20 years of a success story

Saving Forests, Changing Lives

Iracambi has just celebrated our twentieth birthday! And we’d love to share some of our success stories with you.

Come with us on a time machine and see what Iracambistas and the local community have achieved over the past twenty years to make the world a better place!  As Steve Jobs would say “We are here to make a difference in the universe, if not, why be here?”

It all started in 1987 when the Le Breton family, then living  in Recife, came by car to visit Minas Gerais and bought an abandoned farm in the Graminha valley.



Robin and Binka make a six-month overland trip from Washington DC to Iracambi, settle in and begin the work of building up  the farm.


The first native species trees are planted, along with the first eucalyptus forest, and the dairy herd is expanded and improved. (Let’s remember that it all started as a forest farm in the Serra do Brigadeiro mountains.)


Iracambi founders are active in the process of helping establish a new county in Rosário da Limeira, leading to federal funding for infrastructure and a new feeling of “can do” among local citizens. The Serra do Brigadeiro State Park is established. Iracambi joins the board and remains on the board to this day.


Iracambi launches the website, creates the first forest trails, sets up the Forest Futures Program and the mapping project – later to become the Iracambi Geographical Information System. Ethnobotanical studies are started – later to become Iracambi Medicinal Plants. Iracambi creates a volunteer program and founds the first project of environmental education in the region which becomes first Junior Scientists and then Young Eco Leaders.


Iracambi begins to inventory the fauna and make the first videos. An Iracambi volunteer designs and builds the classroom/lab, and friends in Washington DC help set up the Amigos de Iracambi US Inc the 501c3 US registered non-profit.


Iracambi gets a (very expensive) satellite internet connection. Work begins on establishing Environmental Protection Areas, Iracambi plants a lot more trees, we are elected to the State Environmental Policy Council, and are finalists for the $1,000,000 Alcan Sustainability Award.


The five cabins are built and we start the weekly radio program Voices of Atlantic Forest. There is a constant stream of students, volunteers and researchers. 


First rumors of bauxite mining surface, and the first public hearing is held. The dining hall is built, the Iracambi Medicinal Plants is officially launched whereby Iracambi becomes one of three sites worldwide to collect data for creating an international protocol for sustainable wildharvesting. Iracambi becomes an OSCIP, (higher ranked category of NGO), and the first butterfly inventory is completed. 


The Community Empowerment project is established in partnership with the Inter American Foundation, the III Regional Annual Medicinal Plants Conference is held in Rosário da Limeira, soaps, lotions and shampoos are produced at Iracambi, and the Community Tourism project is launched.


The 1st Payment for Environmental Services Seminar of the Serra do Brigadeiro Development Territory is held in partnership with the agricultural extension agency, as well as the first Territory seminar on ecological coffee production. 


Iracambi completes the community tourism project with the Ministry of Tourism, and the NGO celebrates its tenth birthday with a big barbecue. 


Seminars are held on coffee, Medicinal Plants and  Community Based Rural Tourism in partnership with  SOS Mata Atlântica, Iracambi creates a network of Private Reserves in the buffer zone of the State Park, and Rosário da Limeira celebrates World Environment Day with an ecological walk at Iracambi.


Funding is received from IUCN-Netherlands to purchase a patch of degraded forest which becomes the Pico da Graminha Forest Reserve. Iracambi creates a management plan for the Iracambi Forest Reserve, with funding from SOS Mata Atlântica.


Iracambi launches Junior Scientists@Iracambi, continues work on the network of private reserves, overhauls the website, and establishes an office in Limeira. Thanks to a generous donation from a British student, the Mountain House is built on the Pico da Graminha Reserve. 


The Iracambi bird list totals 260 species, the Forest House is built, and the Kombi is acquired for student transport. The 100K Strong student exchange program is established in partnership with the Federal Technical Institute and several US universities, and Ecoavis carries out a new bird survey, adding two rare species to our list.


The “Forests 4 Water” program is established, reforestation is completed on the Pico da Graminha Reserve and Iracambi is the Grand Winner of the Peer Awards for Excellence in London.


Founders Robin and Binka create the executive committee to begin the leadership transition, and the team is expanded. The Center building is restored with a new roof, new wiring, a new paint job and the installation of solar panels.


Work continues on the transition with invaluable help from our international mentors, thanks to a generous donation of radio equipment we are able to upgrade the internet, and a highly successful Halloween Benefit is held in Rio de Janeiro. 


Under our new project coordinator we experiment with a model agroecology plot. Simultaneously the Living Pharmacy program is created to continue working on rainforest medicinal plants.

As you can see, over the course of all these years, we have been working hard, but there is still much to do and we need to expand our impact. The fable of the hummingbird and the forest fire is what symbolizes life at Iracambi and encourages us to keep going! 

Once there was a fire in the forest, and while all the animals were fleeing in terror, a small hummingbird was flying  from the river to the fire, carrying drops of water in his beak.

The eagle, seeing that, asked the hummingbird: “Hummingbird, do you think you’ll be able to put out the fire by yourself?” And the hummingbird answered;

“I can’t do it alone, but I’m doing my part.”

And so we at Iracambi have been doing our part for all this time, using all the tools at our disposal, fighting, to protect the Atlantic Forest and preserve the biodiversity, the soils and water for future generations to enjoy.