Empowering Communities Through Nature-based Solutions
Federico Perez is working on restoration efforts centered on people and livelihoods. After founding Selvitas, a company that co-creates and advances community development projects, he enrolled in the Tropical Forest Landscapes: Conservation, Restoration and Sustainable Use (TFL) program to gain greater scientific knowledge to refine and expand the company’s projects.
Conservation efforts often overlook the human element and fail to address the economic hardships that lead to environmental degradation, says Federico Perez. In his native Colombia, for example, he says communities often burn forests instead of managing the land sustainably. However, Perez hopes to change that and turned to the TFL certificate program to help him expand his skillset.
After graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics from Michigan State University, Perez moved to Israel, where venture capital work with a startup that was creating a type of pollen that could act as an herbicide, showed him how the deployment of finance can help catalyze systemic change. He got a MicroMasters from MIT in supply chain management, and moved back to Colombia and founded Selvitas.
"Our model disrupts the traditional conservation and restoration paradigm. Instead of imposing solutions, we co-create them with local communities," Perez says.
Initially focused on the global value chain, exporting coffee and sustainable wood, Perez and Selvitas have evolved to focus on carbon markets and forest restoration, creating partnerships with the International Trade Centre.
Most recently, the company helped more than 8,000 previously displaced families in Antioquia, a department in northwest Colombia, gain land tenure, enabling them to transition to active land management.
"We use carbon market financing as a tool, not just to regenerate biodiversity, but to provide a stable income for local people, thereby addressing the root causes of deforestation," Perez says.
Only a few weeks into the TFL certificate program, he’s already gained knowledge that he’s able to put into practice at Selvitas.
"The TFL program is transformative. It is equipping me with the scientific and policy frameworks to refine our projects. I'm learning how to integrate traditional ecological knowledge with modern restoration techniques, while getting a better understanding of the sociopolitical dynamics that influence these ecosystems." Perez says.