Skoll Foundation



Skoll Entrepreneur(s): Adalberto Veríssimo and Carlos Souza Jr.
Award Year: 2010
Focus Area(s) Addressed: Deforestation

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Adalberto (Beto) Veríssimo and Carlos Souza, Jr., are recognized leaders in rainforest conservation, developing, in Imazon, the first independent deforestation monitoring system for the Brazilian Amazon. Beto co-founded Imazon in 1990, and Carlos joined shortly thereafter to head efforts in technical mapping and satellite imagery. Imazon also strengthens government efforts to find areas at risk for deforestation within municipalities, and motivate landowners to reduce deforestation.


  • Imazon’s goal has always been to scale up the deforestation monitoring to a global scale, and now they have done it. Imazon worked with Google to help the Google Earth engine do that level of deforestation analysis globally. In Feb 2014, the Global Forest Watch platform was launched using Google Earth technology. It was released by the World Resources Institute. It works so well that if you cut down a few trees in your back garden in California, you can go to this web site and see it.
  • Future projects include mapping the locations of fishing vessels, which can help detect illegal fishing; tracing the spread of malaria; showing sea-ice melt; and depicting fires, such as the flaring of natural gas from North Dakota’s shale fields.
  • The European Union’s Joint Research Center, working with Google Earth Engine, presented a paper  in Dec. 2014 on mapping the planet’s permanent and seasonal water sources.
  • Other projects, to be presented at the United Nations’ conference in Japan this March 2015 on disaster risk reduction, include a tool that will help model and map rising sea levels as they affect areas that differ in elevation.
  • Imazon’s central innovation is being able to track deforestation on a monthly basis, and that contributed to Brazil’s massive deforestation.
    • In Dec. 2013, Imazon released a report showing a large decrease in deforestation. After analyzing satellite images between August and November 2013, the results: Last year, during the same period 1,200 square kilometers were deforested. In 2013, it fell to 368 square kilometers.
    • In April 2013, The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced Imazon as the first breakthrough social enterprise to be supported by the Innovation Investment Alliance—a new Global Development Alliance with the Skoll Foundation.
  • The county of Paragominas in the state of Para was once known as an epicenter of Amazon destruction and lawlessness, with many illegal sawmills and organized crime. Then, the federal government put Paragominas on a deforestation blacklist which limited its access to credit. That’s when Imazon began working with leaders and government to help Paragominas convert to a legal economy with no deforestation. Today the illegal sawmills are gone, replaced by profitable, sustainably-managed logging operations. The citizens have committed to no more deforestation, and government has clamped down on organized crime.
  • Imazon has made Paragominas an example of how a county can turn itself around and become a model of 21st century sustainable development with no deforestation. The governor of the state of Para, three times the size of California, has committed to replicating this model throughout the state.
  • The partnership with public prosecutors’ offices to monitor deforestation is facilitating enforcement of conservation law in 75 million hectares of conservation areas and indigenous lands.
  • With more than 400 publications, Imazon is considered by many to be the most productive research group in the Amazon. In 2009, it was featured in 1,778 press articles.
  • In 2012, they released a comprehensive report, Transparency in Forest Management in Pará, where they assess the logging situation in the State from August, 2010 to July, 2011.
  • Its deforestation rates are reported monthly, and the Brazilian government is forced to respond to probing questions about what it is doing to stop illegal deforestation.
  • Imazon has also been published in 170 in scientific journals. The Institute has published 48 books, and more than 150 technical and public policy articles.
  • More than 140 professionals have received training at Imazon in the areas of ecology, forest engineering, environmental law, rural and mineral economics, geoprocessing, rural planning and public policies. Imazon prepares researchers with analytical skills and field experience, directed towards understanding and solving Amazonian environmental problems.



© 2015 Skoll Foundation.