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

In the wake of the new dawn of forestry education, this book can help thousands of young people in the African continent and beyond to make deliberate decisions to build fulfilling careers in forestry and related fields.

To further promote the book usage, six IFSA Local Committees from three African countries will organize local launch events to raise awareness about the book among high school students about making career decisions and university students already studying forestry through financial support offered by IFSA.  

Universities offering forest and forest-related degrees in Africa can order free hardcopy here (Deadline – October 15, 2021):  https://forms.gle/c1Xv32yeKH3AnYLt7

Virtual launch event recording is available here

Download the book here: https://www.iufro.org/fileadmin/material/publications/other-publications/building-a-successful-forestry-career-in-africa.pdf 

One of the participants in the event had this to say about the book after downloading it:

“I had a look at the book, and I am blown away! I commend the team for an exceptional job! There would have been no other better time to publish the book other than now!”

Joshua Amaitum, IFSA member 

More information about the book is here: https://www.iufro.org/publications/other-publications/article/2021/07/17/building-a-successful-forestry-career-in-africa/ 

Editor’s note: this article was first published by IUFRO as “Building a Successful Forestry Career in Africa Virtual Book Launch”.

*Juliet Achieng Owuor is the IFSA Deputy Coordinator, Joint IUFRO-IFSA Task Force on Forest Education, writes from Germany and can be reached at [email protected].