Tag Archives: poverty

A Conservation Area Full of Communities

A conservation area full of communities (original).

Guest blog by Pati Ruiz Corzo

Sierra Gorda official site

Since 24 years ago, constantly and vigorously, Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda and the alliance of local civil organizations have been weaving solutions to manage a conservation area full of extreme poverty communities that own the natural capital where the jaguar and extraordinary biodiversity find refuge in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve (Mexico) and where the traditional agricultural and livestock practices and governmental programs have caused the serious deterioration of natural resources by providing incentives to start forest fires and extensive grazing that is so out of place.  Ignorance at all levels, generalized inertia, indifference in the face of significant environmental problems, public policies and global mechanisms that are out of context, a society accustomed to letting others take action, the corruption and the weakening of our social fabric, and finally, vital natural resources are diminishing and extreme poverty is growing in local communities.

We have sought to cultivate a citizenry that recognizes the maternity of the Earth and build the practices and skills that allow for innovative management, restoration and conservation of ecosystems; a critical mass of citizens that work to conserve their environment thanks to the active participation of 18,000 kids every month for 24 years in permanent activism for the planet and through every means gaining the involvement of society in general – not leaving one door untouched.

What tools have brought success?  Perseverance, enthusiasm, ownership, joy, faith in the unlimited possibilities of life, love for Nature and kinship with biological diversity, being ever ready to innovate, seeking answers under every rock, “tropicalizing” the tools and the rules, taking risks, gaining experience, having friends at every level and public relations from the bottom to the top, and the undeniable forces of nature which we call family and taking this awareness to every level.

When I connect to abundance and leave behind the daily shocks of a civil society organization´s (CSO) economy that is so overcome by the deficiencies in the official agencies with such mediocre leadership, the Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda organizes to directly work with 42,000 citizens and the tremendous social organizing that must be maintained in action as well as the connection between the two worlds where we operate. We attract public and private funds oriented to sanitation and conservation, water capture, micro-watershed restoration or thousands of small activities all designed to permeate.  A continuous presence of community-based environmental education is the motor of this new mountain culture in the Reserve.  I commercialize a whole basket of products and services provided by these communities in order to increase the economic opportunities being generated through restoration and conservation.  When connected to abundance, I replicate; extend my work area; share my strategies, my feelings for the motherland and my faith in social entrepreneurship.

Translated by: Laura Pérez-Arce

New grassroots systems

Rural grassroots partnerships are building new, sophisticated systems to measure and communicate the multiple products and services provided by healthy and productive communities and ecosystems in high biodiversity areas in order to convince donors and impact investors that social capital and the greater natural capital we all depend upon need their continued support.

When the Sierra Gorda won a 6.7 million dollar fund from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) from 2001 to 2009, the non-profit organization, Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda,  scaled up its impact and grew into a regional institution and a national model for participatory conservation management of the most ecosystem diverse (and second most-populated) natural protected area in Mexico.  To do so, it raised matching funds of four dollars for every GEF dollar and maintained its frugal methods in order to squeeze out every ounce of worth in order to crystallize deep and rooted change.

Short documentary produced about the the Sierra Gorda GEF project:

The evolution of SierraGorda´s bioregional strategy for long-term sustainability required competing for the ever-more restricted philanthropic funds, building partnerships with governmental agencies and establishing several self-financing enterprise. They rolled out a training center to transfer the lessons learned from a quarter century of experience through the Centro Tierra Sierra Gorda, provide technical support for forestry and micro-enterprise management through Bosque Sustentable, and the Sierra Gorda Ecotours office serves community ecolodges to strengthen the local economy. But it is never enough; conservation is never done.

Ashoka: Innovators for the Public and an anonymous donor provided the means to begin the intense experience of building a new methodology to measure and monetize the tangible and intangible impacts of the 169 activities being carried out in the field. Working with the Social Venture Technology Group in 2007, Sierra Gorda began to revolutionize the way it reports and communicates the values and impacts of investing in social and natural capital through a Social and Environmental Return on Investment analysis.  This is a revolution in information management for all three sectors (civil, private and public) and they are responding with interest and support upon receiving the details of how their funding yields greater worth to the local community, the region, and the global ecosystem.

The challenge remains to put natural capital front and center, however. Nature´s absence is loud and clear, even with the new terminology of impact investment. Raising a voice and even a song, Sierra Gorda is making a point that could make a world of difference.