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Nature-based economies

There are economic opportunities in rewilding.
The increasing global popularity of nature-based tourism demonstrates this potential.
Helping nature heal can lead to prosperous local economies.

Nino Salkic

Nature-based economies

There are economic opportunities in rewilding.
The increasing global popularity of nature-based tourism demonstrates this potential.
Helping nature heal can lead to prosperous local economies.

A business case for the wild

JUAN CARLOS MUÑOZ ROBREDO

The missing link

At Rewilding Europe we want to show that rewilding can generate new business opportunities, jobs and income. By building this ‘business case for the wild’, we can provide new opportunities for rural economies – which are now often associated with declining economic productivity, rural depopulation and land abandonment.

Dynamic and contemporary wildlife and nature-based businesses can benefit local societies by creating new economic opportunities that are more closely tied to natural environments.

Since 2013, Rewilding Europe has been working with enterprises to support the integration of rewilding objectives into their business plans.

What is a rewilding enterprise?

Rewilding Europe continues to seek new enterprises to collaborate with to further develop rewilding business opportunities. 

What makes an enterprise a rewilding enterprise? In short: a rewilding enterprise generates direct or indirect finance, incentives or engagement for rewilding, and has a positive impact on wilder nature or the comeback of wildlife. And of course, this all based on a viable business that operates in an environmentally and socially sustainable way.

Rewilding entrepreneurship is still in its early stages in Europe. Providing guidance and technical support to such new enterprises is as vital in the sustainability of these businesses as financial support.

Currently, many businesses – even if they are completely dependent on the natural environment – exploit the environment in an unsustainable way. European subsidies are seldom enough on their own, to support rewilding enterprises. At Rewilding Europe we believe it’s time for a change! 

Our dedicated enterprise team

Rewilding Europe was one of the original European conservation organisations to recognise the potential of the enterprise component to the pursuit of securing more space for nature. Rewilding Europe’s enterprise team brings together people with significant international experience in business, finance and rewilding, and who are dedicated to supporting businesses and communities that have the potential to revitalise rural economies, with the wider goal of engendering a pan-European rewilding enterprise movement.

Threats of rural land abandonment

Rural economies, societies and landscapes across much of Europe are changing as rural to urban migration intensifies. In 2020, four out of five Europeans live in urban areas.

Drivers of this transition include demographic changes as younger generations migrate to urban regions drawn by better employment prospects, education, healthcare and social life; a consequent decline in the provision of rural goods and services; lack of public and private investment; increasingly limited employment opportunities exacerbated by the mechanisation of agrarian and forestry production processes (traditionally significant job creators) – all twinned with a fall in the relative production values of marginal rural land driven by dynamics such as degrading soil nutrients, volatile local climates and poor accessibility.

The net result of land abandonment is threefold:

Environmental impact

  • Open and diverse habitat biodiversity is being lost because of bush and forest encroachment, resulting in a rapid decline of species, biodiversity and natural ecosystems.  
  • Populations of many species (mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, plants) dependent on open and half-open (mosaic) landscapes are declining and loosing terrain.

Socio-economic impact

  • Experienced labour forces and associated enterprises are diminishing.
  • Employment prospects are worsening.
  • Rural areas are becoming less economically productive and increasingly dependent on subsidy support.
  • Rural economies are becoming less attractive for investors that cannot see the opportunities they present.

Cultural impact

  • Rural populations are becoming aged as younger community members move to urban areas.
  • Cultural heritage and traditional skills of rural areas are being eroded.
  • Families are fragmenting also resulting in associated land marginalisation.

Opportunities of rural land abandonment

Although land abandonment can and does have a number of negative consequences including biodiversity loss and acute socio-economic decline, it is also presenting a number of compelling new opportunities. With its enterprise component, Rewilding Europe is creatively leveraging these opportunities to build new nature-driven economies that can serve to reverse these damaging trends.

Environmental impact

  • Less human influence means natural processes have a chance to help improve the natural environment and restore nature.
  • Wildlife species can come back and experience less conflict with humans, and food chains can restore.
  • Dynamic, mosaic landscapes can develop driven by large herbivores and large carnivores, supporting species of a wide range of open/semi-open habitats.

Socio-economic impact

  • New businesses can be developed based on wilder landscapes and wildlife comeback, offering new and different products.
  • Provision of new job and income opportunities.
  • Social coherence and local society can be enhanced if new local businesses build networks and generate multiplier effects.
  • Reduces dependency on subsidies.

Cultural impact

  • Younger people and families returning to the countryside looking for new opportunities, bringing new life into rural communities.
  • Local/regional branding of areas and products providing new identities and local pride that are nature/wildlife related.
  • Cultural heritage and traditional skills reinvigorated and in a different setting.

“In Europe conservation and entrepreneurship often appear to inhabit mutually exclusive worlds.
Rewilding enterprise can bring these worlds together.”

Timon Rutten, Head of Enterprise

Timon Rutten
Head of Enterprise

What we are doing

Technical support

We provide technical support to existing and potential businesses, e.g. development or revision of business plans and training.

