Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

MegaFlorestais is a network of public forest agency leaders from the worlds' most forested countries (representing 70% of the world's forests), dedicated to advancing international dialogue and exchange on forest governance and public forest agency reforms. This group provides the opportunity for its members to share their experiences and challenges in a frank, open and technical manner.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The world's forests are being degraded and among the losers are some of the world's poorest, people who depend on the forests for survival. Unclear and unstable tenure allows this degradation to occur and exacerbates poverty. Delineating clear property rights to forest communities is growing more important with time as it is becoming understood that reducing and avoiding deforestation are key to lowering global greenhouse gas emissions. The Special Report on Forests in the September 2010 edition of The Economist notes that "[t]here is rarely a better way to balance the interests of poor people and forests" than through community forest management, but strong property rights are necessary for such success. In managing their forests with clear autonomy, local forest communities are better stewards for the environment than the centralized control dominant in developing countries today.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

MegaFlorestais is unique in that it fills a vital niche in the drive to understand and improve forest property rights by connecting forestry leaders from around the world in an informal, frank setting. As a platform, MegaFlorestais allows policymakers to consider far-reaching legal and policy reforms that address forest tenure reform. While many agency heads have formal opportunities to interact formally, few opportunities exist for top policymakers to interact candidly. No other organization facilitates such a network of public forestry professionals that is focused on advancing the rights and livelihoods of forest peoples. Forest agencies trust the Rights and Resources Inititative (RRI) as a convener of these meetings and in upholding the confidentiality of the discussions so that leaders can engage in free, real debate. MegaFlorestais compliments “bottom-up” governance and tenure reform advocacy by introducing the discussion to the top public decision makers of highly forested countries. An estimated 350 million indigenous and tribal peoples are at least partially dependent on forests, including some 60 million who are substantially dependent on forests for their subsistence and livelihoods. Predominant models of forest conservation which do not consider local livelihoods have often exacerbated poverty and conflict and precluded pro-poor economic growth. The lack of clear rights to own and use forest land, develop enterprises and trade forest products has restricted opportunities for forest dwellers and encouraged widespread illegal logging and forest loss.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

MegaFlorestais compliments “bottom-up” governance and tenure reform advocacy by introducing the discussion to the top public decision makers of highly forested countries. These decision makers are at the most senior level, usually heads of forest agencies or their immediate deputies. Public officials from Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, China, Indonesia, Mexico, DRC, India, Russia and the US have all participated in MegaFlorestais conferences. RRI recognizes confidentiality as a key component for successfully discussing controversial issues from a senior public position. The meeting format allows the heads of forest agencies to be open about sensitive issues such as their countries’ formal positions on REDD or domestic property rights regimes. Such a framework offers a different approach to ground-scale initiatives by tackling policy problems on a large scale and over a long time. The innovation in MegaFlorestais enables countries with an interest in forest property rights reform to connect with policy makers in China or Brazil, where such reforms are already in motion and others liek the U.S. and Canada that are still grappling with tenure rights. Since the first MegaFlorestais in 2005, meetings have been held in the US, Russia, Brazil, Canada and China.
About You
Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI)
Visit website
Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name



, DC, Washington

Section 2: About Your Organization
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Organization Name

Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI)

Organization Phone

+1 202 470 3900

Organization Address

1238 Wisconsin Ave NW, Suite 204, Washington, DC 20007

Organization Country

, DC, Washington

How long has this organization been operating?

1‐5 years

Your idea
Country your work focuses on
Do you have a patent for this idea?


MegaFlorestais conferences have seen repeat attendance by many forestry leaders from around the world. Officials have shared information and used the meetings as a springboard for outside collaboration. RRI has also built on its successes in the series; numerous activities have spun off of the MegaFlorestais meetings. For example, MegaFlorestais has held the first Global Issues in GOvernance to develop the next generation of leaders for public forest agencies and to prepare professionals to deal with the increasingly complex challenges on forest landscapes. The event will provide a combination of structured and unstructured learning where participants and experts will be introduced to the key issues confronting global forest management. Additionally, in response to the interest generated in Montana’s approach to forest regulations during the annual conference, RRI is leading a study tour to the state. 13 staff from Indonesia, Brazil, and Mexico are expected to attend. Equally important, leaders are conducting study tours of each others' countries to learn from their successes; all resulting from the special relationships forged between these top leaders.


In September 2010, leaders from 7 of the world's most forested countries met in China for MegaFlorestais where they shared openly, discussed new ideas, and asked one another for advice on the state of their forested lands. After 4 days of discussion on the most complicated issues facing the world's forests, participants led a panel during the 200+ people Conference on Forest Tenure and Regulatory Reforms in Asia, focusing on the lessons learned at MegaFlorestais.

Brazil and China have lead the way in implementing real changes in forest regulation and land rights, yet equally important is the realization of several African countries that tenure reform must occur simultaneously with forest regulation reform, resulting in a change in country priorities. For 5 years these international leaders have met consistently and shared openly, and through their interactions, have begun to publicly state that tenure reform is central to forest protection across the globe.

Benefits of this convening power were solidified on the final evening of MegaFlorestais 2010, when forestry leaders from SE Asia met with RRI leaders to discuss establishing another of these forums in their 6 countries.

How many people will your project serve annually?

More than 10,000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

Less than $50

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?


