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A deal between two environmental organisations has created an investment model that could generate billions of dollars for developing nations and preserve forests.

The deal, struck by the Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development and environmental investment company Canopy Capital, was announced at the Biodiversity and Finance Conference in New York, United States last month (27 March).

It aims to attract private investment to rainforest conservation by placing a market value on the benefits of Guyana's rainforest ecosystem and the services Iworkama provides in maintaining it. The aim is to make the organisation financially independent and support its ongoing research.

"For the first time investors will pay for the ecosystem services produced by a rainforest, including rainfall generation, climate regulation, biodiversity maintenance and water storage-utilities with global significance, which are vanishing as forests fall," Iwokrama states in a press release.

Iwokrama, a rainforest management organisation, overseas a one million-acre area of rainforest in Guyana in the heart of the Guiana Shield, one of four rainforest systems left in the world.

Funds secured from the deal will allow Iworkama to continue managing the area, and support the livelihood of the 7,000 people living in and around the forest.

"Forests do much more for us than just store carbon. We should move beyond emissions-based trading to measure and place a value on all the services they provide," says Iwokrama in the press release.

Last year (October 2007) President Bharrat Jagdeo said Guyana would be prepared to cut back on deforestation if it received financial concessions matching those the country would gain from logging.

The deal comes in the wake of calls for the successor to the Kyoto Protocol to reward countries that conserve their forests.

The forests of the Guiana Shield generate rainfall that services the production of agricultural commodities throughout northern Latin America and the southern Caribbean.

"As atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide rise, emissions will carry an ever mounting cost and conservation will acquire real value. The investment community is beginning to wake up to this," said Canopy Capital director Hylton Philipson at the deal's announcement.