Progress amidst Pandemic: A snapshot of the Joint IUFRO-IFSA Task Force on Forest Education in 2020

by Alex Onatunji and Juliet Achieng

The first Global Outlook on Forest Education published at Freiburg, Germany in September 2017 summarised that “Competency needs from working life were compared to forest education curriculum in nine countries. The three most critical competences were: 1). Leadership and management; 2). Human relations and 3). Communication.” Little did the Joint IUFRO-IFSA Taskforce on Forest Education know that these skills will also be adaptable/applicable to running the organisation too during a pandemic in 3 years to come.

2020 came as a bright year with a lot of positive expectations for many people and organisations but the Covid-19 pandemic became a point of hindrance in achieving many goals due to reduced mobility and a lot of safety and health concerns. The pandemic affected our capacity building activities planned for 2020 since many of them are linked to events such as forestry conferences, congresses, meetings where it is easier to organise some face-face training, unfortunately many of them were cancelled or postponed to a later date. Though in a trying time, the move to a more digital life also helped the JTF team to actively contribute to planning various webinars with IFSA and other IUFRO Divisions, Working Parties and Task Forces, which are expected to take place in 2021. We have summarized the JTF’s commendable accomplishments for 2020 in this blog.

1. 50,000+ Twitter impression in 2020

The JTF was featured in various social media outlets in the year 2020, especially on the IUFRO and IFSA network. The JTF Twitter page has a total reach of 51,565 people in the year. Follow us on https://twitter.com/IUFRO_IFSA_JTF for exciting forest education news and opportunities.

2. A novel project is the Young African Forestry Professionals Publication Project (YAFP)

This project was informed by the declining interest among African youths in considering forestry as a profession they can pursue despite the need for building a critical mass of young and talented individuals needed for transforming Africa’s forest sector. The JTF in collaboration with IFSA and IUFRO developed the YAFP Project to motivate and inspire young people to pursue forest-related studies and careers in Africa by increasing the visibility of career options and young African role models working in forest-related fields.

The project was recognized by the IUFRO President, Dr. John Parrotta in his remark at the opening session of the virtual International Forestry Students’ Symposium (IFSS) in August 2020. An open call for role models (early career professionals and mentors) resulted in over 250 applications being received from 26 African countries. Interviews with the selected candidates after a thorough evaluation process are ongoing while the other project activities are also nearing completion. To learn more about the YAFP project: visit https://ifsa.net/ifsa-iufro-africa-book-project/

3. Growing the Forest Education Online Community of Practice

The JTF was one of the partners that contributed to the proposal development on forest education which later developed into of the a full project titled “Creation of a Global Forest Education Platform and Launch of a Joint Initiative under the Aegis of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests” that is funded by the Germany Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). To learn more about the project: visit http://www.fao.org/forestry/forest-education/en/

4. “Innovations in forest education: Insights from the Best Practices Global Competition” to Forest Policy and Economics

The article is based on the Global Competition on Best Practices in Forest Education that was organized by the JTF in 2019. It highlights innovative teaching methods developed by instructors at local, regional and international scales based on the 71 applications from 23 countries, addressing primary to tertiary education levels. The results presented in this article will be useful in informing and inspiring teachers and education policy-makers in other localities about different ways of teaching forest-related subjects, developing a community of innovative teaching practice, and exchanging teaching methods globally.

