The following is a conversation between Tasso Azevedo, founder and General Coordinator of MapBiomas, and Denver Frederick, the Host of The Business of Giving.

Denver: MapBiomas is a collaborative network that has been at the forefront of promoting conservation and sustainable management of natural resources. Through a powerful alliance of NGOs, universities, and technology startups across Brazil and multiple other countries, MapBiomas is dedicated to unveiling the changes and transformations within the Brazilian territory.

And here to tell us more about it is Tasso Azevedo, founder and General Coordinator of MapBiomas.

Welcome to The Business of Giving, Tasso.

Tasso Azevedo Founder and General Coordinator of MapBiomas

Tasso: Thanks for having me. 

Denver: Yeah. Was there a moment or a series of events that inspired you to create MapBiomas? 

Tasso: I think there was something that happened before I have been in the forest field as a forester for many years and found several NGOs in our organizations, and then I spent a time in the government. And during this time in the government, I was working on the forefront of combating deforestation, and we had been very successful at that moment, like deforestation dropped down in the Amazon by 80% when we were working there. I found the Forest Service and then created the Amazon Fund, so everything was moving in an interesting way. 

And then we had a group of leaders of forest agencies in the mega forest countries, like the big countries with forests, including Canada, U.S., Brazil, Congo, Russia, China. And then we had this gathering of those folks to discuss about the challenge of forests, and we had one meeting in Canada… and that was in Vancouver in British Columbia, and we saw the infestation of pine beetle. 

Denver: Oh yeah. 

Tasso: This thing, for me, I knew that this was there, but I had no idea about the size of this, like they were talking about thousands of hectares that was basically dying with trees dying because of this beetle, which is natural from the region, but it’s multiplying because of the climate change. You don’t have sufficient cold weather to kill them during the winter, so it’s basically multiplying. And I saw this thing, and I was thinking the challenge that the foresters there have to decide what to do, like you can’t use chemicals because you contaminate the water for everyone downstream, including the U.S. 

Denver: Sure. You solve one problem and then create a bunch of others. 

Tasso: Yeah, and then, okay, you have to harvest the trees and cut down the trees, and the trees will have very low value because you have to cut in chips for paper or pop on something like this and stuff, use them for lumber.

So, it is all those effects, and then those guys having to take decisions that they take now, and then the generations after them will be the ones that will actually see if it works or not. And so this was in Canada, which is not the most biodiverse place in the world. And so I was thinking about maybe what I’m doing in Brazil is kind of… I don’t know if you have this expression in English, but it’s like trying to dry ice. 

Denver: Yes. 

Tasso: Like, it’s not possible. So, I’m thinking maybe I’m drying ice, trying to protect the forest and have no deforestation. But then there is this thing, climate change, that is coming over and will kind of completely impact the forest. I was the chief of the Forest Service in Brazil, so I dropped the Forest Service and decided in 2009 to work with climate change. 

And then by working climate change and dragging Brazil for having targets to reduce emissions… one of the first countries to do so… and then I start to study the emissions, greenhouse gas emissions in Brazil, how this works, and then I learned and that’s the pivotal moment… is that Brazil is the fifth largest greenhouse gas emitter on the planet, and the first ones are China, U.S., India, and Russia.

Denver: Yeah. 

Tasso: But those four countries, the reason why they are in this list is because of burning of fossil fuels, and in Brazil, the reason why we are in this list is because 75% of our greenhouse gas emissions come from the way we use the land. How come? Like deforestation, you burn trees, and you have a lot of emissions. Pasture, like the cattle in the pastures, is emitting methane, which is a very important source of greenhouse gas.

And so, the thing is, if this is our main source of emission, what we have to do in the way we manage our land so we can decrease the emissions and increase the sinking of carbon?

And then comes the idea of MapBiomas. The idea of MapBiomas was we need to understand everything that is happening with our land cover, land use, how this is changing so we can have insights on how to interfere with that to have a better management of the resources. So, as I said, my moment was seeing the pine beetles. 

