Inspiration And Action (co-winner)Martha Isabel Ruiz Corzo
Community-Based Conservation Advocate
Martha Isabel Ruiz Corzo is responsible for achieving Biosphere Reserve status for the Sierra Gorda under an exceptional public-private co-management system. Through her work and advocacy, 33 per cent of the State of Querétaro is now protected as a Biosphere Reserve. In 2008, the Sierra Gorda in the neighboring state of Guanajuato also achieved Biosphere Reserve status, resulting in another 280,000 hectares coming under conservation management.
Her success comes from her innovative approach to finding sustainable development solutions for poor communities that are often burdened with the costs associated with conserving nature. But through Pati's efforts, they are now environmental service providers and derive part of their livelihood from protecting local ecosystems.
Pati was responsible for the federal administration of the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve for 14 years. Before that, she spent eight years as a UN Development Programme Coordinator, gathering accolades and securing cash and in-kind resources in excess of US$45 million. She has drawn considerable national and international attention to the region and has raised significant resources from the private and public sectors to support a “conservation economy”.
Over the past 25 years, Pati and Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda (GESG) have engaged more than 34,000 people in community environmental education programs, solid waste management, soil restoration, productive diversification, and conservation. Pati and her team have developed simple replication strategies through online and on-site courses provided by the Earth Center training center. The “Learning and Teaching for a Sustainable Future UNESCO-Sierra Gorda” diploma is a certified course that teaches the lessons learned in the SGBR to students graduating from the training center. In 2010 alone, the course served 900 students.
She is also a pioneer in valuing natural capital. Sierra Gorda obtained carbon offsets validated by the Rainforest Alliance under the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance and the Voluntary Carbon Standard, which is the first validated forest project of its kind in Mexico. These tools have been adopted by the state Government and are also in the process of being validated by the National Forestry Commission in order to be easily replicated in other parts of the country.
Hundreds of families in Sierra Gorda receive more than US$2 million from the sale of carbon credits. Furthermore, Pati has spearheaded the development of a “Basket of Ecosystem Services and Products,” a brand new regional catalogue of environmental products and services.