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In brief: WWF and DFCD join forces to reverse degradation of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta 

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Published on: May 13 2022

WWF and Dutch Fund for Climate and Development launch the Mekong Delta Integrated Rice and Aquaculture Project. Plus, early-intervention programme RootED, Sencrop’s fundraise, and Big Society Capital’s survey

The Mekong Delta, which is home to seventeen million people in Vietnam, has seen its riverbed eroded and the livelihoods of its local communities threatened | Photo by Tomáš Malík on Unsplash

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Dutch Fund for Climate and Development (DFCD) have partnered to launch the Mekong Delta Integrated Rice and Aquaculture Project, which aims to reverse the degradation of the Mekong Delta in Southern Vietnam and improve the livelihoods of local farmers. 

The Mekong Delta, which produces two to three rice crops a year and is home to seventeen million people in Vietnam, has seen its riverbed eroded and the livelihoods of its local communities threatened due to intensifying human activities and climate change.   

The project’s aim is to build a more sustainable and climate-resilient food production model that can be scaled and replicated in other Asian river deltas.  

As part of the project, the DFCD has committed €235,000 in grant funding to Minh Phu Seafood Corporation, the country’s largest shrimp producer, to implement a new farming model which will be piloted across five sites during a one year test phase.

The project aims to convert 110 hectares of land used for monoculture, into mixed rice-shrimp aquaculture ponds, restoring the natural sedimentation process of the river bed and by using probiotics and photosynthesis bacteria eliminate the need for harmful antibiotics and chemicals. 

Other partners in the project are TV Food Company Ltd., a rice exporter, the Vietnamese local government of three provinces and Deltares, a Dutch applied research institute into deltas, bringing the total funding to €800,000.   

Early-intervention programme to help children at risk of school exclusion

A pilot programme to provide better support for children and young people at risk of school exclusion has been launched in the coastal town of Ellesmere Port in the North-West of England. 

The pilot, called RootED, has been launched by non-profit Social Finance, local authorities Cheshire West and Chester Council and youth development charity Power2 across three secondary schools.  

It aims to improve outcomes in health and wellbeing and economic prosperity, and reduce the strain on public services and families by employing an-early intervention strategy, which identifies and supports students at risk of educational exclusion. 

Social Finance says that children and young people who experience school exclusion are over-represented in groups with low attainment of GCSE’s, an academic qualification obtained at 15 or 16 years of age, those not in education, employment or training, known as NEETs, those exploited by criminal organisations and those in prison. 

The pilot is the culmination of a three-year project to design a model that better supports children based on in-depth evidence gathering through data analysis, systems mapping and co-production with children and young people. It is being funded by Cheshire West and Chester Council, as well as philanthropic-matched funding from Porticus and the Garfield Weston Foundation.  

Full delivery of the pilot is expected to start in September 2022 with the ambition to scale the model across the wider borough of Ellesmere Port and Neston if successful. 

Agritech firm Sencrop raises $18m to expand to Israel 

Sencrop, the French agricultural technology company, which operates more than 20,000 connected agri-weather stations across Europe, has raised $18m (€17m) in a Series B fundraising round led by JVP, the Israeli venture capital firm. 
 
Sencrop, which operates in over 20 countries and has offices in France, Netherlands, UK, Germany, Spain and Italy, says it will use the funds raised to consolidate its business and accelerate its international expansion towards North America, including with the opening of commercial premises at the International Foodtech Centre in the northern Israeli city of Kiryat Shmona.  

Created in 2016, Sencrop uses the sensors in its weather stations to collect local data and relay it to farmers via a mobile app to help them manage their crops more efficiently. The real-time and predictive data provides information about the micro-climate, water stress, plant growth stages, the risk of disease and pest development conditions, among other things, to help farmers prevent risks, lower costs as well as reduce their environmental impact.  

Other investors in the latest fundraising round include EIT Food, an EU co-funded food innovation initiative, Stellar Impact, a Belgian family fund managed by Telos Impact, SME investors IRD Gestion and existing shareholders Bpifrance, the French public investment bank, investment managers Demeter and the WaterStart Capital venture capital fund.  

70% of UK adults more likely to choose investments with a positive impact 

Research published this week by Big Society Capital, the UK’s social impact investor, reveals that seven out of 10 UK adults say they would be more likely to choose an investment in a fund or organisation if they knew it was having a positive social or environmental impact.  

The survey, which was conducted in January this year, interviewed 2000 UK adults above the age of 18, with at least one investment outside their pension.  It found that, on average, investors would like about a third (35%) of their portfolio invested in funds or organisations making a positive environmental impact and around the same amount (34%), allocated to social impact. 

Competitive returns are the most influential factor when deciding on an impact investment for 46% of respondents, with tax relief from the government the second highest consideration (42.45%), followed by a better understanding of impact investing (42%) and greater transparency on the impact of the investment or return delivered (40%).  

For younger investors, local knowledge of the impact of the investment carries more weight versus financial returns than it does for older age groups, with just 30% of 18 to 24-year-olds citing competitive returns as a deciding factor, compared to over half (55%) of over 55s. Returns become more important with age, with an upward trajectory across all age groups.