Ecoloans to organized communities for vital watershed land purchases and forest restoration. Eco-interest in lieu of monetary interest.

NI partners with community water management associations in Costa Rica to protect potable water resources and tropical forests.

Photo of Pablo Richard
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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name

Nectandra Institute (NI)

Year founded


Initiative stage

  • Scaling (the solution has passed the previous stages and is growing its impact on a regional or global scale)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $100k - $250k

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 10,000 - 50,000

Organization type

  • Nonprofit, NGO, or citizen sector

Secondary Focus Area

  • Rural development

Headquarters location: Country

  • Costa Rica

Headquarters location: City

San Ramon, Naranjo and Zarcero towns. Alajuela Province, Costa Rica, Central America.

Location(s) of impact

Balsa River watershed, Central Valley . Area of 280 Km 2. Currently partnering with 13 communities. Planning to expand to adjacent watersheds.


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Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

Water quality and quantity are affected by deforestation. In our target area, dairy/beef ranching, cultivation of tropical plants, and other agro-industries are the main causes of forest loss and contamination of freshwater sources. The communities in the region are diverse, but all must provide clean potable water. These communities are especially vulnerable to changing land-uses, necessitating them to find ways to purchase and do ecological restoration on those properties but they lack sufficient financial resources.

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

Through ecoloans, NI enables our partner communities to take ownership of the land on which their sources of water reside, to restore the forest on it, and to improve protection for freshwater springs as well as groundwater recharge areas. We are assuring community water resources are protected for generations to come. Instead of paying monetary interest on the ecoloans, the benefited water associations repay the principal plus a negotiated eco-interest consisting of labor, time, and other resources toward the reforestation, watershed management, and progress monitoring on the respective purchased properties. NI provides free technical support & assistance throughout the loan term. Ecoloans create shared value between NI and our partner communities by helping us mutually achieve forest conservation and water resources protection.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

Since 2007, NI has helped 13 water associations invest US $1.26 million in the acquisition and protection of 227 hectares to guarantee water resources for approximately 16,000 people. The impact of the loans on the communities was immediate. The ASADAS became owners of permanent assets critical for the health and welfare of the community. Through ownership they can now do what was impossible before — to rid sources of contaminants (e.g. cattle and agrochemicals) within the watershed property, establish and execute optimal management plans, keep out development and regenerate native forests through prudent tree transplantation. Through NI’s educational workshops, members of the communities learn firsthand the basics of good watershed management, get training in water and stream scientific monitoring, and become part of the Ecoloans Network. NI carefully cultivated the latter by inaugurating a month-long annual water and forest protection awareness celebration, now in its 10th edition.

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

The sustainability of the ecoloans initiative depends on the financial health of the lender and borrowers. Both hedge their financial vulnerability by using a combination of a steady income stream and supplemental fundraising. For the community borrowers, the water users’ fees are the primary source of ecoloans repayments. Additional project costs are raised through livestock auctions and other fund raising activities. NI relies on a combination of private philanthropic support from several sources: a) tax deductible US donor-designated donations to the Ecoloans Capital Fund, b) separate donations for the administration of the ecoloans, c) regular principal repayment. There is no stronger bond than a partnership through the shared financial burden toward mutual goals.

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

The Ecoloans Initiative’s uniqueness is (ironically) multifaceted. It springs from the usage of revolving loans (not new), that are interest free (not new), but coupled to eco-interests (perhaps new) that are designed to produce lasting educational and social benefits for a broad segment of rural communities. The initiative’s financial effectiveness is associated with the recyclability of the revolving loans. Every dollar repaid is recycled into new ecoloans as many times as inflation allows.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

NI realized that lasting forest stewardship could not be accomplished without the involvement of our Costa Rican neighbors. In searching for a mechanism to recruit them, our founders met the president of an organized community, who mentioned that his had just been forced to abandon a contaminated spring for one located 16 km further. He lamented the trouble and the expense of the move and wished his community could find a way to prevent another occurrence by buying the property on which the new spring was located. Aha! NI needed local partners, who better than the community representative standing in front of us, asking for help after a painful experience. Within a few short weeks, we presented the ecoloan concept to them and they accepted! They became the proud owner of the property, and also the first in a series of loyal partners.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

  • Upon recommendation from others

Attachments (1)

Nestle Prize application, FINAL.pdf

Nectandra Institute / Nestle / Ashoka

1 comment

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Photo of Sebastian Gatica

Really interesting initiative Pablo! Keep up the hard work.