Sofia Rubio Shiwi Peru
Feature Ghana Amaati

Harnessing small business action to achieve the Biodiversity Plan

22 May 2024
ITC News

In the intricate tapestry of our global economy, biodiversity serves as a safety net for millions of people around the world, while providing physical, mental and spiritual health and social well-being. From the lush forests of the Amazon to the savannas of Africa, biodiversity not only sustains life but also drives economic prosperity.

Over half of the global GDP, a staggering $44 trillion, is moderately or highly dependent on nature, according to a 2020 World Economic Forum study. This dependency is particularly pronounced in rural communities, where forest ecosystems can contribute significantly to livelihoods. Take India, for example, where forests represent only 7% of the country's GDP but sustain 57% of rural communities.

Around 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihood, including some 70 million indigenous people. At the same time, the small business sector represents 90% of the world’s businesses and more than half of global employment.

Sustainable use and management of biodiversity-based sectors 

Fostering sustainable business models in biodiversity-based sectors is essential to delivering inclusive and sustainable socio-economic development, and helping achieve the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. Particularly in developing economies and countries with significant biodiversity, sustainable production and trade in biodiversity-based sectors offer a path to better livelihoods, while preserving native flora and fauna.

Biodiversity-based sectors leverage nature and ecosystem services to create products and services that benefit both people and the planet. These sectors encompass a diverse range of goods, from natural foods and cosmetics to handicrafts and ecotourism experiences.

Small businesses action in support of sustainable use of biodiversity

The International Trade Centre (ITC) is part of this movement, actively supporting  biodiversity sectors in developing countries. ITC helps small businesses implement sustainable practices and access international markets. From Amazon nut products in Peru to quinoa farming in the Andes, ITC works hand in hand with local communities to strengthen resilience and competitiveness.

As we celebrate Biodiversity Day on 22 May, it's important to highlight the ways in which small businesses are supporting the implementation of the Biodiversity Plan:

Shiwi, a Peruvian business, produces value-added Amazon nut products, such as granola bars and lip balms. It operates in the Madre de Dios region, an area of impoverished communities, part of them indigenous. Shiwi processes nuts gathered by an association of harvester families that live around the Tambopata National Reserve. Location both helped and impaired the company’s activities. It was fairly easy to acquire organic certification, but isolation created logistical problems. Harvesters have to pick the nuts by hand and carry 70-kilo baskets for hours through the forest. Also, Shiwi faced limited access to bank loans and had to find ways to educate local consumers to understand why sustainably harvested nuts should be priced higher.  

Less known than Amazon nuts, fonio is another traditional, highly nutritious grain that is beginning its journey into mainstream markets. It has been cultivated for over 5,000 years in the West Africa savanna. AMMAATI, a Ghanaian social enterprise, revived this grain, which is similar to millet. The company works with 5,500 smallholder farmers, mostly women. They realized that fonio was a rare option to cultivate soils made barren by climate change, excessive fertilizing and human-driven deforestation. AMAATI’s service delivery model provides the farmers training, credit and help to access organic certification. It also supported women that needed to gain access to the land through dialogue with elders and chiefs form the communities involved. Since 2019, it has been able to supply over 19 tons of fonio to a buyer in the Netherlands and five tons to another in the United States. These sales allowed the company to attain premium prices.

Resources to further explore how small businesses can be #PartofThePlan

  • Export Guide: Medicinal and Aromatic Ingredients and Plants
  • BioTrade Checklist: This checklist, developed by UNCTAD's BioTrade Initiative and hosted in ITC’s Standards Map, allows benchmarking sustainability practices against the UNCTAD BioTrade Principles and Criteria (BT P&C) in a transparent, neutral and independent manner.
  • ITC Trade Forward Podcast: Can Trade be Biodiversity-friendly? To help understand how small businesses can help drive the change needed to address the biodiversity crisis,  the podcast brings a discussion with Andrew Kingman, Managing Director of Eco-Micaia, a social enterprise from Mozambique that supports local communities and associations producing biodiverse products.