financing and business development in areas that are frequently neglected of these essential services.