“For 1 euro investment, you will get 3 euros in return. And what’s more, you will help restore the critical river ecosystem here in Benin.” Gautier Koffi Amoussou, working for Eco-Benin NGO, and Kpati Komlan Zomavo Aguey of COSOL PG, an NGO located in Togo, pitched their dredging business plan to restore Benin’s river ecosystems. This plan earned them the prize for the most promising green business case during last week’s Green Finance Academy, hosted by IUCN NL, Nyenrode Business University, Wageningen Environmental Research and EY.

Amoussou: “The Mono River is currently filled with sediments that originated from upstream eroded sandy soils. As a result, fish stocks have been depleted, which is affecting the livelihoods of the communities that depend on the fish. Our plan is to dredge the river to deepen the Mono River. This will bring back fish which is good for the community and the economy.”

In addition, the two Beninese came with an inventive idea to commodify the sand by selling it to the government in Benin’s capital city Cotonou. “The government plans to build 20,000 houses. The sand can be used for building these houses.”

Amoussou and Aguey said they needed five million euros of investment to realize their dredging business, but offer an interesting return on investment. “It can be as much as 300 percent.” 

Masterclass to successfully access private sector finance

Amoussou and Aguey are not the only conservationists developing green business cases. During last week’s Green Finance Academy, 31 environmental and development professionals were learning new skills to successfully access private sector finance for green projects. In the five-day masterclass, participants were challenged to transform current or new projects into bankable projects that generate financial returns for investors.

Gerhard Mulder from IUCN NL explains: “Attracting funding for environmental or development project has always been a challenge. But as public funds are dwindling, opportunities from private capital are on the rise. Banks, impacts funds and other financiers are increasingly showing interest in financing projects that, in addition to generating a financial return, provide environmental, social and developmental benefits.”

Ecological and financial return on investment

At the five-day masterclass, environmental and development professionals are triggered to link their green ideas to a business model. The ideas should not only benefit human well-being through the provision of ecosystem services, but should also be modelled into a business case with a value proposition that generates a financial return for investors. By framing the social, environmental, and economic aspects into an inspirational and credible story for sustainable development, the chance of finding an impact investor increases significantly.

Amoussou is ready for it: “I am very happy to have attended this masterclass. With the help of this academy, I now know better how to tap into private investments from dredging companies, while having a positive impact for nature and the local people.”