The Biodiversity Program of the Overbrook Foundation supports programs in Latin America, with a specific geography of Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico and, in certain cases, other parts of Mesoamerica. Within those areas, there is a special emphasis on projects that engage local communities and promote sustainable livelihoods.

Below are the Foundation’s 2013 grantees through its biodiversity portfolio.

Amazon Conservation Team

Linking Human Rights and Environmental Protection in Colombia: Designing a first contact contingency plan with isolated tribes in the Amazon - $17,500 (second payment of a three-year grant, together with the Human Rights program)

The Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) works in partnership with indigenous peoples to conserve biodiversity and culture in South America, and is committed to building trusting relationships with indigenous and agrarian communities, enabling them to play a focal role in the protection of the Amazon. ACT proposes to safeguard the rights and livelihoods of isolated indigenous groups—tribes without contact with Western society—and biodiversity within the Puré River and Cahuinarí National Parks and adjacent indigenous reserves in the Colombian Amazon by developing contingency plans for uncontacted tribes in the very likely situation of eventual contact with national society. The contiguous project area—the Northwest Amazon Biocultural Conservation Corridor—comprises more than 22 million acres of uninterrupted rainforests between the Caquetá and Putumayo Rivers in Colombia, bordering Peru and Brazil.

Amazon Watch

Rainforest Protection Program in Ecuador - $40,000 (second payment of a two-year grant)

The Ecuador Rainforest Protection Program seeks to (1) protect the Ecuadorian Amazon’s highly biodiverse tropical rainforests from multiple threats, including oil and gas drilling and massive transportation projects, and (2) simultaneously advance territorial rights for the region’s indigenous peoples and championing more ecologically sound economic development. Amazon Watch is working on three main objectives: (1) prevent the oil industry’s expansion into indigenous territories in the Southern Ecuadorian Amazon; (2) stop or significantly scale back the 11th Round oil auction for new oil leases; (3) convince Ivanhoe to leave Block 20 heavy crude oil project; and (4) Support Yasuní-ITT Initiative, which would keep some 800 million barrels of crude permanently underground if the international community helps offset half of Ecuador’s forgone revenues.

Center for Responsible Travel (CREST)

The Sinaloa Sur Initiative: Protecting Critical Ecosystems through Development of Sustainable Coastal Tourism - $20,000

The Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) is a research and advocacy organization whose mission is “to promote tourism policies and practices globally so that local communities may thrive and steward their cultural resources and biodiversity.” The Sinaloa Sur Initiative, begun in 2012 and covering some 100 kilometers of largely undeveloped coastline in Northwestern Mexico on the eastern shore of the Gulf of California, is an ambitious sustainable tourism project, for which CREST is providing tourism expertise. It is spearheaded by Conselva, an environmental NGO based in Sinaloa and CODESIN, the state’s business council. The project’s goals are to ensure environmental protection of the Marismas Nacionales wetlands and watershed (a Ramsar site) and the coastal waters through developing high value rather than high volume sustainable coastal tourism that incorporates climate change strategies.


Protecting Ecosystems and Communities from Dirty Mining - $35,000

Earthworks is dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the impacts of irresponsible mineral and energy development while seeking sustainable solutions. Earthworks fulfills its mission by working with communities and grassroots groups to reform government policies, improve corporate practices, influence investment decisions and encourage responsible materials sourcing and consumption. Earthworks exposes the health, environmental, economic, social and cultural impacts of mining and energy extraction through work informed by sound science. This year, it also helped launch the Initiative for Responsible Mining (IRMA).

Environmental Investigation Agency

Continued Work Leveraging the U.S. Lacey Act and Promoting Forest Conservation in Latin America - $55,000

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) uses pioneering undercover investigations to expose environmental crimes and campaigns for solutions to illegal logging and associated wood trade, illegal wildlife trade and other threats to our global environment, including climate change. The organization also identifies shortcomings in national and international laws, as well as in corporate natural resource sourcing and consumption habits, and promotes enforcement of the Lacey Act.

Grupo Ecologico Sierra Gorda I.A.P.

Strategies to Conserve the Bio-Capacity of the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, Mexico - $25,000

Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda I.A.P (GESGIAP) is a grassroots organization founded in 1989 by a group of local Mexican citizens frustrated with the degradation of their ecologically vibrant lands. Its objective is to conserve the rich biodiversity of the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve as well as build a sustainable economy based on environmental education, payments for environmental services, and the operation of a network of private nature reserves. By 2000, GESGIAP had successfully achieved a region-wide consensus to convert one-third of the Querétaro state (about 1 million acres) into the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve. GESGIAP’s primary focus is now on the conservation of high-biodiversity ecosystems and economic development through soil regeneration. In addition, GESGIAP will operate the conservation of nine private reserves as well as the surveillance and monitoring of forests under payments for ecosystem services, so no additional cattle ranching and logging occurs.


Support for the Special Reporting Initiatives Program (SRI) and an SRI on “Innovative Models for Biodiversity Conservation” - $50,000

Founded in 1999, Mongabay is a leading environmental web site with a special focus on tropical forests. In 2012 Mongabay launched its non-profit arm, Mongabay.org, to facilitate in-depth reporting on key issues affecting forests and the communities that depend on them. Mongabay.org’s Special Reporting Initiatives Program on “Innovation in Biodiversity Conservation” will enable a professional journalist to do a series of articles on a particular issue. The resulting articles will be published on Mongabay.com under an open Creative Commons license that allows for re-publishing elsewhere. The goal of the first SRI is to generate high-quality reporting on new models for biodiversity conservation, promoting awareness and discussion. The project will also enhance the journalist’s understanding of the topic, turning him or her into an issue-area expert.

