Ana Maria Bayro Botelho (’98, Bolivia)
When Ana Maria returned to Bolivia after graduating from EARTH University, she encountered two unexpected truths. First, she discovered that her education had been vastly different from other agronomists in her country. She was far better prepared to lead and, unlike her peers, she viewed agriculture through a social and environmental lens. Second, as a young woman working in a male-dominated field with a traditional and exclusionary view of agriculture, she had to forge her own path.
But Ana Maria was prepared to do just that, having fully internalized the mantra she heard countless times during her four years at EARTH: “you can go as far as you want—it all depends on you.”
Today, Ana Maria is the director of natural resources and environment for the Autonomous Government of the Department of Cochabamba in Bolivia. She leads two units and 60 people, overseeing the design and implementation of environmental and natural resource management policies for the department’s 47 municipalities. She also ensures compliance with existing environmental norms, coordinates actions with the country’s Ministry of Environment, and manages protected lands and watersheds.
She’s particularly proud of leading initiatives to regulate mining, industrial, and vehicle pollution, and solve a regional solid waste management crisis. With collaboration from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Ana Maria is working with the Secretariat of the Rights of Mother Earth to socialize a plan to develop a regional waste management industrial complex that includes recycling and a small business incubator for products made with recycled materials.
Noting that Cochabamba is Bolivia’s most polluted city, Ana Maria is motivated by this new opportunity to contribute to improving her city and region by ensuring a better environment for everyone.
“More than ever, this is my chance to showcase the values and vision of sustainable development that I learned at EARTH,” says Ana Maria.
Ana Maria is quick to emphasize that most of her career—up until 2015—has been spent working directly with small farmers and rural communities to promote ecological and socially-just agricultural models as a consultant, investigator and educator working on development projects.
At EARTH, she says, “you acquire a deep sensitivity and great commitment to return to your country, to give back, and work in a way that contributes always to a more human, respectful, and sustainable vision of development.”
The scholarship to attend EARTH, she adds, “changed my life, and now there are thousands of people being influenced by my work whose lives, I hope, improve as a result.”