Published: June 30, 2020 By

Over the course of Summer 2020, MENV will feature various Capstone Projects to keep the community updated on the accomplishments of our students and partner organizations. The Capstone is the centerpiece of the MENV program and is a year-long project that partners students with an organization from the public, private, or non-profit sector. Students gain real-world, professional experience that serves as a springboard for their future careers. To read more about current and past Capstone Project click here.

Capstone Project: Impact Investing to Reduce Deforestation

Partner Organization: Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force

Student Team: Mikkela Blanton, Vasco Chavez-Molina, Ashley Lane, Marissa Miller, and Alyssa Withrow

Increased deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest in the state of San Martin, Peru stems from the construction of the Fernando Belaunde Highway in 1970. The aggregate amount of deforestation rose from 318,151 hectares to 1.2 million hectares in the period of 1963-1987. By 2000, about 30% of the San Martin province had been deforested and an additional 278,115 hectares were lost by 2011. GCF Capstone Team

As part of the national process of government decentralization of 2002, San Martin assumed control for agricultural development strategies, managing the road network, and forest policy. Since assuming regional control, San Martin has become an advocate for forest preservation and sustainability. Local residents, as well as non-governmental organizations, have joined regional authorities to defend the flora and fauna of the forest. The San Martin region is actively engaged in jurisdictional partnerships to reduce deforestation, including collaboration with an MENV capstone partner, the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF Task Force) - a subnational collaboration of 38 states and provinces working to protect tropical forests, reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and advance forest-maintaining rural development. 

A cross-specialization powerhouse team of MENV students including Mikkela Blanton (Sustainable Food Systems), Vasco Chavez-Molina (Environmental Policy), Ashley Lane (Sustainable Food Systems), Marissa Miller (Sustainable Food Systems), and Alyssa Withrow (Sustainable Planning and Management) is collaborating with GCF Task Force and the people of San Martin to create a set of four deliverables that will serve as a roadmap for potential investment to reduce deforestation in the region. The team is focused on four main goals for the year-long project: 

  • Tell the story of deforestation and conservation in San Martin. 

  • Enhance knowledge of effective investment strategies. 

  • Build capacity for creating compelling pitch books and catalyzing impact investment. 

  • Bolster relationships between the GCF Task Force and the region of San Martin. 

Although the team’s original plan of conducting field work in San Martin got derailed due to COVID-19, the hope is to have future consultants - perhaps another MENV capstone team -  use this research and knowledge to ultimately create and fully complete an investment strategy pitchbook. Travel to San Martin will be key in compiling the future pitchbook which will be used by the San Martin government to secure investment funding for sustainable agriculture production in the region. The team is excited to kick-start a project that will have lasting impact on reducing deforestation in the Amazon.