Denver: Pine beetles, yeah, yeah. Drying ice, I don’t know what we would use for that; sometimes we call it a fool’s errand. And so I’m trying to do it without factoring in: Why would you want to do it? You know what I mean? Only a fool would try to do it. 

Well, what you’ve done then is that you have created these parcels that measure 30 meters by 30 meters, and that is pretty much your view into how the land is changing and how it’s being used. What have you found out? 

Tasso: Yeah, so there are two things. One is why we did this, because not just Brazil, but most of the countries in the world were not monitoring what’s going on in the land use. Land changes every year because it was too complicated to make a map that reflects: What is the land use in a fine definition every year. Too complicated. You have to make one map; it takes too much time; it’s very expensive. So, even in developed countries, the maps we’d  be doing every seven or 10 years. 

Denver: Yeah.

Tasso: So, you don’t capture really what’s the dynamics, and it’s always old, the product’s always old. So, we look at this problem, I think, How could we do something different? And that’s when we come with this idea that instead of trying to map things by finding objects… like imagine you’ve seen a picture, right? And you want to find a cat, how would you do it? You look at the picture, and then you see a cat, and you design a cat and say, Oh, this part is a cat. 

Now, what we do… imagine if you take every pixel on the picture, and you say if it’s a cat or not. This pixel is a cat; this pixel is not a cat, and et cetera and then when you finish, you say: If you take all the pixels that are a cat, then you can see a cat.

Denver: You can see a cat, yeah. 

Tasso: And the reason why we do this is that, then we can do this in a large scale of using machine learning, so that’s what we invent. We invent a way to actually do this large-scale mapping on a very fine definition of everything that is happening on the land use, land cover in Brazil. So we broke down Brazil’s 9.6 billion parcels, and we tell the story of each one of those parcels. 

So, there are many things you learn by doing that. I would just say some of the striking ones, which is kind of really new for us. For example, one of the things we map, we measure, is water, the water surface. Brazil is the country that has more fresh water on the planet, right? 

Denver: That’s right, yeah. 

Tasso: But we lost 15% of our water surface in just 30 years. So, it’s like striking– the largest wetlands we have in the planet, which is Pantanal; it’s one of the biomes in Brazil, lost 60% off of the water surface. And it was something that we are not seeing because we just think that, Oh, it’s going up and down, and that’s part of the game. No, no, it’s actually shrinking even if you consider all the variations. 

The other interesting thing we find out, like you are having a lot of fire there right now in Canada and U.S. and other places. Almost 20% of Brazil got on fire at least once in the last 35 years. This makes the fires in other regions, in California and other places, like, okay, it’s something, but it’s nothing compared to what we have.

Denver: Are the fires still going on? Because I remember there must have been 3,500 or 4,000 fires last August, and there was outrage around the world, and I always think about these things. I say,  it’s a year later. Is the Amazon still burning, or are we just not paying attention to it, and it is in fact still burning?

Tasso: It is, but the burning season starts in July. So, July, August, September, October is really, really huge because you need the vegetation dry, but the signs that we have these years that deforestation is going down strongly, so we are talking about, I just saw the data this morning that the deforestation is coming down by about 40% from January to June this year compared to the same period of last year.  And this has a very strong connection because we don’t have fire in the Amazon, for example, if you don’t have deforestation. 

Denver: Yeah. 

Tasso: There’s no natural fire.

Denver: Got you, got you.

Tasso: That’s part of the game. But the other things we learn, like there should be some good news, right? So, one piece of good news that is really interesting is the fact that when we look at the images year by year, you can tell not just what has been deforested, but you can also understand what is regrowing, what is regenerating.

And we had this idea that people just mentioned this number for ages that we had about 7 million hectares of regeneration in Brazil or restoration in Brazil, and we find out, actually 46 million hectares is an area the size of Germany that is actually regenerating in Brazil, which is a good piece of news, right? It’s like, this is a big piece of forest growing up, but… there is always a but, right? In these cases, the rate of deforestation of this so-called secondary forests, it’s 10 times faster than in the primary forest, on the old grove forest.

