Information begets inspiration, inspiration creates aspiration, aspiration leads to action and action brings about actualization. The story of a passionate forester from Nigeria who participated in the Africa Climate Week 2019/ International Day of Forest at Accra, Ghana in March 2019.
Earlier in 2018 I received an email through the African Forest Communicator Network on being selected for the International day of Forests (IDF) Celebration theme focusing on “Forest Education: Learning to Love the Forest”. I was very keen to join this celebration as my research focus was also on Forest Education but was not yet clear for me decide.
Later, I received another email to participate in the 2019 Africa Climate Week (ACW) at Accra International Conference Centre, Ghana and join the regional IDF celebration in collaboration with the FAO Africa Regional Office and Global Landscape Forum. I was overjoyed and immensely happy that I got both these opportunities to expose myself to new ideas regarding forest education.
Africa Climate Week 2019
It is clearly evident that Africa countries must step up in mitigating more Climate Change induced disasters such as flooding that can claims hundreds of lives in hours by reducing its emission from various sources such transportation, refrigeration and industrial air pollution. This is an offshoot from a side panel discussion I attended on “Only 12 years left to bring global warming to 1.50C – IPCC 1.5 report and why it matters to Africa” and I reflected back to my country, Nigeria where temperature could be as high as 400C in Sokoto, Kebbi and Maidiguri. A disheartening news is that “according to records available, almost 90% of Africa countries has passed the 1.50C temperature increase benchmark” – Fatima Denton, Director of United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa. Another point to note is the reality that not one city in Africa is safe for cycling that could help to cut the emission generated through transportation.
International Day of Forest Celebration 2019
On Thursday 21 March, 2019 I joined and lead a table discussion in the International Forestry Students Association IDF Café side event of ACW. The 2019 IDF theme is “Forest Education: Learning to Love the Forest” with participants shared across tables to discuss a variety of topics in relation to the theme. About 50 Forestry students from Ghana and other congress delegates participated in the event.
“I wanted to be a Medical Doctor but I do not regret studying forestry” was a highlight from a participant sharing his forestry education experience. Imported forestry education curriculum from the western world is a bane to our African reality and the need to promote traditional knowledge in sustainable forest management is highly crucial as communities are custodians of indigenous knowledge, myths or beliefs that promote and protect forest ecosystem such as a community in Ghana where farmers are not allowed to go to farm on Tuesday to “give space for the forest god’s to interact”.
It is suggested that skills such as Human relations skill, Innovation and creativity skills, Project management skills, Marketing skills, Negotiation skills, Leadership skills, Critical Thinking, Research and computer skills and Ability to work under international environment among others needs to be integrated into future curriculum development that would produce forestry graduates who are not just employee but employers of labour. Salina Abraham, the Youth Coordinator of Global Landscape Forum also shares her perspective of the event and some Twitter posts can be viewed here and here.
I am glad to meet top officials from local and international organisations, and discuss about the good works that are done in the Africa forestry sector. I am enthused to meet our very own Salina Abraham who has been a source of inspiration to many female forestry students around the globe through various speeches, workshops and cutting edge leadership through the IFSA, YIL, and GLF platforms.
The words of advice by Soalandy Rakotondramanga of FAO of the United Nations Regional Office for Africa continue to resonate on how youth can tap into opportunities for growth, development and partnership – “Do Not Close the Door When It Is Still Open” was one of her beautiful lines.
The Little Tree That Must Not Die
Climax of the week is a partnership meeting between International Forestry Students Association and the Forestry Department of the Food and Agricultural Organization of United Nations Africa Regional Office on Friday 22 March, 2019. The meeting helped to explore synergies and discuss a partnership to connect African forestry students/youth to the forest work of the FAO regional office.
Nora Berrahmouni, Senior Forestry Officer, Secretary to the African Forestry and Wildlife Commission and Soalandy Rakotondramanga, Programme Officer, Forestry represented UN FAO Regional Office for Africa while Alex Onatunji Bimbo, Northern Africa Regional Rep; Bismark Dzineku, UN Forum on Forest Focal Point; Samuel Agyemang Tutu, Communication Focal Point for IUFRO IFSA Joint Task Force and Salina Abraham, past IFSA President and GLF Youth Coordinator represented International Forestry Students’ Association. As you read this report, work has already began on high spirit to actualize the outputs of the meeting.
On a personal note, my belief that Africa problems can only be better solved by Africans is reinforced as I witness a lot of innovative solutions that help in promoting sustainable livelihood and reduce carbon emission as I tour the conference exhibition booth. From the Bamboo Bike made in Ghana, highly improved cookstove that replaces firewood with briquette which reduce cooking time and pressure on local forest and smokeless too is just few of the examples found.
I must point out that a lot of developmental work such as forest restoration, research and advocacy is going on in the continent but with low media visibility because many of them are done in isolation and there is no central point for collation and dissemination of data on various topics.
I am very glad that our vision for the Africa we desire for forestry students is already coming into fruition in our very time as an IFSA official. I hereby acknowledge IFSA support of my participation in this crucial meeting and I thank my other IFSA officials who hosted me in Ghana. On a concluding note, I would say – Cheer up Africa because the future is not all gloomy in climate change mitigation and adaptation.
This report was written by Alex B. Onatunji, Northern Africa Regional Representative of International Forestry Students Association. He can be reached via [email protected]; [email protected] and +2348102394713.