About Ceiba

What is Ceiba?

The Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation is a U.S. 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1997.  Our name is taken from the Ceiba tree (pronounced “SAY-ba”), a giant of tropical forests, which provides a home for animals and plants in its lofty, umbrella-like canopy.  Ceiba trees (such as Ceiba pentandra) are found throughout Central and South America, and are widely viewed as a symbol of intact forest and revered as a protector of both humanity and nature (more).

Our Mission and Vision

We at Ceiba envision a world where people and biodiversity thrive because of each other; a world where the value of nature is recognized, and its conservation is understood as being inextricably connected to human wellbeing.  Our mission is to:

Connect tropical nature and sustainable livelihoods through habitat conservation and environmental education

or the Spanish version:

Conectar los ecosistemas tropicales con medios de vida sostenibles a través de la conservación de la biodiversidad y la educación ambiental

Ceiba is dedicated to the conservation of tropical habitats and the promotion of sustainable livelihoods.  We protect rare and endangered plants and animals, and bolster the value that tropical ecosystems provide to rural communities.  Our strategy is to establish locally-operated nature reserves, promote public education, sponsor scientific research, promote and support community-based sustainability.  We emphasize projects which promote the empowerment of local landowners and communities, and encourage them to actively participate in the sustainable management of their land.  We work primarily in Ecuador, with an emphasis on the threatened coastal dry forests and the hyper-diverse cloud forests of the Andes.

Our Core Values

The Value of Nature

Our actions support, enhance, and illuminate the value of nature, both intrinsic and instrumental.


We promote strategies for protecting and restoring ecosystems while improving human well-being and livelihoods.

Social Justice

We respect the values, dignity, knowledge, contributions, and sovereignty of our partners and the cultures in which we work. We believe people of all ages, genders, and races should have equal access to opportunity, knowledge, and a healthy environment.


We believe access to information empowers people to act in sustainable ways.


We believe that stimulating positive change relies on building trust by making enduring commitments to stakeholders and communities.

Read more about our objectives in our 2020-2025 Strategic Plan.

Our Strengths

Ceiba believes long-term commitment and building trust is key to the success of conservation and sustainability projects.  We support the establishment of locally-owned reserves that serve as models to inspire broader conservation in the surrounding communities and landscapes.  This approach builds local capacity, fosters grassroots support, and generates homegrown appreciation for the value of nature that leads to the eventual independence of conservation from the direct support of Ceiba and other outsiders.  We rely on clear endpoints and outcomes to trigger transfer of project management to local owners, rather than adhering to fixed timelines.  This approach permits a flexibility that greatly increases long-term success.  Ceiba has operated in Ecuador for over 20 years, and has strong connections with the communities where we work, as well as federal and local governments.  The trust we have established makes Ceiba an ideal partner for rapid response programs, as demonstrated by our intensive recovery activities following the 2016 earthquake.

Our Projects

Ceiba has promoted habitat protection for more than two decades, beginning with establishment of the El Pahuma Orchid Reserve.  We apply legal tools, such as conservation easements, a long-used mechanism for private lands protection in the U.S., for the protection of habitat on private lands. For example, we signed the first conservation easement in South America involving a private landowner and a conservation organization to establish El Pahuma.

We are establishing a forested biological corridor on the north-central coast of Ecuador, through sponsorship of a Conservation and Sustainable Use Area (or ACUS in Spanish), to enhance connectivity and species migration within this highly seasonal  and critically threatened ecosystem.

We offer a number of world-class study abroad programs, in partnership with the University of Wisconsin and the Universidad San Francisco de Quito.  In the communities around the reserves we’ve helped establish, we provide environmental education to local schools, and training to local teachers.

We conduct scientific research to inform and guide mitigation strategies against a variety of threats facing tropical plants, animals, and habitats.

We have dynamic and highly impactful internship and volunteer opportunities, and invite young professionals to advance their training by working as at our sites, and support our conservation and development programs.

Ceiba deeply respects the role that local people, communities, and institutions play in the protection of their natural resources.  We work closely with community members, private landowners, and local governments to encourage long-term, locally driven advocacy for conservation and sustainability.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The Ceiba Foundation celebrates diversity, equity, and inclusion in our staff, students, volunteers, and communities with whom we collaborate. Our commitment to these values is central to our vision of a world where people and biodiversity thrive because of each other. Respect for diversity in all forms is a source of strength through which we build a welcoming and inclusive environment and an inspired and innovative workplace.

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