So, it makes people think like then how you use this information in practical terms? It’s like this, if we want to regrow and regenerate the forest, what is more important? Planting new trees or taking care of the trees that are growing back naturally? 

Denver: Yep. 

Tasso: And I will bet it’s much more important to take care of the forest that is actually regenerating, not that it’s not important to plant trees, but it’s just: this is where you could use less money but provoke an immense change. So, this is the sort of thing that comes up from this data as people are digging into them. 

Denver: Yeah, and I think another piece of good news too in Brazil because it is so important, not only for Brazil, it’s for the whole world. You can’t really think about climate change without taking care of the Brazilian forest. It’s like your organization, Brazilians have always been early adopters of technology, haven’t they? So, I mean, if there’s going to be a country that’s going to be able to turn this around quickly, my impression has always been Brazil would be at the forefront of being able to do something like that. 

Tasso: Yeah, it’s interesting that you’re saying so because the first use of satellite to monitor the forests in the planet was done by INPE, which is the spacial agency in Brazil, back in the ‘70s. 

Denver: Wow.

Tasso: It’s kind of interesting, right? The Geological Service  in U.S. with NASA, they launched this satellite called Landsat. The first versions of that in the 70’s, and only three countries were using the image. The first one was U.S., then Canada, and the third one was Brazil. And the use in Brazil was the first time they think: Oh, maybe we can measure the deforestation using these satellites, and this turns out to be the first system for continuous monitoring. Deforestation starts in Brazil in 1988, and the global systems that we have today, all of them started after the year 2000. 

Denver: Yeah. 

Tasso: So, it’s really like upfront, and we’ve seen various areas of this thing, which is like, if there is something new that we can use and if the access is available, let’s jump into that.

And it’s interesting also, this has a lot to do with the type of support that has been given in different ways. So, a lot of this progress and early adoption comes from scientists and civil society, and this has a lot to do with a large investment that was done in the eighties and nineties on those organizations that is a kind of a scientific nonprofit organizations in Brazil that create this sense that in the civil society, you can also have innovation on the science side that can later on interfere on public policy, and a lot of institutions invest in those people to be able today to create anything from scratch.

Denver: Yeah, yeah. So, you give this data, Tasso, 33% or so, 35%, I don’t know what it is, of your land is used for farming, and I know that there’s been some degradation in the soil because of pastures– 63%, et cetera, et cetera, so you really have some just mind-blowing data in terms of where this is at. What does that lead to? What actions are taken? How does this data then change behavior at the individual level, but much more on the public policy level, to change the outcomes? 

Tasso: Yeah, so let’s think about something there, for example, you just mentioned the pasture, right? Pasture is the main use of land in Brazil after forests and so on. If you don’t have a forest, what you have most likely is pasture. And so we’re talking about 200 million hectares of pasture. It’s a large area, and so pasture can be sinking carbon if it’s well managed or can be releasing carbon if it’s degraded. So, the difference is incredible.

Denver: Night and day.

Tasso: So, what we did was instead of just mapping the pasture, everything is equal. We actually separate what is degraded and well-managed pasture.

And so this allows for the national system to subsidize agriculture; they have credits with subsidies for the agriculture, and one of the programs they have is something called, a sustainable agriculture or low-carbon agriculture, and so they use as the criteria to define who gets this credit if you are actually applying the practices that promote the well-managed pasture.

And so this data is used to actually first check what is the priority to have those policies and then check if the policies are being implemented or not. 

So, another interesting example is we have one product, which is for every deforestation that happens in Brazil, we produce a specific report, and this report tells if the deforestation has signs of illegality, evidence of illegality, where it happens, who is responsible for that. So, every deforestation, one report… is the only place in the world today that you have that. 

Last year, for example, 76,000 deforestation events, all of them have a specific report. 

Denver: Wow. 

Tasso: So, the banks in Brazil, they are using this to decide whether they give credit or not for those properties. So, if the property had a deforestation, they can’t get the credit. And so basically, they run into our database, check if there is a deforestation, and then they will not give credit. So, in practical terms, what this means last year, for example, one bank, Banco do Brasil, it’s the largest credits bank in Brazil, they refused 11,000 applications for credit, which is worth about a billion dollars because of this information, 

And it is interesting because we don’t promote this for a specific use, like people can use it for anything they want. Every information is public. It’s free for anyone to use, including for business purposes, and we just try to understand what’s the best way for them to use it, and then we adapt. 

Denver: That’s a great example. That is wonderful. When you can embed this kind of information into those practical business concerns, you shape behavior in such a positive way.

How is your work, Tasso, impacted by the political winds that blow in Brazil, which we’re all pretty familiar with? I mean, does it really go back and forth based on who’s in office? 

Tasso: I would say the impact can go back and forth but in a kind of an almost contradictional way. Like for example, I think during this four years of Bolsonaro, which was very hard, it’s like they were basically working against the environment, which was the first time we see that in Brazil. Because in Brazil, you shift from one place to another, but everyone is moving in one direction, slowly, faster. 

Denver: A matter of degree.

Tasso: Yeah, but then here comes this guy and says, “No, we actually will not do anything. We want to do the opposite.” So, in a way, the impact of what we were doing in terms of results, it was disappointing because deforestation was going up instead of going down, for example, and things like this. But, in terms of the growth of the awareness of what we do, how this could be used and et cetera, increased exponentially during this period because you didn’t have in the government a safe port for all this information, et cetera, so we were basically providing everything that the people need. We had to be very creative in pushing things. Any information that people need, we were trying to produce. So, it was good. On this side, we got stronger, but it’s sometimes frustrating that it’s not applied.

And so now, we are seeing the same data that we were providing last year. Now it’s been used like, I don’t know, probably five, six times more this year than last year just because we have a shift in the administration. 

Denver: Yeah, I think it’s good you got a new administration though, because I’ve noticed from fundraising, when you have an administration that’s antagonistic to the work you’re doing, fundraising soars. But it only soars for a year or two, and then it begins to flatten out again. So, to be able to take advantage of those couple years, it’s good that you have a more friendly face in the administration.

Tasso: What has been for me the experience in the last four years is that, on this four years almost now, the main difference was the funders; they were less prescriptive on what they want to see, which is very important because I think they give us the ability to  they say like, “Hey, you know what to do. Do it.” And so we were able to be have more institutional support, which is absolutely crucial for what we do because we never know exactly what we’ll be mapping or what are things that we are facing. So these allow us more flexibility to just do the things that are important when we need to do it, not because we have a prescription. 

And so when it changes again for the situation we are in right now, it’s again coming back to this idea that, Okay, we have our theory of change in our organization, and we feel like we are an object; we are kind of an object for the implementation of someone else’s theory of change. 

Denver: Yeah. 

Tasso: So, I think that’s, for me, the main difference. So, it would be incredible if in the good times, we will also have this type of more institutional support, just thinking about this idea.

“If there is one thing we can do to protect forests, it is actually to recognize the rights of indigenous people and the forest-dependent communities, and back them on their needs for development and so on.”

Denver: Yeah, I think also though there was probably a macro issue at play because you had a prevailing wind at your back during this period of time with COVID, and almost all funders during COVID realized they couldn’t dictate to a nonprofit organization what to do because they didn’t know what was happening. And they said, Go and do whatever you want to do because things are changing so fast, and I think we’re all looking at it now to say, Okay, now things are getting back to normal. Are they going to act like they know better what to do than we do? And that’s, that’s something which we all have to really look at carefully.

Hey, what’s the role of indigenous communities that they play and the importance that they’ve played in terms of the preservation of the forest? 

