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Profile of Benson Venegas
Benson Venegas is the Executive Director of Asociación ANAI, a Costa Rican NGO dedicated to integrating community-centered economic development and environmental conservation.
For 25 years, ANAI (the name was born out of an old acronym) has been working with the people and organizations of Costa Ricas Talamanca regionhome to 3 percent of the worlds known plant and animal speciesto implement sustainable development initiatives that provide tangible environmental and socio-economic benefits. ANAIs Talamanca Initiative has catalyzed and facilitated a process that has diversified the economy of the regions rural communities through environmentally friendly activities that include organic agro-ecosystems, local processing and marketing of organic products, locally owned eco-tourism enterprises, reforestation with native species, carbon sequestration, community conservation initiatives, and the consolidation of a network of grassroots initiatives and organizations.
Benson was born and raised in Talamanca Costa Rica. After receiving a degree in Marine Biology from Costa Ricas National University in 1985, he began work with ANAI in a program collaboratively managed with the Costa Rican Government that saw the creation and consolidation of the Gandoca-Manzanillo Mixed-management Wildlife Refuge and the associated development of a series of community development projects, including a land titling project for all of the small farmers living in and around the conservation area.
After 5 years as the wildlife refuge administrator, Venegas assumed the direction of ANAIs self-sufficiency and organizational strengthening activities, in support of the conservation and sustainable livelihood programs. For the past 7 years, he has been ANAI´s Executive Director.
ANAIs and its partners efforts were honored with the first Equator Prize for its "extraordinary accomplishment in reducing poverty in a World Heritage Site through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity".