top of page

How to pay for healthy ecosystems?

I am an economist, lawyer and innovation specialist looking for ways to finance environmental sustainability. I use Ecosystem Equity to develop early-stage projects, host open-source initiatives and collaborate with others on the same path.


What, why, how

My name is Mark Ellis-Jones. For nearly 20 years, I've been trying to work out how to sustainably finance ecosystem management, mainly farms but a bit of coastal stuff and biodiversity too. I started out as a payments for ecosystem services fanboy. But youthful optimism crashed against the hard edges of Econ101, complex systems, unintended consequences, and the brute reality that people don't want to or cannot meet the short term costs imposed by sustainability. This last issue, "low willingness to pay", or "the finance gap" in the jargon, is precisely the problem I have spent far too long working on. 


Fortunately, by working with people more insightful than me, I've started to edge towards some ideas and projects which might offer a glimmer of hope, if no easy answers. This essay (coming soon) outlines the key lessons taken from building new ideas in the climate and environment space.


Ecosystem Equity Limited is a UK company which I use to finance, raise funds and develop very early-stage projects and host open-source initiatives. This work has involved collaboration with various people, businesses, funds, financial and government institutions and NGOs. Ecosystem Equity tries to be catalytic, but in reality the projects listed below were dependent in their success and learning on the ideas and hard work of others, Dr. Obadiah Ngigi foremost amongst those and with whom I have a long term partnership.

Ecosystem Equity projects are usually self-financed or through prize money and grants. Amongst others, Ecosystem Equity projects have won the United Nations/Morgan Stanley Global Prize for Climate Change Finance Innovation, the Global Innovation Lab for Climate Finance, a SwissRe ReSource Prize, a Mastercard Zambezi innovation prize, and a ClimateKIC award. 


I also undertake small pieces of advisory work which I do through the company. My focus in this consulting work is facilitating the design of sustainable financing mechanisms.

If you'd like to contact me, please use the form at the bottom of this page to send an email.


Learning by doing


Nature Fundi X

Early stage development of a funding model to scale up the Nature Fundi approach with a white paper currently in development.


Nature Fundi

Together with Rikolto and TIMAP, we are developing a grant-based fund-of-funds model for capitalisation of community eco-credit groups using the community eco-credit methodology. The project recently won funding from the REDDA fund and is in its early set-up phase.  TIMAP has 38,000 community-based trainers in its network which looks like a good channel for climate adaptation cash to people excluded from access to credit.

03 developed the "community eco-credit" methodology, which was designed to increase participation in activities that protect and restore ecosystems, like soil conservation or mangrove planting. Along the way, the approach also helps users build community-level financial assets and management experience. Piloted on the ground in Tanzania and Kenya with local partners, now houses and disseminates eco-credit knowledge and tools. The model is now used by five organisations, so beginning to show some early traction and hopefully hitting a bit more scale through Nature Fundi (above). It's not perfect; there are costs and trade-offs to using the tool, as well as benefits - but our partners believe they are seeing that the approach delivers on its objective of increasing participation in ecosystem protection. More information can be found here.


Open Impact

A simple open source digital tool for verifying and reporting on implementation of performance-based natural resource management projects. More information can be found here or log-in here. If you want to be at the table, and not on the menu, then running your own monitoring system is probably A Very Good Idea. 



CSLP, or the climate-smart lending platform, is an effort to help agri lenders include sustainability requirements in agri-loan terms . You can read about it here. Backed by the Global Innovation Lab for Climate Finance, and endorsed by leading donors and funds, it is currently implementing with Rikolto, CRDB (Tanzania's largest agri-lender) and the Tanzanian Agricultural Research Institute. The approach points to something interesting, but will mainly be helpful for lenders serving larger farmers and doesn't reach the really small-scale producers who are most vulnerable to environmental change. 


F3 Life

A smallholder agri-lending pilot which included sustainability requirements into loan terms. F3 Life smashed a KIVA fund-raising record, won the UN/Morgan Stanley prize for climate change finance innovation and a SwissRe Resource prize amongst others, but ultimately died a death  as institutional funders (probably rightly) did not want to fund a new independent farmer lender, despite our nifty green USP and solution to the willingness-to-pay problem. Because, well, who needs another high risk, low margin agri-lender right now (2016 or so)? The IP and know-how developed through this project was rolled into and the Climate-Smart Lending Platform.


Cooking Stove Carbon Offsets

Back in the glory days of carbon offset hype cycle 1.0 (c. 2005-2010), this pilot project financed fuel efficient cookstoves for schools and sold offsets created through fuel savings. The learning was that fuel savings resulted in cost savings, and those savings were spent on other things, which also had a carbon footprint. Also, just because the schools weren't buying fuel wood, it didn't mean that the wood went unused. So this project folded, a victim of shifting demand and supply curves. The immediate lesson was: Economic Reality: 1, Good Intentions: 0. The longer term lesson was that there might be specific circumstances in which people and companies are willing to invest in nature - and we now know a bit more about what those circumstances are. 


Payments for Ecosystem Services

Payments for ecosystem services is a well-known and popular approach to performance-based contracting for improved land-management. Back in 2006, I designed the Lake Naivasha PES project which grew to involve nearly 20 commercial actors and over 4,000 smallholder farmers over 15 years. Initially operated by CARE International and later WWF, it is now operated by local water resource users associations. However, with 200,000 farmers in the Naivasha catchment, this project was ultimately constrained by insufficient willingness-to-pay. With CARE and ICRAF, I wrote a PES how-to guide for the Katoomba Group, then part of Forest Trends, and several PES template contracts and drafting notes. Please get in touch if you would like them. A key lesson from this project, beyond the perennial willingness-to-pay problem, was that real dialogue and negotiation, thinking through and working out project structures and a spirit of cooperation with participating farmers were just as important as the financial incentives. 


How we work

Use this space to promote the business, its products or its services. Help people become familiar with the business and its offerings, creating a sense of connection and trust. Focus on what makes the business unique and how users can benefit from choosing it.


Why choose us


Use this space to promote the business, its products or its services.


Use this space to promote the business, its products or its services.


Use this space to promote the business, its products or its services.


What people are saying

This is the space to share a review from one of the business's clients or customers.

Client's Name

This is the space to share a review from one of the business's clients or customers.

Client's Name

This is the space to share a review from one of the business's clients or customers.

Client's Name


Your questions, answered

  • What is an FAQ section?
    An FAQ section can be used to quickly answer common questions about your business like "Where do you ship to?", "What are your opening hours?", or "How can I book a service?".
  • Why do FAQs matter?
    FAQs are a great way to help site visitors find quick answers to common questions about your business and create a better navigation experience.
  • Where can I add my FAQs?
    FAQs can be added to any page on your site or to your Wix mobile app, giving access to members on the go.
  • How do I add a new question & answer?
    To add a new FAQ follow these steps: 1. Manage FAQs from your site dashboard or in the Editor 2. Add a new question & answer 3. Assign your FAQ to a category 4. Save and publish. You can always come back and edit your FAQs.
  • Can I insert an image, video, or GIF in my FAQ?
    Yes. To add media follow these steps: 1. Manage FAQs from your site dashboard or in the Editor 2. Create a new FAQ or edit an existing one 3. From the answer text box click on the video, image or GIF icon 4. Add media from your library and save.
  • How do I edit or remove the 'Frequently Asked Questions' title?
    You can edit the title from the FAQ 'Settings' tab in the Editor. To remove the title from your mobile app go to the 'Site & App' tab in your Owner's app and customize.

in Touch

bottom of page