In the early 1990s, Ivan Gayler, a San Diego businessman, was traveling with his daughter in South America. Flying over the Amazon, he saw a web of logging roads and fires burning lush forests. “The world’s last great ecosystem was disappearing before my eyes,” he said. The sight brought him to tears and moved him to action, and Nature and Culture International was born.
Saving the Palo Santo Tree
In the endangered tropical dry forest of southern Ecuador, the Palo Santo tree provides much needed income to a population with limited resources. For countless generations, harvesting the tree’s valuable oils has been accomplished through deforestation. With the help of NCI, the community is now able to harvest the tree’s oil from the Palo Santo fruit, leaving the trees intact to grow, reproduce, and renew the remaining forests. In June 2014, the project was awarded the UNDP’s Equator Prize for its outstanding effectiveness in reducing poverty through conservation and sustainable business practices.
Conserving the Páramo as a Vital Water Resource
The páramo is a unique high-altitude grassland that provides the people of Ecuador with the most valuable resource of all: water. Despite the importance of this ecosystem, protecting it from encroaching development is no easy task. In 2013, NCI served as the lead catalyst towards the creation of the Cajas Biosphere Reserve — a project that the required the cooperation of more than 30 municipalities along with regional and national government officials. The project was successfully brokered by NCI and the new UNESCO Biosphere Reserve spans nearly 2.4 million acres of highly-threatened landscape.