Born in Kenya, Len Abrams has spent most of his life working in water development throughout the African continent.  Over the last 30 years, he has held positions ranging from the founding of village-level nongovernmental programs to leading the World Bank's Southern African water resources investment portfolio, including work with the governments of Mozambique, Malawi, Botswana, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.  He was responsible for the World Bank’s Disaster Risk Reduction programmes in Malawi and Mozambique, and for the Bank’s international rivers programme in the Zambezi River Basin in collaboration with eight riparian states and a number of bi-lateral partners.


After working for 10 years in rural development and environmental issues based in Europe, Santiago relocated to Southern Africa, where he worked for the International Aid Agency of Spain, mainly in land reform processes.  Santiago has worked internationally in West and Southern Africa and the Middle East.  He received a master’s degree in international agriculture from Cornell University while working at the Cornell Institute for African Development, a master’s degree in environmental auditing from the EU, and a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering from the University of La Rioja (Spain).  From 2016 to 2017, Santiago was the senior director for international development at CARE Canada.  He is currently associate director of food security at IDRC.


Gary Bull is head of the Department of Forest Resources Management at the University of British Columbia.  Internationally, he has worked with Climate and Land Use Alliance, the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna, the International Institute for Environment and Development in London, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome, the Sustainable Biomass Partnership, and the US Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. He has supervised research projects with CIFOR, World Bank, Shell Canada, Wildlife Conservation Society, WWF, Iisaak Forest Resources Ltd., Forest Trends and FAO.

Gary has a background in commerce as well as three degrees in Forestry specializing in economics and policy. He has an interest in global forestry policy issues and has studied forest and timber markets in Asia and ecosystem services markets in Afghanistan, Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Mozambique, Nicaragua and Uganda.  


Mafa Chipeta is a former FAO subregional coordinator for Eastern Africa and FAO representative to Ethiopia, the African Union and the UN Economic Commission for Africa.  He has also worked at FAO Rome headquarters as director of policy assistance for all aspects of agriculture and food security, coordinating nine policy offices worldwide, and was first FAO focal point for the New Partnership for African's Development (NEPAD), for which he synthesized the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme adopted by the African Union.

From 1999 to 2001, Mafa was deputy director-general of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Indonesia.  He has acted as FAO representative in Uganda, as an FAO senior forestry officer and acting head of planning and statistics, and was the UN system forestry focal point for followup to the Rio Earth Summit.  He has also worked as a professional forester and forest industries expert for FAO.


Andrew Gordon is a faculty member in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of Guelph and director of the university's Agroforestry Research and Development Program.  The University of Guelph is consistently ranked as a top comprehensive university with innovative research-intensive programs.  Its academic achievements include the first scientific validation of water on Mars, codevelopment of the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer for NASA and the Barcode of Life project for species identification.

Dr. Gordon's research interests lie in the investigation of ecosystem-level processes in both agricultural and temperate/boreal forest systems.  He recently led a six-university collaboration as part of Canada's contribution to the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases to mitigate GHG emissions in the agricultural sector, a 46-country alliance.  He has been involved in international educational initiatives in Nepal, Argentina, Bolivia, and Vietnam, and has directed a major CIDA-sponsored project in Ghana to alleviate poverty through agroforestry practices, and is the author/co-author of over 150 research publications.


James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, has authored dozens of peer-reviewed scientific papers on climate science.  After nearly a half century of research in planetary and climate science for NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) – including landmark testimony to the US Congress in 1988 urging acknowledgment of human-caused global warming – Dr. Hansen now leads the Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions program at the Columbia University Earth Institute. His pioneering research has shaped much of our current understanding of human-caused climate change.

Dr. Hansen is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University and the author of the critically acclaimed Storms of My Grandchildren.  


Mark Hassenkamp has developed large-scale agri-projects in Angola, Ivory Coast, Mozambique and Sierra Leone to promote food security and exports, and has over 20 years of experience in international horticulture production in Africa, Central and South America, the Middle East and the Asian subcontinent.  He is the founder and managing director of RedSun Hortitech, a leading producer of macadamia and avocado trees, supplying 800,000 trees annually to growers across South Africa.  In 2017, Mark was appointed Agri-Tech Advisor to Blue Horizon, a visionary company accelerating the global transition to sustainable food and agriculture and non-animal-based sustainable production.  He was chairman of operating companies at Pioneering Ventures India and a managing director at Corvus Investments International.  Until 2012, Mark was director of operations Africa for Chiquita Brands International, where he led the implementation of Chiquita’s Strategic Fruit Sourcing Business Strategy from African, Pacific and Caribbean regions.