Tasso: Yeah, I know, totally crucial. I mean, the numbers we have are staggering, If you take the indigenous community, what we call Quilombola Community, which are the black communities that act as laborers, like the slaves that escaped 200 years ago.  They went to the Amazon and stayed there, hidden, created their own communities… and some other local communities working in the forest… we call all of them “forest people.” 

Forest people are these people that live from the forest. If you take them, they take care of about one-third of the Amazon. If they have all their claims recognized, it will be like about 40% of the Amazon. But if you look at the deforestation data, only 1% of the deforestation happened on their lands in the last 35 years, one percent. 

Denver: Wow, wow, wow. 

Tasso: And most of this 1% was not done by them, was done by invaders or was done before the land was recognized, like the recognized in the ‘90s or ‘20s  and then we are imagining on ‘85.

So, it’s really fascinating that the most protected areas in the Amazon are not the National Parks on Biological Reserves or something, it’s actually the land that  has people depending on the forest. So, I repeat this continuously: If there is one thing we can do to protect forests, it is actually recognize the rights of indigenous people and the forest-dependent communities, and back them on their needs for development and so on. 

That’s why, for example, my main activity is MapBiomas, but there is one thing that I do at a side, which is my kind of second project, which is bring fast internet broadband connection to every single indigenous community and forest community in the Amazon. Because that’s absolutely crucial for them to be empowered, to protect their territory, to have access to health education and so on. For me, the whole thing is about protecting them; recognizing their rights is the best way to protect the forest. 

Denver: Yeah and they got a heck of a track record to point to that. That is for sure.

Tasso: You are now on number, interesting. It’s like this: The Amazon, when the Portuguese arrived in Brazil 500 years ago, they landed in Brazil in 1500 exactly. And then when they arrived, it’s estimated we had 7 million indigenous people in the Amazon. And then up to the ‘70s, 0.5% of the area was deforested. That’s the numbers from the spacial agency when they did that first study. And today, it’s about 20%.

So, this means that in my generation, I was born in ‘72, so in my generation we wiped out 20% of the Amazon, and these guys were there for 500 years or even more. And guess how many people we have in the rural area in the Amazon; we in total, if you include all the cities, is 25 million, but if you think about the rural population, 7 million. So the same population, that’s it; they know what they’re doing.

“What I do know is how to make people work together to do things that they don’t believe doable. I think that’s the thing. The thing is, if you talk to each one individually, they know that they can’t do it individually. And so, the idea that you can realize that maybe, if we join forces with everyone, we can have something that is beyond what is possible to do, or what we can imagine is possible to do

Denver: Bottom line, yeah. 

What do you think the secrets are to collaboration? Because you have assembled quite a group. You got the NGOs, and you got the tech startups, and you got universities and a lot of stakeholders in this. Do you have a way that you look at partnership and collaboration that yields the best results?

Tasso: Yeah, today, I don’t even know how anyone can do anything that is not in collaboration, that is at least something ambitious. Like if you want to do something bold, ambitious, basically, it is to bring the best of many different fields and formats and diversity of people; that’s how we get the best. 

So, MapBiomas, today, is about 70 organizations in fourteen countries, 280 people. So, I think the key thing is to… which I think is my main ability, like I’m not good on maps, I don’t understand about remote sensing, I don’t know how to code, I don’t know everything about the different subjects that we are mapping. What I do know is how to make people work together to do things that they don’t believe doable. I think that’s the thing. 

The thing is, if you talk to each one individually, they know that they can’t do it individually. And so, the idea that you can realize that maybe, if we join forces with everyone, we can have something that is beyond what is possible to do or what we can imagine is possible to do. I think that’s the beautiful thing. When things start to roll out, people start to get the sensation.

But one thing that I learned in this process is that, this is not a process to sum up abilities, like I do my part, you do your part, and then if everybody does his part, we have here a paper or something, product that it goes to. It is actually this idea that you have to share what you are learning and your abilities in order for everyone to be evolving together.

