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Martin Von Hildebrand      

Director, Fundación Gaia Amazonas

Born in New York in 1943, Martin Von Hildebrand moved to Colombia when his parents, both prominent activists, were invited to start a university. Hildebrand visited the Colombian Amazon for the first time in 1970, spending four months on a canoe living amongst the indigenous communities. He learned that since the 1950's, the people in the Colombian Amazon have suffered environmental devastation from the economic booms for rubber extraction, gold mining, and theillegal processing of cocoa. The people had also endured great exploitation and lost the traditional rights to their land, and therefore the ability to maintain their communities. In 1990, Hildebrand founded Fundacion Gaia Amazonas to help the indigenous people re-learn how to sustainably manage their territories while conserving the cultural diversity of the Amazon. He also petitioned the Colombian government, and in 1987, 50 million acres of Amazon rainforest were restored to the inhabitants. Thanks to Hildebrand, the people now hold the rights to nearly 62 million acres, are participating in environmental management plans, and can again maintain their own health and education programs. In addition to many accolades for the breadth of his accomplishment, Hildebrand received Colombia's National Environmental Prize in 1999 and the Skoll Foundation's Social Entrepreneur Award in 2009. After nearly four decades of advocacy, Martin Von Hildebrand has restored the people of the Colombian Amazon with their rightful land as well as their autonomy.

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