Tanya Montenegro

Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow, Class of 2021

  • Home country: Ecuador
  • College and degree: Bachelors in biology - Universidad de Guayaquil and Masters in Biology - University of Missouri - Saint Louis
  • Current position: Protected areas coordinator at the Ministry of the Environment, Ecuador
  • Specialization: Tropical biology and conservation
What is the most memorable or impactful experience of your career so far? 

I had the opportunity to collaborate in the strengthening of an entrepreneurial group of artisan women who live in the buffer zone of the El Angel Ecological Reserve, located in the province of Carchi, where the fragile paramo of "Frailejones" is one of the main ecosystems. This group of 90 women used to elaborate their crafts in an empirical way using the fiber of paramo as raw material. They did not have knowledge about how to carry out a technical management or make the initiative sustainable since they did not see it as an enterprise, but rather as a way to support the family economy from home. In addition, they did not know how to place a value the true cost to their handicraft, which undervalued their work.

Once I identified this problem, I wrote a project proposal that was financed with international cooperation and, as a result, now this group of women (1) is a legally recognized organization, (2) is able to assess their handicrafts more fairly, (3) their handicraft has territorial identity, (4) are able to carry out the accounting management of their organization, looking forward to diversifying, promoting, and projecting their entrepreneurship to other territories, and (5) have the basic knowledge for the sustainable management of paramo‚ and have the fiber as raw material for their handicrafts, whose demand will eventually grow. The rationale behind this project was to subsequently reduce the pressures on the Reserve's paramo.

What impact do you want to make in your country?

Currently in Ecuador about 21% of its territory is protected through the National Protected Areas System. Over the last decade, protected areas have been recognized as part of the strategic sector as a key to sustainable development of the country and the wellbeing of its citizens. This protection provides connections across landscapes and resilience to catastrophic events and impacts of climate change. This recognition reveals that Ecuador's natural resources and biodiversity are essential for its economy — beyond conserving species and ecosystems and preserving our cultural heritage. In order to maintain biological diversity, ecosystem functioning and services that protected areas provide, long-term strategies and short-term actions must be implemented to achieve adaptation and mitigation to climate change effects. In 2009, Ecuador established a regulatory framework for mitigation and adaptation to climate change, and, by 2012, it developed a National Climate Change Strategy, which includes the National Adaptation Plan.

I would like to explore cutting-edge approaches and experiences that have been applied worldwide to develop an action plan on a regional scale in the Amazon Bioma. In doing so, I aim to promote protected areas as natural solutions for climate change adaptation, creating cross-boundaries coalitions to impact at multi-scale level, considering that climate change is a cross-cutting issue which affects environmental goods and services.

How do you think your Humphrey Fellowship and your time at Cornell will help boost your career? 

I think that through the Humphrey Fellowship and my time at Cornell I will have the opportunity to learn about current international institutional responses and tools or methods to face climate change, as well as adaptation practices and capacity building processes focused on bioeconomy and/or circular economy for social and environmental well-being.

What does public service mean to you?

For me public service allows for the implementation of actions derived from policies and regulations for the well-being of citizens, making good use of their taxes.

Tell us a fun fact about you. 

Some people think I am good at singing and acting. 

What is your personal motto? 

Drop what weighs, love what you have, be grateful for what comes. 

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