Mamoní Valley Preserve is a non-profit organization focused on conservation and enhancing a 29,000-acre watershed that connects over 5 million acres of contiguous forests within the Tumbes-Choco-Magdalena biodiversity hotspot.
In the 1960s and ‘70s, Panama’s economy began to expand eastward towards the Darien, which resulted in massive land clearing. This eastward migration was further supported by governmental policies to help fund the expansion of cattle raising and the agricultural frontier into then uninhabited areas. This caused the near destruction of the only land bridge that connects South America with North America which so many species depend on.
In the year 2000, Nathan Gray (President and co-founder of Fundación Geoversity, originally named Earth Train), chose the Mamoní Valley for the location of the organization’s international base when he saw this near 29,000-acre micro-climate watershed in the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor at risk of becoming a real catastrophe thanks to absent ranchers, lack of law enforcement and illegal logging.
When the Mamoní Valley Preserve initiative started in 2005, 40% of the primary forest had been lost in the Valley. Since then and until today, 20% of the forest cover has been recovered in the preserve land, while 8% has been lost in the yet unprotected areas.
The preserve shares a border and a beneficial partnership with the Gunayala people. Our jungle programs which focus on education and the protection of the vulnerable southern border of their autonomous territory has been greatly appreciated by both us and the Guna youth leaders at the invitation of the chief of Gunayala, the venerable Gilberto Arias.
At this time we began fostering and understanding relations between the local population and our organization within the Valley. The Guna youth had helped us during our challenging start-up years by planting trees, restoring streams, building structures, and so much more.
(Colin Wiel was accumulating land and helping fund Earth Train)
Beginning in 2005, investors (initially Carl Walcott), with Nathan Gray’s support, began to buy land for the conservation.
As conservation rapidly grew, Carl stepped back giving way for Colin Wiel to buy existing landholder shares and begin buying more land. Ultimately, almost a third of the valley was obtained for the purpose of financial development with commitment to sustainability and conservation. In 2006, Colin created a successful agroforestry project, a hardwood planting that was eventually bought by Forest Finance. But by 2014, no other commercial ventures had been initiated.
(Colin Wiel created the M100 Club and MVP)
In 2014, Colin created the M100 Club (a group of land investors aiming to support conservation acts) and created, with the support of Geoversity, the non-profit Mamoní Valley Preserve (MVP). MVP was established with the initial motivation and action of forming the Mamoní Valley Preserve Association to engage the entire valley in conservation. The MVP Association is open to all landowners in the Valley and other interested parties willing to sign and honor a pledge of conservation and cooperated with other members to that end.
At the same time the M100 Club initiated a series of initiatives to incubate profitable businesses to support its conservation. It created an agroforestry nursery that is now called the Agroforestry Center. This was not successful in generating the necessary funds for conservation and community support, so the focus evolved to real estate. However, due to lack in expertise and resources, the focus soon shifted to philanthropy, its current focus. During this period, the M100 Club was actively trying to raise funds for conservation and MVP, except for the MVP Association, operated with volunteer labor and was generally inactive.
(MVP goes active)
In 2018, it was starting to become clear to the M100 Club that the for-profit business model was hampering progress and a not-for-profit model would likely better attract conservation funds. Colin began donating to MVP to buy the most remote forested properties in the far west end of the Valley close to Chagres National Park.
By 2019, Colin and the M100 Club had been providing much of the funding of conservation in the valley for over a decade. In a last-ditch attempt to maintain the for-profit component of the cooperative venture, M100 Club, MVP and Geoversity attempted to operate as a virtual singular organization. MVP gradually started taking on a more active role, acquiring its first staff and began active participation in the valley’s conservation and community support. Eventually, MVP realized that this virtual three-way partnership was hindering the needed fundraising and that MVP needed to distinguish itself to achieve its conservation ambitions.
(MVP restructures itself, expands, and sets ambitious goals)In 2021, the MVP board members began identifying the board members and staff that it needed to shift its primary short-term focus to fundraising rather than conservation to provide staff with the needed funds to achieve the desired conservation and community support. In early 2022, MVP reorganized its leadership and added needed board members and staff.At the same time, the M100 Club was closing its doors with the intent to donate its extensive land holdings in the valley to MVP for caretaking.
Mamoní Valley Preserve Today
Today, MVP has taken the M100 Club members and land under its umbrella and works closely with Geoversity as a separate not-for-profit entity supporting our dream of conserving the entire 29,000-acre Mamoní Valley, allowing plants, people, and animals to co-exist harmoniously, being a model for rainforest conservation.