The manuscript was submitted in March 2020 and accepted in July 2020. The authors are drawn from the JTF and the EFI-IFSA-IUFRO Collaborative Project on “Global Student Networking and Green Jobs in the Forest Sector Project”. Article available at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1389934120302033

5. Guidelines on how to Teach Forest Entrepreneurship

This publication is a result of the experiences from the Youth Forest Entrepreneurship context led by Reforestamos Mexico and the International Forest Student Symposium where the JTF has actively participated for the past 5 years. These guidelines aim to help university professors to follow some steps to teach a course on entrepreneurship using the forest as a place that provides several goods and services that can be commercialized and thus generate income for forest dwellers and the emerging young entrepreneurs. The English version is under revision and will be published soon. The guideline is available in Spanish here: https://www.iufro.org/fileadmin/material/science/task-forces/tf-forest-education/Guia-Emprendimiento-Forestal.pdf

6. Stepping up the Global Discussion on Forest Education

The JTF was exclusively featured in the IUFRO Spotlight #77, discussing the work done and the relevance to the global forest education, research and development landscapes. http://blog.iufro.org/2020/05/14/stepping-up-the-global-discussion-on-forest-education/

7. Face to face mentorship session for IFSA delegates at the EFI Conference in Bonn

The session took place from 26th-28th February 2020, in an international conference that brought together researchers, policy makers and practitioners from different disciplines such as policy analysis, ecology, economics, forest (ecosystem) management and conservation who converged in Bonn Germany for the “Governing and managing forests for multiple ecosystem services across the globe conference”. An article summarizing the mentees’ and mentors’ experiences was published on IFSA’s April Newsletter: https://ifsa.net/face-to-face-mentorship-for-ifsa-delegates-at-the-efi-conference-in-bonn/

“I find myself privileged to meet one of the renowned experts in forestry. The mentorship was beneficial in many aspects as I got better insights into Forest Economics in general and an opportunity to engage him in the future.”

– Student mentee at the EFI 2020 mentor session

8. 22nd session and 6th African Forestry and Wildlife Week, Skukuza, Mpumalanga, South Africa, March 2020

The event was the only physical meeting the JTF was able to support before the Covid-19 pandemic and it was highly successful in many ways.

  • Students organized a side session on the “State of Forest Education in Africa/ Youth engagement in forest policies and decision making in Africa”.
  • Two of IFSA’s delegates participated in the High-level Dialogue sessions: Ms. Ama Asiedu Acheampomaa (Supported by JTF Grant) and Mr. Amanubo Amos on different topics.
  • Key recommendations from IFSA sessions were featured in the final report of the commission for action by member states with the support of FAO.
  • Nomination of IFSA delegates to different working groups set up by the FAO-Regional Office for Africa to coordinate the implementation of the outcome statements of the 22nd AFWC.
  • An article on “Youth Engagement at the African Forestry and Wildlife Week” written by Ms. Ama Acheampomaa Asiedu from Ghana, and IFSA Regional Representative for Northern Africa was published on IUFRO News Vol. 49, Issue 4/2020: https://www.iufro.org/uploads/media/news20-4.pdf
  • Another article written by Mr. Amos Amanubo (former IFSA President) was published on IFSA’s April Email Newsletter: https://ifsa.net/ifsa-at-the-22nd-session-of-the-african-forestry-and-wildlife-commission/

9. February 2020: The JTF facilitated Dr. Mika Rekola’s presentation of the CPF project on Forest Education (virtually) during the annual IFSA Interim meeting of its officials in February 2020 at Czech Republic.

10. March 2020: The JTF coordinator participated in the virtual International Day of Forests 2020 celebration organized by IFSA and wrote a blog post on it – https://ifsa.net/would-generations-unborn-benefit-from-forest-biodiversity/

11. May 2020: The JTF Coordinators participated in two IUFRO Pre-virtual Board meetings for taskforce coordinators (May and August 2020) and then in the IUFRO Virtual Enlarged Board meeting in September 2020. Link to the report shared (See pages 5 – 7): https://drive.google.com/file/d/1uFifIUcxBlOncPNDipu4HAll1BCGLtuv/view

12. May 2020: The JTF IUFRO Coordinator was a guest speaker in a Spanish event El forestal y la investigación; Charla de la Dra. Sandra Rodríguez en “Charlas Bosques Emprendimiento”; 6 May 2020, 18:00 (hora del centro de México). Video link here: https://youtu.be/dRJwAiItzg8

