WWF's Irma Larrea on her Hispanic heritage and conservation

Photo portrait of Irma Larrea

WWF's Irma Larrea is the Director of Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation for Markets

I was born in Ecuador, studied for 14 years in a French school in Quito, have a B.A. in Communications from the Central University of Ecuador, and was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study my M.A. in Communications & Development (Specialization in Political Lobbying and Leadership) at Ohio University. For more than two decades, my passion for conservation efforts and sustainability have taken me to far-off locations throughout the world, and I continue to be more passionate in my endeavors every chance I get. I’ve been working for WWF for 20 years in different projects applying my knowledge about Global Initiatives, Program Management, Strategic Planning, Project Implementation, Quality Assurance, Cross-Functional Teams Building, among others.

How does your Hispanic heritage influence your approach to conservation?
Irma Larrea: My Hispanic heritage is linked to cultural syncretism. It's combined with unique aspects of different cultures, different perspectives of agriculture, and an understanding of new species of plants and animals. It allows a mixture of races and created an expanded sense of community where family and friends played a key role. My approach to conservation embraces all those elements.

Do you have family traditions?
IL: We cook family recipes and try different flavors. During Easter, we prepare “fanesca,” a soup that combines Catholic symbols (12 grains representing different saints) and Indigenous rituals. While preparing fanesca, my mom, siblings, nephews, nieces, and I share family stories.

What’s your favorite memory from growing up in Ecuador?
IL: In Ecuador, you can start your day in the jungle and end it at the beach after traveling just a few hours. But what excited me the most was visiting the “Mitad del Mundo”—The Middle of the World—on the equator line. I liked the monument with painted lines marking the equator and putting one foot in each hemisphere.

You’ve worked extensively with projects in Latin America involving the Galapagos, the Amazon rain forest, and beyond. What’s most rewarding about working with conservation initiatives in Latin America?
IL: It’s rewarding working in multiple countries supporting conservation projects with highly qualified teams based in each location. I learn from my Latin American colleagues, understand synergies, acknowledge differences, and discover new perspectives that I apply to my daily work and life.

What project are you most excited about?
IL: I’m working with projects that aim to take deforestation and conversion of critical habitats out of our global supply chains. We work with diverse sectors in several countries in coordination with the WWF Network and I'm excited to see how we can change people’s mindsets towards more sustainable practices.

Through a team experts in different fields, WWF is engaging key market and financial players to drive the implementation of credible and long-lasting commitments to achieve deforestation/conversion and overfishing free supply chains and to input additional capital using the influence of the financial sector. This will help companies to reduce their environmental impacts and to work towards more environmentally friendly practices. This work takes true commitment and drive. I enjoy the work that I do and still get excited when I see progress is being made, not just in the projects that I work on, but also in similar projects. My goal is to assist achieving initiatives by the formulation of solid strategies and plans to execute on long-term goals.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your 20 years at WWF?
IL: When you work with passion and believe in the mission, you achieve better and bigger results. Any result achieved is thanks to a team effort, where different levels of expertise and viewpoints are combined and needed.

For more than two decades, Irma's passion for conservation and sustainability has only grown, leading her to far-away locations throughout the world.