Steven Higgins is a plant ecologist and professor of botany at the University of Otago, New Zealand, whose research looks at the processes that influence the distribution and dynamics of plant species and vegetation.  His work includes a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change that documents widespread and substantial change in global patterns of vegetation activity over recent decades, changes likely to have significant impact on ecosystem stability, carbon and energy exchange between land surface and the atmosphere and agricultural practices.  

Dr. Higgins has a long history of research in savanna ecosystem dynamics and carbon sequestration, including field work in Kruger Park, RSA.  Since moving to New Zealand, he has been setting up research projects related to the evolution of species and functional diversity.  His work on savannas has been motivated by a curiosity to understand the conditions under which grasses and trees coexist, but applications of this research include defining principles for the sustainable management of extensive rangelands and how savannas, grasslands and forests respond to elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide. Steve’s research areas include biogeography, conservation biology and ecological economics.


Pushker Kharecha is a climate scientist at NASA GISS and the Columbia University Earth Institute. His research focuses on the human dimensions of the global carbon cycle, including mitigation of the impacts of fossil fuel burning and land use.  He has served as a co-lead author at the United Nations Environment Programme and has led and co-authored high-impact peer-reviewed scientific papers with Dr. James Hansen.

Dr. Kharecha holds a Ph.D. in geosciences and astrobiology from Penn State University.


Thomas Kindler is a Partner at Blue Horizon Group and has been active in start-up ventures with a focus on agro-tech for the past 15 years. At Blue Horizon, Thomas is building the leading global ecosystem for plant-based protein alternatives with an integrated cycle of investing in a new generation of tech-driven, healthy and innovative companies along the full value chain from “field to fork” and supporting them with access to raw material and distribution, as well as best-in-class digital marketing services. Before starting Blue Horizon, Thomas implemented a partnership-farming program for Indian banana farmers, enabling them to get access to premium domestic as well as export markets, and initiated the first industrial scale FCOJ (frozen concentrate orange juice) processing plant in India with Cargill/Black River and Pepsi Co. Earlier in his career, Thomas was Head, Legal Caribbean Markets, for Philip Morris Latin America.

Thomas holds a Ph.D. in Law from the University of Bern and an LL.M. from Georgetown University in Washington DC.  


Roger Leakey is a plant physiologist and tree biologist with a distinguished career in research integrating trees as a valuable resource in agriculture.  He is a member of the renowned Leakey family of archeologists, paleontologists and environmentalists. His concept of tree domestication for agroforestry was implemented by the World Agroforestry Center as a global initiative in 1994, where he led significant research projects on the domestication of culturally important trees in agriculture with more than 10,000 farmers.  His acclaimed book Living with the Trees of Life – Towards the Transformation of Tropical Agriculture has been called a guiding star for the rebirth of tropical agriculture.

Dr. Leakey is a former director of research at the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF) and former professor of agroecology and sustainable development at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia.  He was a coordinating lead author in the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), a three-year intergovernmental process involving over 400 scientists sponsored by the World Bank and relevant UN agencies.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.


Author of Comfortably Unaware: Global Depletion and Food Choice Responsibility, Richard Oppenlander is a sustainability consultant and researcher who has studied the relationships between global resource depletion, choices of food and how current demands for animals and fish have become a dominant influence on earth’s ecological webs.  Dr. Oppenlander has been a keynote speaker at universities, colleges and corporations on food choice responsibility and how our livestock-fishing vacuum is directly tied to poverty, the erosion of life-sustaining resources, and critical losses of biodiversity. His most recent book, Food Choice and Sustainability, is described as an impeccably documented and vital wakeup call.


Charlie Shackleton is an interdisciplinary scientist and professor and DST/NRF research chair in the Department of Environmental Science, Rhodes University, South Africa. He has published widely on issues relating to rural livelihoods in Southern Africa, particularly in relation to the use of and trade in wild natural resources and the ecology and sustainable use of resources.  He has applied similar concepts and methods to examine the supply and demand for wild natural resources in urban settings. He guides postgraduate students in several Southern and West African countries and collaborates in research projects and networks internationally.

Dr. Shackleton holds a Ph.D. from the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa).


A former director-general with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), David Spring has led Canada’s development assistance programs in China, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.  He has served as a senior manager in development for over three decades, working in 15 countries, and has managed complex multimillion-dollar multi-sectoral programs and projects.  David has designed, implemented, monitored and evaluated projects in a wide range of sectors, including local governance, rural development, energy, environment, health, agriculture, human rights and public-sector management.