13. June 2020: The JTF IFSA Coordinator has been directly supporting the organisation of a monthly “Nigeria Forestry Students and Graduates Roundtable Session” since June 2020 which has attracted hundreds of students from Nigeria and other Africa countries. You can find the video recordings online here: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLgGJUc-re_I-Xrywbj6wMTUUEivVfzjII

14. July 2020: The JTF IFSA Coordinator, Alex Onatunji won a scholarship to pursue International Erasmus Mundus Master Programme in Mediterranean Forestry and Natural Resources Management (MEDfOR). He acknowledged that his volunteering work with the taskforce contributed to his selection in the highly competitive award.

15. August 2020: The JTF and the YAFP book project was acknowledged by the IUFRO President – John Parota in his remark at the opening session of the virtual International Forestry Student Symposium 2020. The IFSS was organised for the first time online, thus giving a leverage to other regions such as Africa who find it difficult to attend IFSS in person previously. See the Video here: https://youtu.be/9GBpUWme3KI?t=1186

16. September 2020: The JTF members supported an initiative – “Young African Women in Forestry (YAFW)” which organised its first webinar in September 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cha0SNrIKhw. You can learn more about the initiative on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/yawfnetwork/.

17. October 2020: The JTF IUFRO Coordinator, Sandra Rodríguez was a guest speaker in an Online event “Global status and needs for strengthening forest education – charting a path forward” – 12 October 2020, held as a part of the 7th World Forest Week – a series of meetings and events hosted by FAO and its partner organizations and institutions – held back-to-back with COFO25. Session recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGANXf2DWls&feature=youtu.be

18. October 2020: The JTF IFSA Coordinator, Alex Onatunji was one of the youth speakers at an IFSA side-session at the Youth Daily Show titled “Let’s tune in with nature! Cultures around the world connecting back to their roots” during the GLF Bonn 2020 Conference: One World One health October 2020. Report is available here: https://ifsa.net/glf-bdc-reconnect-back-to-roots/

19. November 2020: The JTF contributed ideas to the development of the IUFRO strategy with the support of other IFSA’s officials including President, Alina Lehikoinen; Vice-president, Simone Massaro; External Affairs Councilor, Konstantin Schwarz; Head of IUFRO Sub-Commission, Mayté López; and Head of Forestry Education and Training Sub-Commission, Marsia Moutzouri. The ideas and feedback were sent to IUFRO and discussed during a recent virtual taskforce coordinators meeting in December 2020.

20. Future activities: The JTF has a number of activities ongoing and new ones planned for the year 2021. These include workshops, webinars, Pre-congress and Pre-conferences training for students, research and publication etc.

Appreciation

The Joint IUFRO-IFSA Taskforce on Forest Education would like to acknowledge the funding provided by the IUFRO President’s Office, Forestry & Agriculture Biotechnology Institute-University of Pretoria, South Africa. The taskforce also deeply appreciates the support received from Janice Burns, Thematic Networking Manager and IUFRO-SPDC Deputy Coordinator for her untiring and unwavering support of the taskforce and providing administrative oversight.

We would like to appreciate the following persons who have contributed sacrificially and provided expertise to many of the JTF activities. Sandra Rodriguez Piñeros, IUFRO Coordinator of the JTF; Alex Onatunji, IFSA Coordinator of the JTF; Juliet Achieng Owuor, IFSA Deputy-coordinator of the JTF and Amos Amanubo, immediate IFSA President. Dr. Folaranmi Babalola, Scovia Akello, Opeyemi Adeyemi, Mirjana Volarev and other IFSA officials and members who contributed to the YAFP project.

The JTF team wishes you all happy holidays!

The article was written by Alex Bimbo Onatunji (Nigeria), the IFSA-IUFRO Joint Task Force Coordinator and Juliet Achieng Owour (Germany), the IFSA-IUFRO Joint Task Force Deputy-Coordinator. They can be reached via [email protected].

Download full report here!