Awards and Contests title

Forest Heroes Programme & Award

Photo © UNICEF/HQ07-1367/PirozziAll over the world people are working in quiet and heroic ways to sustain, protect and manage our forests. To honour these heroes, the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat launched the first ever International Forest Heroes Programme and Awards.

Ninety nominations from forty-one different countries were received. Fifteen finalists throughout five geographic regions – Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and North America – are in the running for one prestigious award in each region. Their actions embody innovative and grassroots initiatives, tapping into the multiple values of forests. Read more about them below.

The winners of the Forest Hero Award have been announced! Learn more about each Forest Hero.



Million Belay (Ethiopia)

Million Belay (Ethiopia) Director, MELCA-Ethiopia

For more than two decades, Million has worked to protect Ethiopia’s forests by planting nearly 140,000 indigenous seedlings at Entoto Mountain. In 2004, he founded MELCA–Ethiopia to focus on forest protection through environmental education, building ecosystem resilience, and environmental advocacy.


Mphatheleni Makaulule (South Africa)

Mphatheleni Makaulule (South Africa) Programme Coordinator, The Mupo Foundation

Since 2005, Mphatheleni has worked with women leaders of Venda in South Africa to uphold the traditional knowledge of planting, harvesting, seed saving and seasonal rituals. Together they have grown 2,500 seedlings, to protect the springs and restore Venda’s sacred forests.


Paul Nzegha Mzeka (Cameroon) Director

Paul Nzegha Mzeka (Cameroon) Director, Apiculture and Nature Conservation Organization

After retiring from Cameroon Public Service in 1990, Paul founded Apiculture and Nature Conservation Organization, which promotes sustainable beefarming to raise awareness on biodiversity conservation. In 2004 ANCO teamed up with NGOs to integrate conservation with sustainable land management and rural poverty reduction. Since then, it has helped 30 communities protect watersheds and conserve four community forests by planting a total of 685,000 trees.



Panut Hadisiswoyo (Indonesia)

Panut Hadisiswoyo (Indonesia) Founder, Orangutan Information Centre

Panut founded the Orangutan Information Centre in 2001 to support the protection of Sumatra’s Leuser forests, its biodiversity and surrounding forest-dependent communities. He has aided in the restoration of degraded areas and established action plans that support sustainable livelihoods as well as ecosystem protection.


Shigeatsu Hatakeyama (Japan)

Shigeatsu Hatakeyama (Japan) Founder, “Kaki no Mori wo Shitau Kai” (Rebuilding from land to Sea) Society to Protect Forests for Oysters

Oyster fisherman by trade, Shigeatsu has been planting trees in the forest surrounding Kesennuma Bay for twenty years to protect oysters’ natural habitat. After making the connection between oceans and mountains, he and his colleagues from “Mori wa Umi no Koibito” (Forests are Lovers of the Sea) initiated yearly afforestation activities that have led to region-wide proactive movement to preserve the environment and ocean resources.


Sulaymonbek Saidbekov (Tajikistan)

Sulaymonbek Saidbekov (Tajikistan) Forest Tenant, Forest Agency of Gorno-Badakhshan Region

In 2009, Sulaymonbek proposed application of the GIZ project “Sustainable use of Natural Resources in Gorno-Badakhshan” to shift forest management tasks to local people. Today, 450 tenants on 2000 hectares of land throughout Hisor rehabilitate forests while generating income from the annual sustainably harvested fuel and construction wood.


Karl Peter Hasenkamp (Germany)

Karl Peter Hasenkamp (Germany) Chairman, PRIMAKLIMA -weltweit- e.V. (Non Profit Organization)

Karl previously worked in the banking sector and was the CEO of a banking association. Through PRIMAKLIMA he raises awareness on personal responsibility for climate change by promoting reduction of emissions and carbon sequestration. He stresses the importance of forest in the climate debate and has published articles showing that trees and forests have broadly influenced civilization and culture.


Anatoly Lebedev (Russia)

Anatoly Lebedev (Russia) Chairman, Bureau for Regional Outreach Campaigns “BROC”

Anatoly led a successful media campaign against a construction project that threatened indigenous and wildlife territories, and resulted in a national logging ban in cedar forests. While in regional office, he passed legislation ensuring sound forest management and kept national parks from destructive logging. Anatoly produced the first regional environmental TV show, “Preserved,” and a quarterly magazine “Ecology and Business,” focusing on environmental education and advocacy.


Mika Vanhanen (Finland)

Mika Vanhanen (Finland) Programme Coordinator, Environment Online “ENO”

Over 10 years ago he founded Environment Online – ENO, a global virtual school and network for sustainable development. Forests are one of ENO’s main themes, and tree planting is a most popular activity. The target is for ENO schools to plant 100 million trees by 2017, when Finland will celebrate its 100th anniversary.


Latin America and Caribbean

Paulo Adario (Brazil)

Paulo Adario (Brazil) Amazon Campaign Director, Greenpeace Brazil

In 2001, Paulo led a field team into the Amazon to assist the Deni tribe in demarcating and protecting their land, resulting in the protection of 1,6 million hectares of pristine forest. He has pioneered campaigns to protect the Amazon from boardroom meetings with industry leaders to field expeditions deep into the Amazon, to the co-ordination of international public campaigns to fight deforestation and demand sustainable solutions.


Monica Hinojosa (Ecuador)

Monica Hinojosa (Ecuador) Environmental Educator, Grupo Aprender con la Naturaleza y Parque Nacional Bosque de Bavaria

For 16 years Monica’s work focused on education for sustainable development and forest conservation. Through “International Wilderness Camp” in the Bavarian Forest, a village with traditional houses in Africa, Asia, America and Europe, which addresses issues as global climate change, biodiversity and ecological footprint, she motivates others to discover the richness of nature and respect for other cultures.


Felipe Milanez (Brazil)

Felipe Milanez (Brazil) Independent Journalist

Felipe is an independent journalist and documentary filmmaker whose work has one purpose: to go deep into the Amazon rainforest and listen to its most vulnerable people, raising public awareness of the realities of living in the forest and promoting a public debate about what is happening in the Amazon.


North America

Fred Pinto (Canada)

Fred Pinto (Canada) Conifer Program Leader, Ontario Ministry of Resources

Fred Pinto is a forester with over 30 years of community service and volunteerism. Locally he has led his colleagues to offer volunteer-run forest related workshops and field visits for people that have an interest in forests. He helped create the non-profit – Forests without Borders, dedicated to helping communities worldwide to restore forest ecosystems and achieve sustainability.


Rhiannon Tomtishen and Madison Vorva (USA)

Rhiannon Tomtishen and Madison Vorva (USA) Founders, Project O.R.A.N.G.S

Since age 11, Madison and Rhiannon have been raising awareness on endangered orangutans and their rapidly diminishing rainforest habitat in Indonesia and Malaysia. Now in their teens, the girls have expanded their work, launching multiple campaigns to ensure Girl Scout Cookies are made from sustainable resources. Their work prompted Girl Scouts USA to commit to improving sustainability of their cookies and boosted efforts to reduce deforestation for palm oil.