Maria Teresa Vargas
Executive Director of Fundación Natura Bolivia
Maria Teresa was raised on a farm in the village of Mataral, in the buffer zone of Bolivia’s mega-diverse Amboró National Park. She now works with mayors and councilors from 56 municipalities across Bolivia to help them protect their forested water sources. Together, they have convinced half a million water users to sign agreements with 7,300 upstream landowners to conserve 475,000 hectares of water-producing forest. These conservation deals—locally known as “Acuerdos Reciprocos por Agua” or “Reciprocal Water Agreements”—are in return for alternative development projects such as drip irrigation, fruit and honey production, and improved cattle management. Maria Teresa is now leading the transfer of this reciprocity-based forest and water conservation model to municipalities in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. As a graduate of the MIT/Poverty Action Lab Executive Training course on randomized control trial or impact evaluations, Maria Teresa has been trained in balancing evaluation science and program implementation. Maria Teresa has a masters in economic policy from Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica and another masters in forestry from Yale University and also served as a Kinship Conservation Fellow in 2005. Maria Teresa is the executive director of Natura Bolivia Foundation.