So, for example, in MapBiomas, every single piece of code that any one of the organizations are developing online at the same time people are working, they are available to anyone else to copy, to try to do something different with what you were doing. And we have this exercise that people get excited every time they get something new. 

Academics like to publish their papers, right? 

Denver:  I’ve heard.

Tasso:  You don’t share anything before it’s published.

And in our cases, you find something new, and you get excited to share with your colleagues, to have the criticism, people who may say that it’s not working, or find something else to do with your piece of code. So, I think this creates the enthusiasm.

“From this 280 people working on MapBiomas, only four people work full-time on MapBiomas. Everybody else is working on something else and also MapBiomas. And this is very important because this creates this type of inbreeding process. You go outside, and you bring things from MapBiomas to the outside. And then you bring back something from outside to inside MapBiomas.

Denver: How do you change the mindset though? That obviously makes sense, but you’re dealing with people who have that mindset of husbanding their information, having it proprietary. Is it getting them so excited about the vision? Or, what is it to get people to work together?

Tasso: Yeah, in the beginning, it was kind of strange, but as soon as people start to see the results of this attitude, it’s what makes them excited. 

So, for example, we produce our maps, and we publish the maps before we have any paper published, right? Because we want people to start to use it quickly. As a result of that, today, if you go in any given week, on average, there are about 15 papers, peer-reviewed papers, published with data from MapBiomas per week. 

If we make a big effort, maybe we can publish 10 papers in one year as a group, right? Because there’s a whole process of doing it. Now, because this is open, like we have thousands of papers being produced, and research being produced, and impact being created because of the fact that we just released the data for the other people to use.

So now, three years later, four years later, after we’ve started the process, I think the people start to get the sense that this is actually a big value because then everybody that’s using the data refers back to you and says, “Oh, these are the guys that are producing the data that actually I use.” And then it starts different conversations, different proposals of projects, people inviting you to be a part of their other initiatives. 

And the other interesting thing is that, there is a lot of creation of initiatives that comes from this group. For example, all the startups that are working with MapBiomas today, they didn’t exist when we started the project. They basically are people that were in the project, that after doing the project, they said, “Oh, there is something here that I can transform into a new business or something.” So, they keep working with MapBiomas, but they have their own business outside.

And the other thing that I think is crucial, this is the last one, Denver, is the following: We have from this 280 people working on MapBiomas, only four people work full-time on MapBiomas. Everybody else is working on something else and also MapBiomas. And this is very important because this creates this type of inbreeding process. You go outside and you bring things from MapBiomas to the outside, and then you bring back something from outside to inside MapBiomas.

So, is that like you are cooking with many things going in and out? It’s really what makes this fascinating. Not even me…. I’m not working full-time in MapBiomas; most of us are not.  

Denver: Do you think this is the future of work in some ways? I mean, I’d be very curious about what that workplace culture is like because I would imagine unless I’m wrong, 276 of them are working part-time; 4 people are just making sure that everything is administratively coming together. But how does that change the culture of an organization? It’s really interesting, and I just wonder, as I say, is this looking into the future of the way we’re all gonna be working here?

Tasso: Yeah, I think we don’t see MapBiomas as an organization; maybe this is a thing. We always describe it as a network because the organizations are each one. If you want to say, “Where is MapBiomas? I want to visit MapBiomas.” It doesn’t exist. There is no office place for MapBiomas. MapBiomas is actually the network, and so the best way to find MapBiomas is every Friday at 3:00 PM. We have this meeting where it’s open to everybody on the network. So you have like sometimes 50 people, sometimes 70 people that get together. We spend time talking about innovations, things that we learned, new collaborations, and so on.

But I do think that collective impact is the name of the game. Now, there’s no way you can create impact on a large scale if it’s not collectively. And in our field, like mapping things, that’s very important because all the global initiatives of mapping, it’s basically somewhere. You have a university or a research center that is producing maps for the whole planet, and then in each region, they find someone to check if the maps are good or bad or making some samples or something like this.

