Remembering Victor Galarreta, champion of the Peruvian Amazon

Earth Innovation Institute is deeply saddened by the loss of close partner and friend, Victor Galarreta, who devoted himself to the protection of Perú’s forests and the communities that call them home. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him, and we are deeply grateful for the legacy that he leaves behind. 

Trained as an economist, Galarreta began his career working with local communities in the Peruvian Andes and on the implementation of development projects along the Peruvian coast. But it was his work with the credit cooperative Caja San Martín, providing loans to local farmers, that brought him to the Amazon. 

He would eventually leave that position, purchasing a house in San Martín to be closer to the forest while focusing on rural development projects in the region. An inveterate entrepreneur, it was around this time that he began a career as a commercial coffee trader, learning the ins and outs of the trade while growing more familiar with the challenges that producers in the Amazon face.

“He was an entrepreneur who could straddle the worlds of government, commerce, and smallholder farmers,” notes EII Executive Director Daniel Nepstad, who knew and worked with Galarreta for more than a decade. “Victor was a force of nature. Relentlessly optimistic about the potential of bottom-up sustainable development.” 

Victor Galarreta (R) with EII Executive Director Dan Nepstad.
Victor Galarreta (R) with (from L to R) EII Country Coordinator for Perú, Gustavo Suarez de Freitas and former Ministers of Environment for Perú, Fabiola Muñoz and Lucia Ruiz.

Galarreta died unexpectedly this past Saturday of natural causes outside his home in San Martín, close to the Amazon that he spent his career working to protect. He was 63. 

“It is a great loss for the work for the Peruvian Amazon,” says EII Country Coordinator for Perú, Gustavo Suarez de Freitas, a longtime friend and colleague. “His presence will be missed in many places.”

EII Senior Policy Analyst Patricia Luna del Pozo lives in Lima and was a colleague and friend of Galarreta’s, who she says was instrumental in shaping how Perú’s forests are governed. As the country underwent a period of decentralization during the previous decade, she says, Galarreta “went to the ministers of agriculture, of the environment, and he impressed on them the importance of granting authority to regional governments of the Amazon to manage their own territories.”

Today those efforts have borne fruit in the establishment of key entities, including the Mancomunidad and the Coalition for Sustainable Production, both of which aim to support forest-friendly development in the Amazon. Galarreta’s efforts also spurred several departments to create an Environmental Regional Authority – merging for the first time environmental and forestry management. 

“He was the person who always made sure the governors were engaged, that they were in the right places at the right times,” says Luna, who in a Facebook post remembers Galarreta as “a tireless leader who dedicated his life to working for the Amazon and the conservation of Peruvian forests.”

She continues, “Victor was a man of excellent human and personal qualities. In addition to being an excellent professional, he was an excellent father, partner, and friend always available for sincere dialogue, understanding and the search for positive actions in favor of Peruvian rural development.”

A certificate from the non profit Arbio in honor of Galarreta's life and legacy. 

Galarreta occupied a wide array of critical roles, a testament to his versatility and commitment. Between 2007 and 2015 he served as the Technical Secretary for the Interregional Council Amazonian (CIAM), an organization of subnational governments of the Peruvian Amazon. He was the regional coordinator of the Governors' Climate and Forests Task Force in Peru and president of the Board of Directors for Mecanismos de Desarollo Alternos (MDA). 

He also served as a technical advisor to high-level institutions including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Peruvian National Forest and Wildlife Service (SERFOR), the Ministry of Economy and Finance of Peru, the Agricultural Bank of Peru (AGROBANCO), the US Agency for International Development (USAID), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), among others.

Galarreta leaves behind a beloved family, and a large circle of friends and colleagues whose lives he touched. EII has sponsored a tree in Galarreta’s name through the non-profit Arbio.

“Victor's life ended far too soon,” says Nepstad. “I will miss his smile, his optimism, and his remarkable energy. The world has lost a true hero.”

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