This year marks the ten-year anniversary of an organization near and dear to my heart. Pro Peninsula was created out of a vision that two of my colleagues and I had in graduate school. We asked ourselves: “What would happen if the environmental organizations throughout the Baja California peninsula were strategically networked, and what if there was a simple way for donors from the U.S. and around the world to engage with these groups?” From this original vision, the organization became a reality and it continues today as a sustained force for conservation throughout the Baja California penisula, Mexico.
From Vision to Reality
Over the course of three months, we set out to design a fully functioning organization with the fundamental belief that a network of strong, well-equipped individuals, communities and organizations is the best way to spur conservation and social change throughout the peninsula.
Under the leadership of Kama Dean and Chris Pesenti, Pro Peninsula grew to be one of the leading conservation initiatives working on the peninsula, combining regional and cultural knowledge of the peninsula, rooted in close relationships with local community members, to successfully support grassroots efforts. This approach led to the creation of successful projects and initiatives, such as Ocean Connectors, which today has reached more than 2,000 students from mostly marginalized communities in San Diego and Baja California Sur, Mexico, connecting them to sea turtle conservation, as well as science, cultural heritage and the ocean; and ProCaguama and Grupo Tortuguero, which work with local fishermen on the conservation of sea turtles, as well as the related socio-economic development issues. ProCaguama also links these fishermen to similar communities in Hawaii and Japan to engage on research and international exchanges along the migratory paths of the sea turtles they seek to protect.
Pro Peninsula provided a space for these and other groups to come together and share ideas and conservation priorities, as well as developed the platform for international donors and stakeholders to connect with these groups and support their initiatives.
Coming Full Circle
By 2009, Pro Peninsula successfully supported an effective and sustainable network of organizations on the ground, so that they could essentially carry the torch on their own. The decision was made to join forces with The Ocean Foundation and play a more supportive role to the organizations throughout Baja California, while allowing them to flourish and grow independently. It was a bold and unique move, however it was very much in line with Pro Peninsula’s original mission of strengthening individual and community efforts to protect the natural environment throughout the Baja California peninsula. Today, just ten years later, Pro Peninsula can say with confidence “Mission Accomplished.”
However, while this is true for the organization, there is always more work to be done in the region. By working with The Ocean Foundation and its Pro Peninsula Fund, individual and institutional donors can now access an even broader array of projects and organizations throughout Northwest Mexico and take advantage of its more than 20 years combined experience in the region.