Alvaro Francisco Ugalde Víquez
This profile was prepared when Alvaro Francisco Ugalde Víquez was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
The Nectandra Institute is a conservation organization conceived by Alvaro Ugalde and the other three co-founders of the Institute (Evelyne T. Lennette, David Lennette and Arturo Jarquín). After leaving from almost 30 years with the Costa Rican park system and some national consultant positions, he became acutely aware that, while the parks might be healthy, the lands outside their confines were becoming dangerously deforested and protected areas more susceptible to climate change, Alvaro and his friends realized that public and private conservation efforts were not enough and that the communities needed to be involved in protecting and restoring the rivers and watersheds. As a result, they founded The Nectandra Institute, which focuses on training and empowering community members to continue and speed up land restoration actions they started several years ago, and make significant changes in unsustainable practices. Nectandra Institute is a watershed protection organization that works side-by-side with rural communities to create and implement expert restoration projects on polluted rivers and exploited farmlands. Nectandra fosters understanding about the cycle of water and educates communities about the link between clean water and health. Utilizing Alvaro’s long-standing relationships with national and international environmental organizations, Nectandra forms community partnerships and provides technical assistance in conservation, restoration and sustainable agriculture. Currently based around the San Carlos River, in the La Balsa Watershed, Alvaro is poised to spread the Nectandra concept for community-owned watershed protection to other rivers and waterways in Costa Rica. Nevertheless, the most effective tool to spread a good idea is to help the main protagonists, the communities, showcase the result of their efforts on a daily basis. After community-based education programs and technical training, local people gain an understanding of the importance of ecosystems in order to have clean water and become empowered to preserve their water supply through community-run projects. Through the Nectandra Institute, Alvaro provides communities with the tools to protect their watersheds and the surrounding ecosystems. One of the defining characteristics of Nectandra is an innovative finance strategy called ecological lending. This is a credit program that helps communities buy polluting and overused farmlands in order to restore, them with interest-free loans which have extended repayment options. A contemporary method to reversing environmental damage, the Eco-Loan program helps communities become responsible for maintaining clean and sustainable sources of water by, purchasing and restoring properties, and this motivates discussions about responsible agricultural practices.