Alfonso Martinuz Gerrero (’97, Nicaragua)
Throughout his career, Alfonso has encountered a consistent trend: colleagues expect EARTH graduates to shine and excel at all times. While this represents a constant pressure to live up to the expectations, Alfonso hasn’t backed away from the challenge:
“I’ve sought to be a light of change in everything I’ve done, positively influencing colleagues and promoting sustainable agriculture and care for Mother Earth,” affirms Alfonso, who adds that having the backing of such a well-regarded institution has also opened many doors for him academically and professionally.
Alfonso began his career at Chiquita Brands International, where during his tenure he held a variety of positions ranging from Farm Administrator to Head of Research. He later completed a Master’s in Environmental Economics at CATIE, conducting his thesis with EARTH’s agro-commercial operation. Following the completion of his Master’s, he worked for EARTH on an organic banana and pineapple research project and as an independent consultant for NGOs and multilateral organizations on projects related to sustainable agriculture and environmental economics. He was later awarded a scholarship to complete his doctorate at the University of Bonn, Germany in Agricultural Sciences. Since earning his PhD in 2012, he has been an international consultant and technical coordinator of a program financed by the Inter-American Development Bank, the Nordic Development Fund, and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation to reduce the vulnerability of rural populations facing climate change in Nicaragua.
In this role, Alfonso leads a team of approximately 50 people and is responsible for coordinating all of the activities of the program within the Ministry of Environment in Nicaragua. Through the program, they have improved the lives of some 400 farmers, reforested 20,000 hectares of land, and built approximately 50 public works projects to reduce the potential impact of natural disasters in rural communities.
Alfonso is deeply aware that the scholarship to attend EARTH was the starting point to all that he has achieved, noting, “Without this scholarship I wouldn’t have been able to study at EARTH and as a result I wouldn’t have harvested as much success in my life; it was a turning point in my future. Thanks to this scholarship, now I have a family and the capacity to educate my children and support society as a whole.”
He credits EARTH with having strengthened core values such as honesty and transparency, as well as with building his leadership skills and work ethic.
“EARTH changed my life in all aspects; not just in improving my income, but in transforming me into a professional with environmental and social conscience.”
The benefits to society and to the families of the students who receive scholarships, he adds, far outweigh the actual costs of a scholarship to EARTH, noting: “A scholarship to EARTH changes lives and plants a seed of change.”