This past April, we had the pleasure of hosting a special guest, conservationist and indigenous rights activist Fernando Recancoj, in the US!
Fernando joined us from Totonicapán, Guatemala, where he works for EcoLogic as a field technician. He coordinates with our local partner 48 Cantones, an indigenous-led, community-based organization, in a joint effort to conserve a 52,000-acre highland forest in Totonicapán.
He oversees efforts to restore and protect ancient forests, managing reforestation and community education efforts, and coordinating a fuel-efficient stove program and a campaign to prevent illegal logging. He works directly with a centuries-old Maya Q’iche’ council to analyze and address threats to the forest and the people who depend on it. Fernando had the opportunity to present at Duke University’s Kenan Institute for Ethics on April 12. Fernando had been working closely with former EcoLogic Intern and Duke Masters Student Annie Spaulding to help her with research on alternatives to payment for ecosystem services in the Totonicapán area. This work is of global importance, helping redefine what payment for ecosystem services can look like in diverse contexts, adapting valuation to cultural conditions and local values.
In Boston, Fernando presented to a group of friends at a dinner hosted by EcoLogic Ambassador Kevin Batt and also visited Cell Signaling Technologies, a corporate donor who invited Fernando to present during their Climate Week. Fernando also spoke with Boston-based radio station WBUR and came to EcoLogic’s headquarters in Cambridge to talk with friends and supporters in our network—Cultural Survival, Essential Partners, and members of our board. An avid runner and baseball fan, we made sure Fernando took some time out on the weekend to see the Boston Marathon and a Red Sox game.
EcoLogic believes in connecting our supporters with the work we do on the ground, and having Fernando here allowed many people in our network to hear more about the challenges and triumphs of conservation and indigenous leadership in Totonicapán. Fernando’s involvement with academics and researchers at Duke allows EcoLogic to promote community-based conservation solutions that seek to include and empower local people in conservation plans and processes. This helps ensure that conservation initiatives benefit from active, local leadership and involvement in protecting and restoring their natural ecosystems.