Support the UN Development Programme’s #ActivateGalapagos Campaign

Make Charles Darwin proud; save the Galapagos from your living room

Onno van den Heuvel
Global manager, UNDP’s Biodiversity Finance Initiative

Galapagos tortoise. Photo: UNDP Ecuador

The Galapagos Islands, off the west coast of Ecuador, are among the most important bastions of nature on our planet. The diversity of life here–hammerhead sharks, Galapagos penguins and blue-footed boobies among them–prompted Charles Darwin 150 years ago to craft his theory on the origin and evolution of species. It changed the way we look at nature forever.

Today, we at another crossroads for nature, and indeed for all of humanity. Biodiversity continues to collapse at an alarming.

The COVID-19 pandemic had emphasized that we don’t live in a world disconnected from nature. Rather, our world is a single ecosystem, increasingly and ever more intensively connected. The destruction of forests and other natural life, coupled with the extensive trade of wildlife, has brought the risk of regular pandemics to our doorsteps.

The same pandemic has frozen a lot of the world’s financing for natural areas, of many heavily depending on the revenue from tourism. The Galapagos Islands are among the most affected by the near-global lockdown. It is a highly tourism-dependent economy, receiving 250,000 visitors per year, business which ensured jobs for 80 percent of its population. In 2020 revenue dropped to around US$50 million, less than half of what it would be in a typical year.

Guardians of conservation

Alice Barlett and her family, like many of the other 33,000 people on the islands, relies heavily on tourism to not only earn money, but to raise awareness about protecting and preserving marine life. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on her work. “Since March, we had many cancellations and refunds. When marine reserve reopened in July, we wanted to start working with a few tourists that there were, but all the diving boats and snorkelers had trouble getting insurance to renew our patents in the national park until September. Since then we are working with very few visitors,” she said.

But there is hope. UNDP’s Biodiversity Finance Initiative is working with the government of the archipelago and Quito’s  San Francisco University on a crowdfunding campaign to support local communities.

Anyone can send a donation to help conservationists continue their work during the pandemic, which will certainly continue well into 2021.

 “Acting now in protecting the Galapagos and in developing the necessary tools to recover the balance with nature is a must, not a wish but an obligation. The campaign is designing a strategy to support Galapagos and calling the citizens of the world to support,” said Former President of WWF and IUCN, and Former Ecuadorean Minister of Environment Yolanda Kakabadse.

A longterm vision

The campaign will also emphasize a longer-term transformation, greening local business to have less adverse impact on nature and climate, and become less dependent on tourism. In this way it will be possible for anyone around the world to contribute to saving these amazing islands not only from current and future threats. The Galapagos Islands also need to counter the negative impact of a changing climate, and from invasive species such as rats and goats that were introduced to the islands.

It can be part of a new transition in the thinking of nature, that our economy, our GDP and our major economic sectors are not part of a man-made world that is separate from nature. They are in fact part of our global ecosystem, and if we damage our nature, we damage our economy too. The World Economic Forum has highlighted biodiversity loss as a significant  economic risk in the coming five to 10 years. Our economic paradigms must be built on sound ecological principles. Darwin would have surely approved!

“The only way to support the conservation is to support people who are the first line of defense of natural heritage. It is a call for collective action that generates will and support for all those in Ecuador and in the world who love and support the Galapagos,” said President of the Galapagos Governing Council, Norman Wray.

But the islanders cannot do this alone and need support to get through this pandemic and  to transform their businesses into sustainable endeavours.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is a wakeup call for humanity. We are at the tipping point that requires not only action in environmental terms, but also social safety nets for the most vulnerable people. We need cohesive, collective, immediate action and the “Save Galapagos, Empower its People” crowdfunding campaign is an example of what we can do as a global community,” said UNDP Ecuador Resident Representative, Matilde Mordt.

It is time to show our support to these communities by sharing this campaign or making a personal donation. Even from inside your own house, you can make a positive contribution! #ActivateGalapagos

Read the original coverage via the UNDP Blog here:–save-the-galapagos-from-your-living-r.html

Learn more about the UN Development Programme’s Save Galapagos Campaign at

OUR INITIATIVE: What will we do with the donations?

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Ecuador, together with the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) and the Government Council for the Galapagos Special Regime (CGREG) have a project for the Galapagos focused on supporting the economic recovery of the Island´s inhabitants through employment reactivation and training opportunities. 

Sea Wolf Galapagos Islands

PHASE 1 – Urgent Action (WE ARE HERE)

Emergency support for livelihoods recovery of the population will be put in place through a “cash for work” mechanism. During this process, our selected “conservation champions,” around 90 people from the Galapagos Islands, will be financially supported to help maintain the protected area, provide urgent income for local men and women, and ecological protection for the archipelago.

Tourist Guide From Galapagos Islands

PHASE 2- Designing a sustainable future

We will invite the Galapagos Island community to participate in a “cash for training” process where participants from the most affected economic sectors will access a two-month training program. Selected participants will obtain tools and guidance to improve the existing green businesses to withstand the current situation and thrive to long-term success. The entrepreneurs will also receive a part-time salary during their involvement in the learning and mentoring stages to help them and their families sustain the emergency. The training will include various fields, such as digital marketing channels, financial advice, new payment methods, sound environmental practices in their business, and other relevant topics. 

Women from Galapagos Islands

PHASE 3: Changing the future in the Galapagos Islands

The most innovative and inclusive projects will undergo a one-month additional mentoring phase with experts from academia in technical, operational, and business administration, aiming at guaranteeing the venture’s development and sustainability. Finally, an expert panel will select the highest impact projects contributing to building a resilient and sustainable economy for the Galapagos Islands. We will grant seed funding for the selected ventures for their improvement and reactivation plan and access to technical assistance to accompany the program’s execution. The winning projects will be evaluated and will have to report on their accomplishments and impact.


Sustainable Tourism Fund

This fund will be given for local, sustainable tourism entrepreneurs that promote well-being for local residents and tourism options that strengthen Galapagos as a resilient destination promoting domestic
and international tourism.


Blue Economy Fund

Dedicated to initiatives within a Blue Economy that promote the sustainable use of marine resources, this fund will support proposals that encourage people from the Galapagos and visitors to connect with the sea and respect the species that live there, such as sustainable fisheries and a range of water activities.


Innovation Development Fund

This fund focuses on local, sustainable technology entrepreneurs that can increase resilience and resource-efficiency (health, environment, food security, agricultural practices), as well enhance the community cohesion through the offer of products and services that build inclusion, resilience, equity.

Other ways to help?


  1. Please share our content on your social networks with #ActivateGalapagos, and feel free to spread our donation page
  2. Do you know an influencer in your city who might be interested in helping us spread the word? Lets us know by sending an email at
  3. Be an active part of our events, more people more impact. With these experiences, we intended to generate a discussion around the island’s problems. See our list of events in the next section

Informing and sharing news on marine life, flora, fauna and conservation in the Galápagos Islands since 2017
© SOS Galápagos, 2021

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