Wednesday, February 10, 2010

NGO Profile: Eco-Bolivia/Madidi Travel

Eco Bolivia is one of the oldest and best-known conservation organizations in Bolivia. Their work focuses on the conservation in the Madidi National Park region of the Amazon Rainforest and the sustainable development of communities in the region.
One of their most important victories was the establishment of the Madidi National Park in 1995, which covers fifteen million hectares and contains an unmatched level biodiversity.

With their partner organization, Madidi Travel, Eco-Bolivia focuses on on-the-ground research and legislative lobbying for federal protection of vital land. Their specialists and guides have charted a course that includes opening up the Madidi forest area to international scientists and tourism to generate revenue and awareness with the central and immutable goal of conserving the forest and protecting all its life forms. Madidi Travel is widely considered the premier eco-tourism outfit in Bolivia; when the American National Geographic did a cover story about the forest in 2000, it was Eco-Bolivia’s staff that guided the reporters.
While Eco-Bolivia and Madidi Travel have built international partnerships and conditionally encouraged openness, the organizations remain fiercely committed to sustainable conservation grounded in the people and realities of Bolivia. On their website, they note that “True conservation work requires on the field work, not glamorous studies and publications resulting from brief forays to the area from those who live in the cities, studies that do not reflect the reality of the conditions of the local population and that are used for others to patent the flora and fauna of the area (based on local knowledge), leaving the original inhabitants of the area in conditions of poverty. True conservation work is risky, tiring, and requires dealing with conflicts with economic interest groups such as mining companies, lumber companies, iols companies , land harders, etc…”
Eco-Bolivia activist and former Madidi Travel director Rosa Maria Ruiz has received multiple international accolades for her conservation and community organizing work. However, Ruiz and the organization have also been subject to accusations of cultural exploitation and government sanction, and have been victims of several yet-unsolved burnings of eco-lodges.

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