Rosa Ruiz

Ashoka Fellow
La Paz, Bolivia
Fellow Since 1995


This profile was prepared when Rosa Ruiz was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1995.
The New Idea
The Tambopata Candamo Reserved Zone of Bolivia, on the Peruvian border, has long been recognized by scientists as one of the world's most biologically diverse areas. But it took Rosa María Ruiz, an internationally trained Bolivian expert on community development and indigenous rights, to carry out the work necessary to define and legally establish a two million-hectare park there in 1995. She exploited the possibilities of a particular political moment in Bolivia, when the Natural Resources ministry had expressed a plan to create a park and the government had passed a law that allowed indigenous people to secure title to lands held in common. Mechanisms to implement either of these possibilities did not yet exist, but Rosa María created a model that implemented both. Its most remarkable accomplishment was that it included all the remote communities of Tacana Indians who were immediately affected by the creation of the park. Rosa María Ruiz understands that unless neighboring communities benefit from parks and conservation areas, there can be no just and sustainable way to operate them. Aided by a dedicated group of technical assistants, community workers and scientists, Rosa María Ruiz is organizing and training the indigenous Tacana people in the planning and administration of the new Madidi National Park. She helps them to secure title to their land in order to discourage colonization and create a protective buffer zone. She is creating health and adult education centers and promoting economic opportunities created by the park itself.
With the momentum of the Madidi experience, Rosa María is now working to unify five other protected areas in Bolivia and Peru to form a six-million-hectare chain of protected areas on the South American continent.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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