Gordon has created and managed competitiveness-enhancing economic, enterprise and agricultural initiatives in 32 countries and 60 US cities, including former socialist and disaster/conflict-disrupted economies.  He has advised and positioned governments, small and mediumagricultural enterprises and communities on country, market and area competitiveness.

Gordon is skilled in reducing blockages to advances in agro-enterprise and in identifying and exploiting wealth creation gaps.  His achievements include the building of agricultural opportunities across Iraq; building of a portfolio of more than 75 enterprise and agriculture opportunities across Aceh exploiting gaps in supply and value chains to advance tens of thousands of Acehnese; organizing and leading the largest business-agricultural development, investment-attraction and advocacy mission to a foreign country in Guyana’s history; and development of US Treasury initiatives that moved $6 billion into financial institutions serving poor areas for economic development in US inner cities.


Paul Turner is the chair of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale University, and a faculty member in the Graduate Program in Microbiology at Yale University School of Medicine.  At Yale, Dr. Turner has served as director of graduate studies in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and on the Graduate School Executive Committee, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Program Steering Committee, and university Budget Committee.  He has also been a visiting scholar at University of California San Diego, and Visiting Faculty Fellow in the Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution at Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA.

Dr. Turner is involved in worldwide research and training programs in the rapidly growing field of evolutionary medicine, virus ecology and evolution, host parasite interactions and the evolution of infectious disease.  The evolutionary approach has driven important advances in our understanding of the increasing spectrum of autoimmune disease and infectious triggers in diseases like HIV/AIDS and diseases caused by other RNA viruses, including Ebola hemorrhagic fever, SARS, West Nile fever, polio and measles.



Heather is a former program director for a collaborative agency of the United Nations with responsibilities for developing and overseeing rural reforestation programs in sub-Saharan Africa.  She was raised and educated in India.


Gordon has created and managed competitiveness-enhancing economic, enterprise and agricultural initiatives in 32 countries and 60 US cities, including former socialist and disaster/conflict-disrupted economies.  He has advised and positioned governments, small and mediumagricultural enterprises and communities on country, market and area competitiveness.

His achievements include the building of agricultural opportunities across Iraq; building of a portfolio of more than 75 enterprise and agriculture opportunities across Aceh exploiting gaps in supply and value chains to advance tens of thousands of Acehnese; organizing and leading the largest business-agricultural development, investment-attraction and advocacy mission to a foreign country in Guyana’s history; and development of US Treasury initiatives that moved $6 billion into financial institutions serving poor areas for economic development in US inner cities.


Jeremy Anderson is a specialist in wildlife conservation with over 40 years of experience.  His recent focus is on the identification, planning and rehabilitation of protected areas, including transfrontier parks, finding solutions to management of human-wildlife conflict in underdeveloped areas, and identifying ecotourism opportunities.  

He has been directly involved in coordinating the planning, development and management of a number of protected areas, including Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa, and has been a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Antelope Specialist Group since its inception and a member of the African Lion Working Group.  Dr. Anderson has worked for the European Economic Union, Forest Trends, UNDP, FAO, IUCN, World Bank, the Peace Parks Foundation, the African Wildlife Foundation, the Association of Private Nature Reserves (South Africa), The National Directorate of Conservation Areas, Mozambique, and the National Directorate of Forests and Wildlife, Mozambique.  He has a M.Sc. in Conservation and a Ph.D. in Zoology from University College London.  He is a founding partner of International Conservation Services, a South African-based company specializing in wildlife conservation and ecotourism planning for sustainable development.


On completing his zoology degree from Rhodes University, South Africa, Andrew worked in the Arabian Gulf as wildlife manager for a project involving the rehabilitation of Sir Bani Yas Island to conserve wildlife and to support the island’s ecotourism developments. He has subsequently been involved in several conservation projects in Southern Africa ranging from wildlife and vegetation surveys, project management and implementation, development of ecological management plans, planning of wildlife introductions, and human-wildlife conflict mitigation.  Andrew is a partner at International Conservation Services.


Tanya holds a master's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Arizona State University with focused research on business philosophy and ethics. She has served as a teaching assistant under Dr. Shari Collins, an outstanding academic of the 21st Century and a specialist in environmental ethics, environmental justice and sustainable agriculture. Tanya represents a new generation of business ethicists who build creative campaigns for social enterprises and who strive to create high impact for organizations whose missions solve social, economic and/or natural problems.  She is a StartingBloc Fellow.


Kerri Rostock, Sustainable agriculture/animal welfare education intern

Barry Moore,  Communications/media liaison



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