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Martha "Pati" Ruiz Corzo

36 years ago, Martha "Pati" Ruiz Corzo sought a simpler way of life and moved with her husband and two sons from Querétaro city where she taught music in the JFKennedy School, to a rural community in the Sierra Gorda mountains. Co-founded Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda IAP in 1987 with local citizens to raise awareness about the biodiversity, the threats and the grassroots movement to build a regenerative future the region. In 1997, she was appointed federal director of the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve by President Zedillo, serving until 2008 when she returned to the civil society organization located in Jalpan de Serra, Querétaro. The result has been the creation of a grassroots environmental movement that has transformed natural resource management practices of the local population and re-oriented public investment from government authorities through environmental education, solid waste management, regenerative practices in soils and forests, sustainable rural tourism, community microenterprise networks, and voluntary carbon offsets for the private sector and subnational climate action. Boardmember: Forest Trends (Washington DC, USA) and Leaders pour la Paix (Paris, France). Selected Awards: 2001 Schwab Foundation; 1996 Ashoka; 2002 Rolex Associate Laureate; 2012 National Geographic Buffet Award for Conservation Leadership & Nat Geo World Legacy Award 2017; UNWTO Innovative Tourism 2018; UNEP Champion of the Earth 2013.

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Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda IAP
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Non-profit Social Enterprise
Nature and Biodiversity; Sustainable Development
Areas of Impact
Latin America, Mexico

Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda IAP

Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda was established to reverse environmental degradation and encourage sustainable use of the region's rich natural resources. Local inhabitants are directly involved in conservation and economic activities within Sierra Gorda, which includes commercial tree planting (5 million trees have been planted), soil regeneration, protection of springs and micro-watersheds, sustainable ranching and farming, and ecotourism. A project in the reserve also promotes compensation and payment to local forest owners for environmental services, including initiating carbon offset sales under a voluntary mechanism.

Through Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda a number of conservation and social networks have been formed, which includes local teachers, parents, students and the wider Sierra Gorda community. Together they take part in community surveillance groups, voluntary fire fighting brigades and run 120 recycling storage centres. Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda’s public education campaign teaches 23,000 children a year about conservation and local development. In addition, Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda’s Earth Centre offers a variety of training programmes and shares its experience in natural resource management. Through the centre the organization promotes the replication of successful projects elsewhere in Mexico and Latin America.


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