By Sheldon Engelhorn, NCI Board of Directors
What comes to mind when I think of an NCI staff member? Humble, passionate, undeterred. Fabián Rodas López, the Cuenca Region Coordinator in southern Ecuador, is no exception.
His family has lived in Cuenca for several generations, where his early years were spent traversing its lush mountains. His father was a civil engineer engaged in road construction projects around Ecuador, which took them to the coast, where Fabián spent his free time fishing and enjoying the outdoors. By high school, he had returned to Cuenca where he planned to study engineering. But during a visit back to his coastal haunts, he discovered that the streams he loved had been degraded by road construction, mining and oil extraction.
Saddened by this, but motivated to explore his power to protect the environment, he pursued biology and was later accepted to a master’s program in Canada. When he didn’t receive the scholarship he needed, his disappointment was short lived. He had met the staff of NCI-Ecuador’s headquarters office in Loja, who said, “Why not stay and take advantage of the conservation opportunities here?”
After serving as a senior staff member for nearly a decade, Fabián moved back to Cuenca, where for the past five years he has been at the helm of NCI’s strategy to quell deforestation and preserve water supplies in the Andean corridor – known as a global biodiversity hotspot. On a recent trip to Ecuador, I got to see him work his magic firsthand. To date, Fabián and his team have protected nearly 350,000 acres and played an integral role in creating the 2.4 million acre UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Just last month, the 215,000 acre Gualaquiza Municipal Reserve was declared, shielding a stunning array of biodiversity from the pressures of deforestation.
I am no longer surprised by the remarkable capacity of NCI staff to achieve great things while operating with incredible efficiency. For Fabián and his team, it’s just business as usual.
Board of Directors