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 2014 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 (third 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

Sacred Headwaters Campaign - $50,000

The Sacred Headwaters Campaign seeks to create a No-Go Zone for extractive industries within the heart of Ecuador’s upper Amazon, where multiple indigenous peoples rely on the fragile balance of these ecosystems and where scientists have recorded some of the highest rates of biodiversity on Earth. The overarching vision of this campaign is for the rainforests of the Napo-Marañon to be protected as a globally significant eco-region. The goal is to gradually form a mosaic of mostly indigenous titled lands and protected areas that are off-limits to industrial scale resource extraction. The Sacred Headwaters campaign aims to support the formation of an indigenous alliance at the level of the Napo-Marañon watershed to strengthen indigenous peoples’ capacity to recuperate, legalize, govern and protect their sacred ancestral territories.

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. It continues to help steer the  Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA).

Environmental Investigation Agency

General Operating Support - $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, as it did in 2013 with the investigation of the illegal timber trade in Russia, China, and the U.S. In 2014, it will help oversee the Obama Administration’s recent ban on the commercial sale of ivory in the U.S.

Fundación Cordillera Tropical

Incentivizing private land conservation and restoration in Sangay National Park, Ecuador - $35,000

Founded in 2000, Fundación Cordillera Tropical (FCT) is a legally recognized Ecuadorian non-profit dedicated to empowering local communities to protect and sustainably manage their natural resources in the Ecuadorian Andes. FCT combines extensive field research, grassroots participation techniques, and conservation biology expertise in the implementation of programs that promote private land conservation and land owner education and training. In 2014, FCT will help implement a new conservation program that engages private landowners in forest conservation and pasture restoration in the buffer zone of Sangay National Park. The program will promote habitat corridors, protect watersheds, and sequester carbon.

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.


Valuation of the Extractive Production, as an Instrument for Consolidating Protected Areas in the Region of Terra do Meio / Pará - $45,000 (second payment of a two-year grant)

The Institute of Forest Management and Certification & Agriculture (Imaflora) is a nonprofit civil association, founded in Piracicaba, São Paulo in 1995. Its mission is to encourage changes in the forestry and agriculture sectors, and was born under the premise that the best way to conserve tropical forests is to give them a sustainable economic value, coupled with responsible management practices. With its “Valuation of the Extractive Production, as an Instrument for Consolidating Protected Areas in the Region of Terra do Meio / Pará,” Imaflora aims to provide market support to local farmers for selling their sustainably sourced products in the Terra do Meio”= region. The project began in 2009 as a partnership with ISA (Instituto Socioambiental), and focused on three reserves: Resex Riozinho do Anfrísio, Rio Xingu, and Iriri, which together comprise 1.2 million hectares and have a population of about 120 families.


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 published on Mongabay.com under an open Creative Commons license that allows for re-publishing elsewhere. SRIs planned for 2014-2015 include exploring the effects of Brazil’s crack down on deforestation in adjacent areas and answer the question: Is Brazil’s success displacing deforestation to other Amazon countries? These projects will also enhance the journalist’s understanding of the topic, turning him or her into an issue-area expert.

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 by expanding its training courses in tree identification for professional woodsmen and developing tests for candidates for an Amazonian register of master woodsmen. Changes in policy and practice of woodsmen training 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

People and Plants International (PPI) is an independent non-profit 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 - $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 third phase, Pronatura will continue the development of a biodiversity interpretation center and 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 nonviolent 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.

Root Capital

General Operating Support for activities in Ecuador, Mexico, and Nicaragua - $75,000 (second 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. In Q1 and Q2 2013, Root Capital has disbursed more than $19 million in credit to 106 businesses.

Sustainable Agriculture Network

General Operating Support - $60,000

The Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) is a coalition of conservation organizations founded in 1997 that promotes productive agriculture, biodiversity conservation and sustainable livelihoods by creating and helping farmers implement social and environmental best practice standards. These standards are applicable to agricultural farms in over 100 tropical crops. Farms that comply with the standards are able to use the Rainforest Alliance™ seal on their products and benefit from the market advantages associated with the seal. The overarching goal of SAN is to strengthen its member organizations so that they are better able to support farmers in the implementation of sustainable agriculture best practices.

The Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice

Environmental Sustainability Program - $15,000

Founded in 2003, the Vance Center is part of the New York City Bar Association, and mobilizes the global legal profession to promote social justice, human rights and the rule of law. The Vance Center established the Environmental Sustainability Program in 2011 to provide a range of legal resources in support of environmental protection in Latin America. The Working Group engages environmental lawyers from international firms in New York City and Latin America, in consultation with environmental organizations focusing on the region, to identify systemic, cross-border challenges, and design and implement multi-pronged strategies for addressing them. Regulatory reform, collaborative advocacy and private-public partnership are strategies that succeeded in the United States, and now can start in Latin America, to promote remediation, conservation and conscientious stewardship.

Wildlife Conservation Society

Improving Rural Livelihoods through Natural Resource Conservation in the Pantanal of Brazil and Yasuní National Park, Ecuador - $50,000 (second payment of a two-year grant)

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. It does so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. In the Brazilian Pantanal and Cerrado and Ecuadorian Yasuní National Park, WCS works to design and implement economically productive activities that are sustainable, as well as conservation oriented. In the Pantanal, WCS works with local landowners and farm workers to adopt ranching systems that increase cattle productivity while reducing deforestation and conversion of natural grasslands.

Grantees by Year:   2015  |  2014  |  2013