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.
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