PANAMA - Green Economy
President, Fundación Natura, Panama
Diego Dipieri boasts over 30 years of expertise in reforestation, agroforestry, and agribusiness. He has spearheaded large-scale commercial production projects in Central America and Canada. Throughout his extensive entrepreneurial journey, he managed multiple offices domestically and abroad. Dipieri has also overseen operations with FSC, Rainforest Alliance, UTZ, and Gold Standard certifications. He has been a member of the Board of Trustees of Fundación Natura Panama for a decade, assuming the presidency in 2022.
Fundación Natura was established in 1991 and originally served as the Environmental Fund for Panama’s natural resources. By 1995, it assumed the role of fiduciary for FIDECO, the Panama Ecological Trust, a crucial element for our organizational growth. FIDECO focuses on providing funding for conservation actions to NGOs, organizations, communities, and the Ministry of Environment, specifically for natural parks. Our investments through FIDECO amount to nearly USD45 million, benefiting 60,000 people across 300 projects. Our ongoing efforts target watershed areas around the Panama Canal, including the Chiriquí and Santa María rivers, along with various regions across Panama’s 10 provinces. In 2005, a debt-for-nature exchange with the US led to the creation of funds for Daríen National Park and Chagres National Park, where we continue to implement conservation projects. Initially focused on the Panama Canal area, our progress has led us to recognize the broader issue of rural-to-urban migration. To alleviate this pressure, we empower local rural communities, especially in the Panama Canal area between Colón and the canal, offering opportunities while preserving the environment. Our conservation approach involves collaborating with local residents rather than excluding them. We equip communities, particularly women’s associations and producers, fostering entrepreneurship and enabling some to export their products. Over the years, our sustained presence has cultivated community capacities. Our technical team assesses priority areas, considering biodiversity and social issues. We then empower local communities and establish management plans for orderly development. As a second-level fund, Natura channels funds to local organizations for execution. Recently, we collaborated with the Ministry of Environment on a successful adaptation program addressing climate-related changes. Currently, we are engaged in a similar initiative with the Green Fund to secure more local funding for rural conservation and development.
We engage in various levels of administration, managing funds and addressing issues like those with the Panama Canal. For example, we oversee funding and program administration, conducting public offerings for projects. Organizations present their proposals, a committee selects projects, and we handle the assignment process. Subsequently, we monitor, report, and manage the ongoing processes. For example, with the private sector, we align with their goals. In the case of Banistmo, we established a funding-generating card. Annually, we collaborate on a plan, integrating our experience and initiatives to complement existing work. This ensures that the private company’s funding becomes more effective by enhancing ongoing programs, working with communities, or reinforcing ideas. The key is aligning their goals with our expertise for greater impact. We see opportunities with every company as sustainability becomes a global focus, with regulations reinforcing the trend. Aligning with the UN’s development goals, we believe in engaging the private sector in conservation efforts. Currently, we are collaborating with the financial sector and aim to expand our partnerships, including companies involved in sustainable and renewable energies, ports and other impactful segments in Panama. It is crucial for these sectors to contribute to conservation efforts. After 32 years of operation, our aim is to increase our current USD40-million turnover to USD100 million, leveraging our extensive experience. As an ISO-certified organization, we have refined our processes and see an opportunity for companies to join us in implementing impactful initiatives. With challenges like managing the recently declared 54% of Panama’s oceans as protected areas, we are part of an innovative initiative called Plataforma Pacífico. This collaborative effort involves funds from Panama, Costa Rica (Asociación Por Siempre), Colombia (Fondo Acción and Patrimonio Natural), and Ecuador, working to protect a significant biosphere connecting the coastal marine areas of said countries and islands such as the Galápagos, Cocos, Gorgona, Malpelo and Coiba. Our involvement in this initiative showcases the power of cross-border conservation. Our executive director, Rosa Montañez, has been the President of that initiative up to 2023, and we have since transferred the presidency to Fondo Acción. It has been an incredible initiative, and we have already received funding but require additional support. We invite the private sector to contribute to our portfolio of opportunities, enabling them to define their impact within these initiatives. Having this initiative with different countries is a great opportunity to acquire more knowledge. However, challenges like security issues, narco trafficking, and illegal fishing demand a unified approach. The Pacífico initiative addresses these challenges collaboratively. With sensors on fishing ships enhancing control measures, there is growing interest from major investors in nature conservation. We aim to open doors for private sector and philanthropic involvement, not only in the Pacific region, but also in the Caribbean, a significant portion of the recently designated 54%. Our recently outlined five-year strategic plan (2024-2029) consolidates 32 years of experience, positioning us to significantly impact Panama and the region.
We must consider future generations and shape our business practices to leave a lasting legacy of a beautiful natural world. It is our obligation and commitment to view sustainability as an investment in the well-being of our employees, clients and communities. As a partner, we offer our experience to make your investment genuinely effective, contributing to the creation of a permanent natural legacy.