Financial support

We provide financial support through Rewilding Europe Capital (REC), our enterprise loan facility.

Promotional support

We help to promote these businesses through sales and marketing. One of our tools is, for example, the European Safari Company.

REC

Introducing Rewilding Europe Capital

Rewilding Europe Capital (REC) is Europe’s first rewilding enterprise funding facility that provides financial loans to businesses that catalyse, support and achieve positive environmental and socio-economic outcomes that support rewilding. It was set up by Rewilding Europe in 2013, in cooperation with Conservation Capital.

Tom Schandy; Wild Wonders of Europe

Scaling up

In 2013, Rewilding Europe entered its first phase of REC, to invest in European rewilding enterprises (called REC1). In the first years (2013–2015), we focused on small businesses that were mainly operating in the nature tourism market. We offered loans of up to 80,000 euros and provided 18 loans for the sum of in total 520,000 euros. 

A big leap forward was made in early 2017, when Rewilding Europe signed an agreement with the European Investment Bank, through the new Natural Capital Financing Facility, for a new loan facility of 6 million euros. This presented an opportunity to create a second phase for REC (called REC2) as there was significant alignment between the aims of REC and the aims of this EU Facility promoting the conservation, restoration, management and enhancement of natural capital. With this second phase of REC we were able to scale up loans to a maximum of 600,000 euros per loan. Rewilding Europe Capital continues to offer loans for medium and larger enterprises to invest in.

Rewilding Europe is exploring the third phase for REC (called REC3) together with Triodos Regenerative Money Center, based in the Netherlands, open for all European countries (including non-EU). This includes a combined search for additional and larger European rewilding and nature-related enterprises which are seeking investment (debt) finance. EIB

Magnus Lundgren / Wild Wonders of Europe

A range of sectors

Building on the work to date, Rewilding Europe Capital continues to explore further opportunities to scale up rewilding enterprise across Europe, attracting new investors and exploring new market sectors to work with. We are exploring new partnerships with financial institutions and private investors to  grow and develop REC as a key tool to achieve our missionWe believe that REC has the potential to become a vehicle that can significantly leverage and direct investment in way that is beneficial for European nature. 

In doing this, we particularly focus on creating greater awareness of the need for rewilding in a range of market sectors, including, but not limited to forest management, nature and wildlife tourism, wetland restoration and water management, biodiversity and CO2 offsetting, land estates and wildlife breeding and management.

Would you like to explore if a loan through Rewilding Europe Capital would be useful for you? Our enterprise team can give you personal advice on the opportunities for working with Rewilding Europe. Please contact us by clicking on the button below. 

Learn more

European Safari Company

Staffan Widstrand / Rewilding Europe

Through its work in pilot areas, Rewilding Europe demonstrates that rewilding can generate significant new business opportunities, jobs and income for local people, landowners and communities.

As we look to facilitate such nature-based business, apart from Rewilding Europe Capital, the European Safari Company is becoming an important tool as well.

JUAN CARLOS MUÑOZ ROBREDO

The European Safari Company was launched at the end of 2016, starting as a dynamic online booking platform dedicated to offering authentic and personalised nature and wildlife-based travel experiences. Heavily committed to providing clients with access to wilder nature, local cultures, spectacular landscapes and unique wildlife experiences, the European Safari Company differentiates itself through its strong connection and support for rewilding and nature-based economies.

Experiences in Italy, Portugal, Romania, Poland, Sweden, Croatia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Poland, Germany and Scotland are already on offer, with more destinations to follow. Nature travellers can already choose from dozens of different offerings in these areas.

Learn more

“One day, when you tell people that you’re going on safari, I want them to ask you which continent.”

Aukje van Gerven
Lead of the European Safari Company

Wildlife has value

Staffan Widstrand/Rewilding Europe

Nature tourism is booming

Restoring nature, bringing back wildlife and rewilding can bring economic benefits right across Europe. Nature has the power to generate income. Nature tourism around the world is booming. And at a time when biodiversity is in decline, wildlife watching is on the up. The biggest opportunities lie with the species that have big teeth, horns and antlers, the hooked beaks and sharp claws. These are the features that really excite and inspire.

People want to see birds and animals up close – from hides, with the help of guides, for photography. They pay good money to see mountain gorillas in Africa, grizzly bears in Alaska, polar bears in Svalbard, whales in Canada, owls in Finland, eagles in Norway, vultures in Spain and wolves in Sweden.

Staffan Widstrand / Wild Wonders of Europe

Attractive species on offer

Europe has a wide range of attractive species on offer for wildlife watching and photography. Seeing animals at close range in Europe means using hides. The number of professionally designed wildlife hides is growing rapidly, and booking wildlife watching and photography tours is possible in more and more countries.

Some outfitters have completely specialised on this and have dozens of hides on offer, such as in the Finnish Kuhmo forest region, Hungarian Hortobagy, Romanian Danube Delta and Spanish dehesa. Dozens of mammal species can be seen or photographed at close range, ranging from large carnivores such as bears, wolves and wolverines, to wild cats, common genets, pine martens and red squirrels.

