The Future of Forestry as a Profession is Forest Education
By Juliet Achieng Owuor*
Prof. Mike Wingfield, Founding Director of FABI/IUFRO´s Immediate Past President / Photo by Juliet Achieng Owuor
Prof. Mike Wingfield, the immediate President of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), and the first African to hold the position has asserted that “The Future of Forestry as a Profession is Forest Education” in his remarks during the virtual launch of a new book about forestry career opportunities in Africa.
Over one-fifth of Africa is covered by forests which provide a wide range of ecological, social, and economic benefits to over two-thirds of the continent’s population. The scope of forestry and the role of foresters has diversified over the years. Nevertheless, the interest among young people in pursuing forestry as a profession does not match the importance of forestry. These problems can be attributed to the lack of awareness about the profession and inadequate information on what the discipline could offer future career opportunities and job prospects. The Young African Forestry Professionals Publication Project (YAFP) was created in 2020 by the Joint IUFRO-IFSA Task Force on Forest Education (JTF) to help address some of these challenges.
A year later, after the project’s commencement, the output is finally out, a book titled “Building a Successful Forestry Career in Africa: Inspirational Stories and Opportunities.” The Joint IUFRO-IFSA Task Force on Forest Education (JTF) and the International Forestry Students’ Association (IFSA) launched the book on 12 August 2021 in a virtual event.
Over 400 lecturers, researchers, policymakers, and students from over 25 countries registered for the launch, representing academia; NGOs; research organizations; international organizations, and government agencies. The 11 speakers from 10 counties who graced the event comprised renowned forestry experts from Africa, the team from IUFRO; IFSA; and the JTF. Dr. Sandra Rodriguez-Piñeros moderated the event.
Dr. Michael Kleine from the IUFRO-SPDC lauded the project team for putting the book together, which will inspire upcoming forestry professionals. He encouraged students and early career professionals to join the IUFRO and Forestry Research Network for Sub-Saharan Africa (FORNESSA) working party meetings and thematic groups to network with professionals in their fields of interest and obtain relevant experience. He confirmed that IUFRO is committed to distributing the book widely within Africa to inspire the upcoming generation of foresters.
“There is a need for producing graduates with deeper competencies so that we can move from awareness to analysis, creativity, and problem-solving” – was the clear message from Prof. August Temu, from the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania and a Consultant on Forestry Education, Research and Policy on the future of forest education in Africa. The speakers agreed that the book’s production was a start to many more great initiatives on forest education topics in Africa.
You can download the presentations shared during the book launch here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1wIA_BGb5XatDqAUq3e2l99ygf6wFW458/view?usp=sharing
Recording of the virtual launch event is available here: https://youtu.be/QJ4bgmmrohQ
About the book and how to get a copy
This book offers African solutions to African problems. It features 23 inspiring stories from aspiring and established forestry professionals from 12 countries from Africa; information on tertiary institutions in Africa offering forest-related degree programmes; forest-related networking organisations; tips on obtaining scholarships; and potential forest-related career choices.
The dynamic group of authors and researchers comprised of students and researchers with diverse experience and from different nationalities across Africa, and consisted of Alex Bimbo Onatunji (Coordinator of the JTF); Juliet Achieng Owuor (Deputy Coordinator of the JTF); Sandra Rodriguez-Piñeros (Coordinator of the JTF); Folaranmi Babalola (Deputy coordinator for Forest Education (6.09.00)), and Indigenous Peoples and Forest Landscapes (9.03.07)); and YAFP consultants: Scovia Akello and Opeyemi Adeyemi.
Coordinator of the JTF Alex Onatunji giving a presentation on how the book came to be / Photo by Juliet Achieng Owuor