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From the perspective of understanding ecosystems as natural assets, the most important wealth generators are at the same time among its most significant beneficiaries. These are the at-risk ecosystem’s marginal, home-grown and nascent eco-tourist businesses.

We’ve been fortunate enough to have been involved in helping develop local eco-tourist businesses from the ground up. Inspired by the work of others, our first impact investment is into Wild Expeditions Ethiopia, which is majority owned by Wild Enterprise alongside four local shareholder.

Wild Expeditions Ethiopia owns seasonal and permanent tented camps and provides logistical services and ground arrangements to a range of international tour operators and agents. Wild Expeditions Ethiopia started in Ethiopia’s Omo Valley and has grown from nothing but a good idea. They are the future. Investing in them is the way forward.

In order to ensure that we are not simply subsidising these businesses, these investments are structured as loans, albeit with preferential rates and terms linked to conservation and community covenants. This ensures that good business principles are followed and that the overall model is sustainable with loan repayments coming back to be redistributed.

Importantly, through Journeys by Design, Wild Philanthropy is in the perfect position help businesses establish themselves with the right travel market in mind, as well as drive clients in their direction. We are an impact first investor, aiming to deliver a travel-driven conservation model, working alongside conservation and development partners that share the same vision. This enterprise-led model creates employment, opportunities and incentives which promote new economic advantages, sustainable livelihoods and fairer distribution of wealth at the local level – where it counts.

We look to roll out similar models in other core ecosystems projects once we have been able to cement Wild Expeditions Ethiopia as the leading travel operator in Ethiopia.