Philip Fearnside, Conservation, Food & Health Foundation

TITLE: President

FUNDING AREAS: Wildlife conservation, biodiversity and preserving natural habitats

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

IP TAKE: Fearnside has a heavy Amazonian and developing countries focus for his wildlife conservation grants.

PROFILE: The Conservation, Food and Health Foundation was founded in 1985 by Dr. Philip M. Fearnside, who continues to serve as its president. The purpose of the nonprofit is to promote conservation in a number of ways, and to encourage better and more effective food distribution, especially in underdeveloped nations.

Fearnside's pedigree in the field is long. He has spent more than 30 years in the Amazonia region of Brazil, researching the feasibility of tropical agro-ecosystems. In 1978, he received a Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Michigan, and currently serves as a Research Professor in the Department of Ecology at the National Institute for Research in the Amazon (INPA) in, Brazil, where he is a permanent resident. He is one of the most-cited climate scientists anywhere, and he has an almost singular focus on protecting and restoring the Amazon ecosystem, because he truly believes it's one of the keys to saving the world.

While he works on that, his Conservation, Food & Health Foundation, which he founded in 1985, seeks to promote the overall conservation of natural resources, as well as improve the health and well-being of people in underdeveloped nations by improving the production and distribution of food. It supports these aims by focusing grantmaking in three areas of interest that appear in the foundation's name: conservation, food and health.

The conservation grantmaking supports research activities that seek to help conserve important and viable ecosystems in developing countries, as well as those which generally improve environmental and ecological conditions in those regions. The food grantmaking seeks to fund research and projects that improve access to healthy food for consumption by people in developing countries. And the foundation's health grantmaking seeks mostly to support preventive public health programs, rather than those programs that seek to cure diseases.

One might think, given Fearnside's background, that the foundation's geographic focus might be on the Amazon region, but it really isn't. Its support cuts a wide geographic swath, including organizations located in developing countries or those which have a direct impact on developing countries. About the only geographic region the foundation avoids is the former Soviet bloc of countries.

The foundation has a very open grantmaking process, which begins with an online two-step application process. It has embarked on this process because it gets a lot of applicants for a piece of the $800,000 it grants every year. The process starts with what it refers to as a "concept" application, which serves to weed out those applicants whose focus is not likely to receive funding. 

Some recent examples of grants they've made include a $20,000 grant to EarthRights International, to support a training and networking program for indigenous leaders advocating for human rights and the environment in the Mekong Region Southeast Asia, and $25,000 to the International Rivers Network, in support of a project to assist advocates for social, economic, and environmental interests in areas of sub-Saharan Africa that are threatened by large dam projects.