And our approach is we want to have a global map that is made by the efforts of local people doing the maps on each place. Why? Because maps are power, and so who makes maps are really powerful. 

So, if we want to have local people really understand and using, find out what is unique to map. That’s the most important.

Like in Brazil, we need to map pasture. It’s very important. In Indonesia, it’s not important at all. They don’t even map the pasture, but they’re mapping palm oil because there,  palm oil is the most important thing. So, they need to know how to develop a system to map palm oil because we don’t know how to map palm oil… because in Brazil, it’s not an issue. 

So, I think this idea… it’s kind of this concept of “glocal” that I heard another day, which is a mixture of global with local, like glocal, which is kind of: Make a global impact through this collective action that has meaning at the local level. 

Denver: I think that’s right, and I think you also hear a lot about data colonialism where people come in and they map all these things, but they keep it as the global organization themselves and don’t share it with  the locals, and I think that’s all part of it. No, it’s their data; they need to have it. So, I think you’re seeing a movement in that direction as well. 

Tasso: Yeah, I think a lot of the initiatives today, they are open, like Global Forest Watch: it’s an open data site. It’s very important for places where you don’t have any initiative. It’s very important to have something like, for example, Global Forest Watch. 

The point for me is that usually, those global initiatives don’t have a lot of meaning at the local level. People are not using this at the local level because when you go down to the local level, it makes no sense because you need to do something that makes sense globally. But then you look at the local level, say, “Well, that’s not exactly what we need. What’s the name of things, et cetera.” So, we have to find ways to calibrate that. 

Denver: And let me close with this, and picking up exactly what you said. I mean, we look at what’s happened in Brazil with MapBiomas: Where do you think this is going globally? I mean, is this going to be replicated? Is it being replicated in other countries around the world? And what do you think the future of this initiative is going to look like?  

Tasso: So, it’s being replicated in fourteen countries now. So, it’s in all countries in South America. So there is an initiative in Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, and so on, and there is an initiative also in Indonesia… so all of them, working pretty well. Local organizations… they have their own networks. Like if you go to Indonesia, there are 10 local organizations developing. So, what we do is training, help them to train, learn how to do it, and they do it by themselves. There’s nothing like we do maps in any other places. 

Our biggest challenge now is to get into Africa because our model depends on finding the right partner. It’s not a partner that you hire to do a map. It’s a partner that wants to be MapBiomas in that country. Say, yeah, okay, I will build a MapBiomas-style network here, and then we can bring all the inputs that we have from the other partners, like could be trained by Indonesians, could be trained by Brazil or Chile or whatever, and to build up this system also in Africa. 

So, my vision is that we can get to 2030 having initiatives like this one working throughout the tropics in a way that we get 80% of the tropical forests, 70% of the biodiversity, and 50% of the carbon stocks. So, this is like the idea, at least be covered by this type of system.

Denver: Pretty exciting stuff, I must say. For people who want to learn more about MapBiomas or maybe help support the organization or become involved in some way, tell us about the website and the kind of information they’ll find on it.

Tasso: Yeah, and actually, MapBiomas is not for “biomass,” but for bio which is from the different ecosystems that we have. So, if you go to, you will find all the platforms that we run, information, who is actually involved in the program. We do have some products, which are reports and et cetera. We don’t do advocacy directly. That’s an important thing because we need to be the organization that “it’s neutral” as we publish the data so everybody else can use it for advocacy. Large network, you can find all the platforms there. Getting there, learn about ourselves, and if you want to get involved or support anything, just talk to us. 

Denver: Well, fantastic. Well, I want to thank you so much, Tasso, for being here today. It was a real pleasure to have you on the show. 

Tasso: Thank you for having me. It was a very nice conversation.

Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving serves as a Trusted Advisor and Executive Coach to Nonprofit Leaders. His Book, The Business of Giving: New Best Practices for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leaders in an Uncertain World, is available now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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