The Sustainable Agriculture Network’s Board of Directors is composed of eight dedicated conservation professionals who also serve as Executive Directors of SAN founding member organizations. Many of these individuals have contributed to the SAN’s rich history through committed involvement in the Network’s growth in the past two decades and continue to support the evolution of the SAN into a global network.
Romeo Domínguez, Director
SAN Board President
Pronatura Sur, Mexico
Since 2001, Romeo Domínguez has headed Pronatura Chiapas — recently re-named Pronatura Sur, in view of the group’s conservation leadership in southern Mexico. A branch of the leading Mexican nonprofit group Pronatura, Pronatura Sur works to protect cultural and biological diversity in the southern states, which have record numbers of both. The group manages protected areas, conducts research and helps rural and indigenous people improve their farming and manage forest resources in a sustainable way.
An ornithologist by training and a founding member of Pronatura, Domínguez takes great pride in his work to improve the environment of his native country. “Pronatura Sur and the Rainforest Alliance are complementary,” he says, “and we have made and improved community conservation and development projects in an innovative way.” While Domínguez worries that the conservation struggle is being lost, he holds out hope that global climate change, the loss of natural resources and species extinction will lead governments to adopt decisive environmental policies.
“We need to continue to innovate new ways to get commitments from the world’s decision makers and include responsible industries, religious institutions and governments to consolidate connections that will allow us to globally scale up our results in sustainable development,” he says. “Until then, we will continue acting locally to balance the effect of unsustainable practices on our people, culture and nature.”
Elsa Matilde Escobar, Director
SAN Board Vice-President
Fundación Natura, Colombia
With conservation projects throughout Colombia, including the Chocó region of the Pacific Coast, the eastern Andes mountains and the Colombian Amazon, Fundación Natura works with government agencies to support and enlarge the country’s protected areas, with communities to improve management of natural resources and with companies to reduce their environmental impacts. Fundación Natura also conducts ecological research and develops conservation strategies.
Director Elsa Matilde Escobar, a chemist and mathematician by training, has headed Fundación Natura for the last decade, working for conservation and better living standards in Colombia.
“Certification has helped thousands of farmers and their families to adopt sustainable practices and improve their quality of life,” she says. “Working in conservation, I’m able to contribute my grain of sand toward the construction of a better country and a more livable world — that is to say, to seek balance between local development and biodiversity conservation.”
Mauricio Voivodic, Director
SAN Board Treasurer
Instituto de Manejo e Certificação Florestal e Agrícola (IMAFLORA), Brazil
In 1996, Brazil’s Forestry and Agricultural Management Institute (Portuguese acronym IMAFLORA) was established to develop farm and forestry certification guidelines. Director Luis Fernando Guedes worked with the organization in its early years and returned to take the helm after pursuing a Ph.D. in agricultural science. He notes that the strength of the SAN, which IMAFLORA helped found, is based on the ability of each member to enhance the impacts of the others.
“It is impossible to work alone facing the issues we do,” he reflects. “We take advantage of the knowledge and experiences each one has and learn to support each other in our development.” In Brazil, the issues include rampant deforestation and water pollution as well as the poor quality of life in urban areas. “We’re showing it’s possible to have a better world...there are no simple solutions, but we’re trying to find and implement some every day,” says Voivodic.
Alcides Andrade, Director
Instituto para la Cooperación y Autodesarrollo (ICADE), Honduras
The Institute for Cooperation and Self-development (ICADE) works to alleviate poverty by providing housing, credit and job training among several other environmental and social welfare services. Executive Director Alcides Andrade, a business manager with a Masters degree in Agribusiness, is one of ICADE’s founders. His work includes organizing communities and other activities to promote the equitable development of the Honduran society. ¨The support we have received from the Rainforest Alliance and the SAN has been instrumental in sustainable agriculture development in our country¨, said Andrade. ¨The best practices that the SAN promotes have improved the lives of farmers and farm workers and have also protected ecosystems, reforested natural areas and showed farm owners how to handle their crops in an integrated way.¨
Luis Bernardo Gaitán, Director
Fundación Interamericana de Investigación Tropical (FIIT), Guatemala
A nonprofit research and environmental organization in Guatemala, the Inter-American Tropical Research Foundation (FIIT) is a founding member of the SAN that works to establish mutually beneficial links between conservation, natural resources management and businesses. FIIT leads environmental education programs and promotes sustainable agriculture practices, hunting regulations and eco-friendly businesses. FIIT biologists helped to develop the first sustainability standards for coffee farms and granted the first certification seal for a coffee farm in 1992.
FIIT director Luis Bernardo Gaitán, a biologist who has worked with FIIT since 1989, takes great pride in the fact that as a member of the SAN, his organization has helped to increase rural worker livelihoods and stem water pollution, which he believes is one of the most pressing environmental issues facing Guatemala today.
Alvaro Moises, Director
SalvaNATURA, El Salvador
Executive Director Alvaro Moises has had a long history with SalvaNatura, first serving as a member of the board of directors for several years and then joining the organization to lead the Natural Areas program among his other roles within the organization. He is a member of the planning team for El Imposible and Los Volcanes National Parks where SalvaNATURA is actively involved in a joint project with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.
Alvaro is an architect by trade with twenty-three years of management experience for environmental, commercial and residential building projects. His interest in environmental topics led him to develop an academic thesis on the topic of ¨Preliminary Plan Designs for the Development of National Parks.¨ The plans laid out through this work were adopted by SalvaNATURA and implemented in El Imposible National Park for which he also designed the infrastructure for the visitors center, museum and other park installations.
He is very committed to the Sustainable Agriculture Network and its values at a personal level. His farm La Montaña was one of the first farms certified in El Salvador, and as an avid bird-watcher, he participated in a study of Birds of El Salvador through which seven new species were discovered.
José Valdivieso, Co-Director
Conservación y Desarrollo, Ecuador
Headquartered in Quito, Ecuador, the staff of Conservation and Development (CyD) includes biologists, engineers and lawyers who collaborate with government agencies and the private sector to promote sustainable development and the responsible use of natural resources, and to raise public consciousness about resource management.
CyD, a SAN founding member, focuses on agriculture, ecotourism and community-based projects. Among the farms that work with CyD are those growing bananas, flowers and cocoa for export. In January of 1997, CyD began working with 1,500 cocoa farmers in five communities south of Guayaquil, Ecuador, helping them to reclaim their traditional cocoa-growing heritage. CyD biologists taught basic ecology and conservation to the farmers and their families.
José Valdivieso, who shares directorship of the organization with Mauricio Ferro, is committed to a philosophy of “ethnic and economic equity,” and to using only those resources that can be replenished. “SAN members have practical and radical ideas for fighting negative impacts and improving positive ones,” he says.
Tensie Whelan, President
Rainforest Alliance, United States
Tensie Whelan has been involved with the Rainforest Alliance since 1990, first as a board member, and then later as a consultant, becoming the organization´s executive director in 2000. More recently she has been involved in supporting the SAN´s structural transition efforts and represents the Rainforest Alliance on the SAN board of directors.
She has been working in the environmental field for more than 25 years, during which time she served as the vice president of conservation information at the National Audubon Society and executive director of the New York League of Conservation Voters. She also worked as a journalist and environmental communications consultant in Costa Rica, and was the managing editor of Ambio - an international environmental journal based in Stockholm. Prior to joining the Rainforest Alliance as its executive director, she worked as a management consultant to nonprofit organizations such as the Environmental Defense Fund.