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Eric Wilburn

Eric Wilburn, MS/MA '18

Girls run the world in Gorongosa National Park

bags of coffee

Gabriela "Gaby" Curtiz grew up just down the road from Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique. The park is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth and is surrounded by more than 200,000 people who live on very limited resources. These neighboring communities struggle to make ends meet due to lack of employment. Many young women in these communities lack the opportunity to finish primary school because of societal expectations, household responsibilities, and a shortage of schools and teachers.

When Gaby was twelve years old, her primary school showed a National Geographic film about Gorongosa National Park, sparking her dream to work with animals in the park. Nine years later, Gaby was certified as the first female safari tourism guide in Gorongosa's history.

I met Gaby last year on her first trip to the United States. She was visiting Boise State University, where she will begin her undergraduate studies this fall. Of course, service was a part of her trip! She gave a talk to a group of elementary school students about Gorongosa. It was amazing to see their eyes light up and their hands skyrocket to the ceiling with questions about her life in Gorongosa. She emphasized the importance of working with local communities in conservation efforts, and explained that providing livelihoods for local families was the key to sustainable nature conservation. Her example? Coffee.

Why coffee? Because there are hundreds of families like Gaby's living on the flanks of Mount Gorongosa that need an alternative to unsustainable agricultural practices to feed their families. There is no need for farmers to cut down the forests to make room for non-native crops, as farmers can plant native hardwood saplings in between the rows of coffee to provide shade. Coffee gives these farmers a dependable income while helping restore the rainforests of Gorongosa. 

I was thrilled to hear Gaby share her story, and was particularly excited when she chose coffee as her example. Having recently graduated from Stanford, I had just begun working with Gorongosa National Park to launch Gorongosa Coffee, a for-profit company that sells premium roasted coffee around the world and sends 100% of profits back to the park to support operating costs. 

After her talk, Gaby and I were chatting about how Gorongosa Coffee wanted each of our roasted coffees to support a different initiative in the park. Gaby said that the most unique aspect of Gorongosa is that the park fundamentally believes that girls' education is the key to both human development and nature conservation. 

Inspired by Gaby, Gorongosa Coffee created a Girls Run the World coffee that sends 100% of profits to help over 20,000 girls in Gorongosa finish high school. The funds help build schools, provide high school scholarships, and connect girls with mentors through afterschool programs. We hope to demonstrate that when we give girls in Mozambique the confidence, capability, and opportunities to determine their own futures, we encourage more leaders like Gaby.

One of the defining aspects of our model that helps ensure our company has a positive impact is that the lone shareholder of Gorongosa Coffee is the trust that funds the park. In other words, Gorongosa Coffee is a social enterprise which keeps control of this community-based initiative within the community it serves.

Gaby graduated from high school in Gorongosa and will start at Boise State University in September, pursuing a degree in business tourism. Her goal is eventually to become the head of tourism for Gorongosa National Park. 

Gaby and I come from very different backgrounds, but we share a commitment to serving the people, wildlife, and ecosystems of Gorongosa. We believe that the path forward for people and the planet is that every business thrives, not to fill the pockets of a few shareholders, but in service of an equitable and sustainable future for all.

I invite you to help us empower young women like Gaby from the communities of Gorongosa to break barriers and bring positive change to their communities. You may order our coffee at

Eric Wilburn, MS '18, MA '18, served in the Peace Corps in Mozambique before arriving at Stanford to pursue dual masters degrees in environmental engineering and public policy. During his time at Stanford, Eric was a Graduate Public Service Fellow and also coached the Stanford Triathlon Team. Recently, Eric has been helping to launch a company called Gorongosa Coffee that aims to benefit local communities, wildlife, and nature in Mozambique by supporting conservation, education, and economic development.
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