Nature & Culture International

Conservation Fund for the Establishment and Management of Protected Areas by Municipal Governments in Southern Ecuador - $45,000

Nature and Culture International (NCI) is a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving biological and cultural diversity in Ecuador and Peru. The Conservation Fund in Southern Ecuador focuses on the establishment and management of protected areas by municipal governments located in southern Ecuador. The municipal reserves are being created in four Provinces and will total an area of approximately 87,500 acres. This project will focus on supporting the municipalities to create reserve areas to conserve their threatened ecosystems, which rank among the highest in the world in biodiversity importance: the dry Tumbesian forests of southern Ecuador, the Andean cloud forests and paramo, foothill Amazonian forests, and the pacific foothill forests and wetlands in the El Oro province.

New York Botanical Garden

Professional Woodsmen for Managed Forests in Amazonian Brazil - $50,000

Following the successful implementation of a second Training Course for Amazonian Woodsmen in 2012, the Garden proposes to extend the project’s scope and scale by continuing the course in the Saracá-Taquera National Forest in eastern Amazonia and bringing human and institutional resources from eastern Amazonia into the project. Changes in policy and practice at this scale have the potential to affect the sustainable forestry of over millions of hectares of forest in the Brazilian Amazon. Recently, the mateiros (woodsmen) training program was adopted by the Brazilian Forest Service, with the aim to standardize the training process.

People and Plants International

Community-based forest management and conservation in Central Mexico: building links, networks and capacities - $60,000 (second payment of a two-year grant)

People and Plants International (PPI) is an independent nonprofit formed by a network of specialists and practitioners with decades of experience helping local organizations and communities better use, manage, and conserve biodiversity amidst the challenges of ongoing social and environmental change. PPI believes that cultural diversity is inherently linked to biological diversity and that effective stewardship of the Earth must involve local people. The organization also believes traditional knowledge systems are critical to manage and conserve threatened landscapes and adapt to global change. PPI’s long-term involvement with individual sites, communities and organizations allows the group to respond to problems, needs, and priorities on the ground in timely, effective, and creative ways.

Pronatura Noroeste A.C.

Protection of the Cabo Pulmo National Park Region, Baja California Sur, México: Workplan for 2014 - $50,000

The mission of Pronatura Noroeste, shared by all the regional chapters of Pronatura is “the conservation of the flora, fauna and priority ecosystems, to promote the development of society in harmony with nature.” Pronatura has been focusing its efforts on the Cabo Pulmo (CP) region, located in the southeast corner of the Baja California Peninsula, which holds the only coral reef in the Sea of Cortes and was designated as a National Park in June 1995. The whole region was the target of the “Cabo Cortes” project, which intended to develop 5000 hectares of pristine sand dunes and dry forest desert vegetation to establish 18,000 hotel rooms, three golf courses, marinas, and an airport. The proposal was put on hold by President Calderon in June 2012. In its proposed second phase, Pronatura will collaborate in the construction of a new, integrated vision for sustainable tourism development in the CP region.

Rainforest Action Network

Rainforest Agribusiness Campaign - $40,000

Rainforest Action Network’s (RAN) mission is to campaign on behalf of forests, their inhabitants and the natural systems that sustain life. The organization transforms the global marketplace through grassroots organizing, education and non-violent direct action. RAN directs hard-hitting, long-term campaigns that create lasting solutions by inspiring corporations to embrace a deeper commitment to environmental and social justice. It also places great emphasis on building grassroots movements that advocate for more responsible corporate behavior and leadership. By convincing key industry leaders such as Home Depot, Kinko’s, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and others to adopt environmental policies, Rainforest Action Network builds into its strategy a strong potential for replication among the industries most significantly impacting the planet. This year, one of its goals is to convince Cargill and other companies to adopt sustainable palm oil policies.

Rainforest Alliance

Achieve Conservation and Community Development through Healthy Sustainable Tourism Destinations - $75,000 (third payment of a three-year grant)

The Rainforest Alliance works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior. It uses the power of markets to arrest the major drivers of deforestation and environmental destruction: timber extraction, agricultural expansion, cattle ranching, and tourism. By linking sustainable businesses to conscientious consumers, who identify their goods and services through the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal and Rainforest Alliance Verified™ mark, it underscores that sustainable practices can help businesses thrive in the modern economy.

Root Capital

General Operating Support for activities in Ecuador, Mexico, and Nicaragua - $75,000 (first payment of a two-year grant)

Root Capital is a social investment fund that uses the tools of finance—including access to capital and financial management training— to support community-based enterprises that promote grassroots economic development and environmental stewardship in the developing world. It serves small and growing businesses (SGBs) rooted in rural, low-income communities in Latin America and Africa. These SGBs bring together hundreds and often thousands of farmers, creating sustainable livelihoods for them and their families. Root Capital plays an important role in unlocking SGBs’ potential to facilitate small-scale producers’ adoption of climate-smart practices that improve rural livelihoods and conserve natural resources. As of Q3 2012, Root Capital has disbursed more than $462 million in credit to 405 businesses.

Grantees by Year:   2015  |  2014  |  2013