18 years of a success story

Changing lives, Saving forests

Iracambi has just turned 18, reached adulthood, and we’d love to share some of our success stories with you.

Come with us on a time machine and see what has been done by people fighting for a better world.. 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.


First native species forestry, first eucalyptus plantation, and the expansion of the dairy herd. (Let’s remember that everything started as a farm, in the Zona da Mata of Minas Gerais.


Serra do Brigadeiro State Park established. Iracambi joins the board and remains on the board to this day.


Iracambi website, first trails, Forest Futures and the forest nursery, mapping project, medicinal plants, volunteer program and environmental education – the first in the region. Focused at the time on the sciences, it is currently focused on educating and training schoolchildren to become environmental leaders: (Young EcoLeaders).


Fauna and flora research, construction of  the classroom / laboratory, establishing  the GIS (Geographic Information System), filming projects, and creating the 501c3  Amigos de Iracambi US Inc.


Satellite internet, EPAs created, reforestation continued, Iracambi elected to the State Environmental Policy Council   and is a finalist for $1,000,000 Alcan Sustainability Award.


Five cabins built, the weekly radio program Voices of Atlantic Forest started; Iracambi joins the board of the Serra do Brigadeiro State Park.


First public hearing on mining, held, refectory built, Amigos de Iracambi becomes an OSCIP, (higher ranked category of NGO) , State Park inaugurated, Medicinal Plants program launched, butterfly inventory implemented.


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


1st Payment for Environmental Services Seminar of the Serra do Brigadeiro Development Territory in partnership with the agricultural extension agency, 1st Seminar of the Serra do Brigadeiro Development Territory on Ecological Coffee Production.


Tourism project in Rosário da Limeira. Iracambi celebrates its 10th anniversary.


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


Funding received from IUCN-Netherlands to purchase a forest corridor, which becomes the Pico Da Graminha Private Forest Reserve. Iracambi Private Forest Reserve Management Plan funded by SOS Mata Atlântica.


Citizen Science, Junior Scientists@Iracambi , network of private reserves, management plan Pico da Graminha Reserve, website overhauled, office established in Limeira, Art in the Forest project  Mountain House built on Pico da Graminha


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


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


Founders Robin and Binka create executive committee to begin Iracambi’s leadership transition, Work team expanded and professionalized. Center building reformed, (new roof, rewiring, repainting and installation of solar panels.)

As you can see, over the course of these 18 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 fire in the forest shows the reality of daily life at Iracambi.

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 eighteen years, 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.

And now we have reached 2017, here are some of the things Iracambi has achieved:

  • 500 hectares of forests under permanent protection.
  • 4,500 hectares of Environmental Protection Areas established.
  • 100,000 native species trees raised in our forest nursery and planted.
  • 600 farm families passed through our training programs.
  • 1,700 researchers, students and volunteers from 64 countries welcomed to share their skills with Iracambi.
  • 150,000 people impacted in the nine counties bordering the State Park.

Today, Iracambi remains firm and strong in its transition to new leadership. Enthusiastic. Excited. Confident.

Our team is growing in numbers and experience. This year we were joined by:

– Marina Ferreira, biologist, environmental educator, bird watcher and yogi, came to give new life to our EcoLeaders program.
– José Luiz Barbalho, biologist from Brazil’s northeast, enthusiastic team member, joined us to coordinate our program of volunteers from Brazil and beyond.
– Joao Lúcio Donnard, an experienced engineer and manager, who loves challenges (and has found plenty here) is our new executive director, working with the team to take Iracambi to new heights.

We also welcomed some wonderful volunteers: Lisa worked in the Nursery and Agroforestry Coffee Project; ne with water monitoring, Paulina with fauna monitoring and camera traps, Rachel who worked with Marina to improve the EcoLeaders program. Miriam updated our health procedures and worked on the forest trails, Erik coordinated the ecosystem monitoring, and volunteer GIS coordinator Cliff paid us his annual visit to continue placing much of our GIS data online, aided by Daniel. We also continued our research (in partnership with the Federal University of Viçosa) into the healing properties of Adrago (Croton urucurana), popularly known as “dragon’s blood”.

Iracambi continues to serve on both the Advisory Committee of the Serra do Brigadeiro State Park and the State Council for Environmental Policy,  as well as the Rosario da Limeira Councils on Sustainable Development and Environmental Defense,  Iracambi was the catalyst for the creation of the Mining Commission (founded in 2003 to alert the local community on the potential impacts of a proposed large scale bauxite mining project) and still plays an active role.

As part of our community outreach, Iracambi holds occasional showings of “Cinema in the Square”, in Rosario da Limeira, which usually attract a public 120 people, reaching entire families. This year, for the third time, we hosted a well- attended meeting of the Serra do Brigadeiro State Park Council, which included several regional authorities. We were also honored to be invited onto the jury of Belizário School Science Fair for the third consecutive year.

So this is how we use the money we raise: fighting to protect the Atlantic Forest, creating forests for water, raising a new generation of young forest champions through our EcoLeaders program, and working with local communities on policy and best practice conservation and agroecology issues.  Thank you for partnering in our work – we couldn’t do it without you,! Your donations are our lifeblood!