Niyanta Spelman is the founder and executive director of Rainforest Partnership, an international nonprofit organization that protects tropical rainforests. By helping Amazon rainforest communities find and develop opportunities to make a sustainable income from the forest itself – sustainably gathering and selling palm fibers, building an eco-lodge for birdwatchers, or making and selling artisan products - Rainforest Partnership helps them protect their forest and their way of life. Established in 2007, her Austin-based organization is now also creating a global community of Rainforest Partners to raise awareness about the importance of tropical rainforests and to reduce deforestation.
Between 2000 and 2007, Niyanta owned PPPMC Inc, a public sector-oriented management consultancy. Niyanta’s broad public sector experience includes working for the Legislative Budget Board, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and the Texas Legislature, the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe located in Budapest, Hungary, and the first lobbying firm in London, England.
Niyanta is an advisor to SXSW Eco, an adjunct faculty member at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at University of Texas at Austin, and recently served on the board of the Asian Pacific Islander American Health Forum, based in San Francisco. She was also a founding member of Texas Federation of Asian American Chambers of Commerce, served for several years on the Austin Zoning & Platting and Planning Commissions and on the boards of various nonprofit organizations.
Niyanta grew up in Tanzania and lived in India and England before coming to Texas 25 years ago. She received a B.A. in biology from the University of Texas at Dallas, and a Masters degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin. She and her husband Bill Spelman, a UT professor and an Austin city council member, live in Austin and have two sons, Jasiel and Ronan.