WCS Global Initiatives

Conservation Enterprise Development Program

The Conservation Enterprise Development Program, or CEDP, supports sustainable market-based conservation-friendly enterprises that benefit both people and wildlife.

The program selectively awards grants, in-kind services, and/or loans to a variety of enterprises within WCS landscapes and seascapes across the Americas, Africa, and Asia.

By serving as a conservation-friendly enterprise incubator, CEDP can provide solutions to human-wildlife conflict, foster sustainable use of wildlife and wild places, and ensure that people can live in harmony with the world's most amazing natural places.  

The Problem

Local communities living in and around the most biodiverse regions of the world have historically suffered from a myriad of challenges, including chronic poverty, political marginalization, and degradation of the natural resources on which they rely.

Limited livelihood opportunities lead to unsustainable use of natural resources and short-term perspectives on economic development. The lack of skills and limited access to information, capital, and markets perpetuate this problem.

For these communities, access to capital is very limited, and when available, is generally at very high interest rates and targets mostly already well-established enterprises. Indeed, in these remote areas very few sources of financing are available for new and innovative enterprise concepts because of the inherent risk involved. Another obstacle facing these enterprises is that their isolation makes the exchange of best practices and cooperation highly challenging.

Photo credit: Julie Larsen Maher/ WCS

The Context

WCS understands that we cannot sustainably support wildlife and the wild places where we work without also addressing the needs of the people who live there. Over the past three decades, thanks to our long-term presence and deep relationships with communities living in or around our seascapes and landscapes, WCS has helped to develop small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that deliver alternative sources of income to communities as well as conservation outcomes.

Photo credit: Julie Larsen Maher/ WCS

These enterprises (over 43 enterprises across 27 WCS priority conservation areas in Africa, Asia, and Latin America) are in large part managed by and strictly benefit local communities. They cover a diverse set of sectors from ecotourism to sustainable agriculture initiatives, such as coffee, cacao, cashmere, and vanilla farming and distribution – all with a wildlife-friendly focus. These enterprises directly support approximately 300,000 people globally, while contributing to the conservation of some of the world’s most biodiversity-rich areas.

However, these enterprises were developed in “silos” independently from each other, with limited access to capital, markets, information, and technical skills.

The Solution

CEDP assists the most promising enterprises and business concepts with the highest potential for conservation, social, and economic returns. A team of experts provide financial support through grants and loans at low interest rates, as well as technical assistance such as business plan development, marketing, accounting and loan application training, and other essential skills to allow producers and communities to participate in larger commercial and financial markets.

Photo credit: Julie Larsen Maher/ WCS


CEDP is currently accepting Expressions of Interest through March 20, 2015. All applications are due April 6, 2015.