Martin von Hildebrand
Martin von Hildebrand has dedicated the last 40 years to strengthening indigenous communities and conservation of the Amazon. Before becoming President of Gaia Amazonas, Martin moved to the Colombian Amazon to live with and learn from indigenous groups. Soon after, he focused on shaping laws in the Colombian Interior Ministry in the President’s office. Martin is currently coordinating the Andes Amazon Atlantic Corridor initiative, which aims to safeguard the ecosystem connectivity and the environmental services in the northern region of the Amazon as a concrete solution to tackle climate change. Martin is the recipient of numerous awards including Right Livelihood Award, Operation Hope's Man of the Year and the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship.
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- Gaia Amazonas
- Non-profit Social Enterprise
- Social Innovation
- Areas of Impact
- Latin America, Colombia
Many different rainforest conservation programme models have been carried out in the last few decades. International funding has poured into the region, but often with little effect. Martin von Hildebrand was one of the first to recognize the key role of indigenous communities in preserving their own environment. The Gaia Amazonas Foundation helps these communities gain control of their territories, livelihoods and development based on their traditional knowledge and cultural values.
Under von Hildebrand’s leadership, the foundation has secured 24.5 million hectares of Amazon rainforest from the Colombian government for the 60,000 indigenous inhabitants that live there. In addition, it has helped set up: 16 local indigenous organizations, with legal status and exercising local governance; 84 indigenous community schools; nine indigenous health programmes based on traditional medicine; and official spaces for negotiations between indigenous organizations and the government, which has led to the decentralization of state programmes and joint policy decisions.
Gaia Amazonas is also active in a number of networks, including the Consolidation of the Colombian Amazon (COAMA). Leading the Cooperation and Alliance in the North and West Amazon (CANOA) initiative, Gaia Amazonas has improved transboundary coordination between Brazilian and Venezuelan NGOs and indigenous organizations for the conservation of 62 million hectares of Amazon rainforest. The foundation is also a driving member of the Amazon Regional Articulation (ARA) initiative, which develops joint regional strategies to preserve the ecosystem and mitigate climate change. Gaia Amazonas has transferred its experience to several countries in Africa (Kenya, Ethiopia, Botswana, Ghana and South Africa) through the Gaia Foundation UK and the African Biodiversity Network.