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Environment

San Diego venture capitalist makes $1 million gift to support rainforest preservation and to help women

Looking at video shot in the rainforests of Ecuador, words like otherworldly come to mind. But, the world cannot survive without these unique places.

“There is no way for us to meet what the world requires without us keeping the standing forest standing," Niyanta Spelman said.

Spelman founded the nonprofit Rainforest Partnership 15 years ago. The group’s mission is to protect, conserve, stabilize and regenerate tropical rainforests.

How they do that is what sets them apart.

Spelman explains it's done "with communities, local and indigenous, as guardians and economic participants while we also foster connection between people and nature, ensuring there’s hope."

Spelman now has the resources to do much more, thanks to a $1million gift from a San Diego venture capitalist. 

me, spelman.jpg
Roland Lizarondo
KPBS reporter John Carroll talks with Founder & CEO of Rainforest Partnership Niyanta Spelman at Seaport Village on September 14, 2022.


Rose Vitale certainly supports preserving the rainforest, but her gift has as much to do with that as the fact that Niyanta Spelman is a woman.

“It’s always about, how do we support women?  And it’s not just because we are women. I think that, you know I’ve coined the phrase, women are the new asset class.  And this is the opportunity. We just have to define what those assets are all about," said Vitale, the founder of FundHer World Capital.

Vitale liked what she saw in Niyanta Spelman and Rainforest Partnership, a nonprofit teaching the people that care most about the rainforest how to launch their own for-profit ventures.

“If we can create these for-profit models in the rainforest, then obviously we can help them become more sustainable in terms of furthering their mission and growth," Vitale said.

me, vitale.jpg
Roland Lizarondo
KPBS reporter John Carroll talks with venture capitalist Rose Vitale at Seaport Village on September 14, 2022.

The upshot? People who live in the rainforest get to the point where they have sustainable ways of supporting themselves and their families, without feeling like they have no choice but to burn the rainforest for farming.

That's a choice that in the biggest of pictures, will help to stop rainforest deforestation, and that will help to save the lungs of this planet.

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