If so, how?

Forest agencies play a decisive role in policies that have a direct impact on inhabitants in tropical countries. They are entrusted with managing public forests, have authority over the allocation of lands and resources, and have a direct relationship with the vested business interests in conventional forest use. In many countries they have a tremendous number of staff and an important field presence that makes instrumental in land use decisions locally, regionally and nationally. In short, the support of forest agencies is critical for reforms to be advanced or implemented. Even when forest agencies have devolved control of forests to local communities, such as in Brazil, the agencies still have great influence over use of the land. These uses include REDD, biofuels, climate adaptation, economic development in forests.
MegaFlorestais provides an effective forum for discussing the controversial and sensitive issues associated with institutional reform in the forest sectors of the world's largest forested countries. By focusing on the continuity of relationships amongst a group of professional leaders, keeping discussions informal and confidential, and facilitating dialogue around the most important topics in forestry, MegaFlorestais has quickly become one of the most effective forums from which to encourage forest agencies to support reforms necessary to address climate change, land use and tenure, indigenous and community rights, and REDD readiness. MegaFlorestais has already led to significant and substantial impacts, including accelerating the spread of and shared understanding of “best practices” in terms of tenure and governance reform; providing alternative, pro-community and conservation tenure and enterprise models; catalyzing forest agencies in Central Africa to support new public dialogues; supporting research and pilots on tenure reform; and setting up staff exchanges between forest agencies in Indonesia and Brazil on forest governance.

What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?


Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with businesses?

Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your innovation.

The Rights and Resources Initiative maintains formal partnerships with a number of other forest tenure-related organizations. These organizations include the Coordinating Association of Indigenous and Agroforestry Communities of Central America (ACICAFOC), the Center for People and Forests (RECOFTC), Civic Response in Ghana, the Foundation for People and Community Development (FPCD) in Papua New Guinea, Forest Peoples Programme, the Federation of Community Forest Users in Nepal (FECOFUN), Forest Trends, the World Agroforesty Centre, Intercooperation and the Samdhana Institute. Additionally, RRI collaborates with over 70 other organizations around the globe in securing property rights for local communities and indigenous peoples. All of these connections enable RRI to transmit ideas and discussions back and forth between senior policy makers and civil society organizations. RRI’s partnerships allow us to bring the concerns of local communities with whom we work to those who determine public policy.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

RRI receives funding through its Donor Support Group. RRI supporters consist of the DfID – Department for International Development, United Kingdom; the Ford Foundation; FORMIN - Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Finland; Norad – Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation; SDC – Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation; and Sida – Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

In 2002, early collaborators in what became RRI supported a publication entitled "Who Owns the World’s Forests? Forest Tenure and Public Forests in Transition." In that report, Andy White and Alejandra Martin wrote that in the course of recent decades, long-standing government claims to owning forests had begun to dissolve and indigenous peoples and local communities were gaining recognized ownership. Knowing the numbers behind the trend has significant implications for the well being of forest peoples. RRI was formally established in 2005 around the realization that there was a great need to better understand the world forest tenure transition and support the rights of local people in forest areas.
The first MegaFlorestais meeting took place in Beijing in September 2005, when Rights and Resources co-organized a conference at the invitation of the Chinese State Forest Administration and the Chinese Center for Agriculture Policy. Leaders from Brazil, Mexico, India and the US participated in this initial meeting and agreed to continue the collaboration by creating MegaFlorestais, which translates as "those with large forests" in Portuguese. The members invited Rights and Resources to facilitate and coordinate the organization of the meetings.
MegaFlorestais was born out of the desire to constructively engage forest agencies and assist them in formulating and sharing "best practice" recommendations for devolving property rights to local land users. Forest agencies are key players in shaping property rights for forest communities, and the idea of having a regular series of discussions about what challenges and opportunities the agencies face, is a main impetus for the MegaFlorestais series.

Tell us about the social innovator—the person—behind this idea.

Absent Andy White's leadership and vision, MegaFlorestais would not have been able to flourish as it has. He saw a void in the communication of forest officials from the world's most forested countries and the need for an informal convening space to foster discussion, knowledge sharing and lessons learned. His quiet leadership style facilitated participant's ownership, and subsequent driving of Megaflorestais - which has undoubtedly contributed to its success.

Prior to joining Rights and Resources, Andy White served as Senior Director of Programs at Forest Trends and Natural Resource Management Specialist at the World Bank, as well as consultant to the International Food Policy Research Center, Save the Children Federation and the Inter-American Foundation. He has worked extensively in Haiti, Mexico and China and supervises policy research and engagement in Asia, Latin America and Africa. His own research and project work has focused on forest tenure and policy, as well as international trade and the forest industry. He has a PhD in forest economics and a MA in anthropology from the University of Minnesota.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Web Search (e.g., Google or Yahoo)

If through another source, please provide the information.

Approximately 50 words left (400 characters).

Which (if any) of the following strategies apply to your organization or company (check as many as apply)

Please explain how your work furthers one or many of the above strategies (if you selected “other”, please explain your strategy)

As part of its Country Initiatives program, RRI advocates for pro-poor policy and market reforms at the state level, carrying out country-level research and convening dialogues to generate new legislation and improved implementation of existing policies, and engaging government policymakers and strategic actors from civil society and communities to share new models and research.