Also for birds there is a huge variety of species ‘on offer’, from different species of eagles to owls, from bee-eaters to herons and egrets, from black grouse and great bustards to rails.

Staffan Widstrand / Rewilding Europe

Transformational potential

With a sharp growth in the nature photography market that is happening now, this is an increasingly rewarding business that is now taking off in Europe. From other continents in the world we know wildlife watching and related tourism can ultimately become a major factor in the economy of regions, and even countries. In Europe the first examples of this are now emerging, but still in early stages.

The problem in Europe has been a lack of wildlife to watch. In many areas, hunting pressure has made the animals that do exist extremely shy. But as wildlife returns, the doors are slowly opening to a new world of tourism-related opportunities. A wilder future is not only healthier and wiser, but potentially wealthier too.

People that come for wildlife watching and photography, are mostly not day visitors. They stay for extended period of time, also outside the main tourism seasons. This means that apart from booking hides, they also use accommodation, local transport and facilities, meaning a real value added to the local economy, due to multiplier effects. The transformational potential of wildlife for the local economy can thus be substantial, if developed wisely.

A unique example: Faia Brava Star Camp

Sandwiched between the peaks of the Serra da Marofa and vineyards of the Douro, in the steep-sided valley of the Côa River (a Douro tributary) in Portugal, the Faia Brava private reservation extends across nearly 1000 hectares. A haven for wildlife, one of the reserve’s major attractions is its birdlife, with eagles and vultures both nesting on riverside cliffs (in Portugese faia means “cliff”, while brava means “brave” or “wild”). It is one of the core areas in the Greater Côa Valley wildlife corridor that we are developing with partners in the region.

Faia Brava’s varied habitat boasts a smattering of olive trees and cork oaks, as well as abandoned farmhouses, shepherd shelters and meandering dry stone walls. Free-roaming Garrano horses and Tauros cattle naturally graze vegetation and promote biodiversity, while there have even been recent sightings of Iberian wolves.

It is within this magnificent natural setting that the Faia Brava Star Camp – a safari-style lodge that can currently house six guests – is now sited. Thanks to its low-impact design, the camp strikes a perfect balance between comfort and sustainability.

Europe’s first real safari-style accommodation

The idea for Star Camp was conceived by Rewilding Europe back in 2013, in collaboration with ATNatureza, one of Rewilding Portugal’s main partners in the region and sole owner of the Faia Brava Reserve.

A low-cost loan was offered to the entrepreneurs through Rewilding Europe Capital, with Rewilding Europe also providing ongoing technical and operational support. The loan will only be repaid from the camp’s direct income, which takes away some of the financial pressure in the early stages.

Star Camp directly contributes to local conservation and the upkeep of Faia Brava through a “per guest fee”, paid annually to ATNatureza. A further “rewilding levy” is used to improve and expand the reserve.

As Europe’s first real safari-style accommodation, in the great tradition of the African bush camp, Sara Noro’s Faia Brava project represents a milestone in Rewilding Europe’s drive to develop nature-based tourism. An increasing number of guests are now enjoying the wonderful hospitality of the camp owners and the increasingly wild wonders of Western Iberia.

Our main achievements

Rewilding Europe Capital

Since 2013, through REC a total of 24 enterprises have now received financial support, with disbursed loans totalling over 2.3 million euros in six countries.  These enterprises range from wildlife viewing hides in Italy and wildlife breeding centres in the Netherlands to sustainable hunting ventures in Croatia, peat restoration in Finland, rewilding of forests and the Miles Away Fly camp in Portugal’s Greater Côa Valley.  

Enterprise support

Rewilding Europe’s enterprise team has provided technical support to 152 enterprises, mostly in the rewilding areas where we work. Out of these, 60 enterprises received specific training, while 2received a loan through Rewilding Europe Capital. The number of employments created through these enterprises is 47 people. 

European Safari Company

First conceived in 2013, the European Safari Company was launched in 2016 to showcase the beauty of the rewilding areas as nature destinations, to allow people from across the world to easily experience them. Incubated by Rewilding Europe, the company will eventually become a separate business entity. It now offers a wide range of nature-based experiences 12 countries and is working with over 50 local tourism providers. It is expected these numbers will grow substantially in the years to come. 

New safari-style accommodations

Faia Brava Star Camp and Miles Away Fly Camp, two innovative safari-style accommodations in the Greater Côa Valley in Portugal, offer unique experiences providing a true safari-feeling with their products on offer. Together with the Casa da Cisterna and Wildlife Portugal operations, nature-based tourism in the region is currently growing and is having an increasingly positive impact on rural economies. 

Wildlife Economies

Led by the Dutch province of Limburg, an Interreg project called ‘Wildlife Economy’ was started. This two-year project is a cooperation of eight organisations in six different countries looking at how wildlife can become drivers of local economic development through associated enterprise. The project is going to deliver its results in 2021. 

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