Every six years the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and a host country organize The World Forestry Congress (WFC). This year the conference was hosted by the Korea Forest Service, Republic of Korea (KFS) and was held in Coex, Seoul, Republic of Korea from May 2nd to May 6th, 2022. The Congress theme was “Building a Green, Healthy, and Resilient Future with Forests” and its host brought together diverse stakeholders from all sectors, including government and business, non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, scientific bodies, and forestry societies. The week-long conference enabled open debates, helped to form new collaborations, and facilitated the mainstreaming of forestry concerns into global agendas on sustainable development and post-COVID-19 recovery.
In a call to action made at the conclusion of the XV World Forestry Congress (WFC), young people ask for more opportunities, training, and political engagement in the forest industry to make their voices heard. Prior to the Congress, youth and young professionals participated in a number of events to improve capacity building and networking, as well as to create inclusive and intergenerational discourse for better forest sector policies and business.
Temi Rebecca Abisoye (TRA): I recently connected with several forestry students, early career, and professionals who attended this year’s World Forestry Congress (where youth participation is fully sponsored). In this piece, you will understand students' background in forestry, and how networking has shaped their pathway of following a career in Forestry in Africa. To start us off, we hear from Sarah Aminah Namiiro (SAN), from Uganda.
SAN: It was a great honour and an experience of a lifetime to attend WFC and the pre-Congress events in Korea. It was indeed life-changing for me personally as well as on my journey to become a professional forester and researcher. I met so many wonderful people from different parts of the world, all different, but with a common goal to create a healthier world through restoring and sustaining forests.
A few of my WFC highlights are;
- I learned about the large-scale global land-use study, FRA 2020 Remote Sensing Survey,
- The Youth Foresters Declaration under the International Forestry Students' Association.
- I learned how to participate in the Global Network for Forestry Young Professionals.
- The PLTC Green Mentorship meet up hosted by PLT Canada / APLA Canada.
- I deepened my knowledge of the important role of indigenous peoples in sustainable forest management.
- Pre-congress workshop on Digital Media and communication by FAO and RECOFTC - I got some amazing tips!
- I was also energized by the wonderful people I met!
- The sessions were so rich in information, I wish I could have attended all of them.
- The warm reception was welcoming, and the beautiful culture of the Republic of Korea was inspiring.
The Congress taught me that as a young professional: I should say YES to Opportunities. And all the amazing people didn't make it in one day but through patience, keeping values and most of all NETWORKING and LEARNING ALWAYS.
TRA: Adebisi Baliqeez Motunrayo (ABM) from Nigeria is a final year student at the University of Ibadan.
ABM: The Congress cut across various lessons using the achievement of the Korean Government as a point of reference. Workshops held just days before the Congress, educated me further about climate change, wildfires, and deforestation. My experience at WFC was that the organizers set out to achieve total collaboration among participants through:
- Promoting increased investment in green bonds and provision of green climate funds to developing nations that are willing to work together to achieve reafforestation projects.
- The promotion of gender equality and encouragement of women leadership in the forestry sector.
- Prioritizing the involvement of youth in policy and decision-making.
- Updating the curricula to include more relevant topics in the forest sector.
- The encouragement of forest enterprises through the provision of grants.
ABM: Networking is a core skill needed to access opportunities and building relationships with people goes a long way in helping one move forward in your career. The WFC provided me the opportunity to hone my networking skills and build relationships with a wide array of people in and outside of my own field within Forestry. I find that even after these types of events and opportunities I maintain the relationships I have made. I made new friends at WFC and learned a wealth of knowledge from others while also sharing mine.
ABM: The world is a global village, and the level of possibilities is limitless. Collaboration within all sectors can go a long way in achieving the resolutions of WFC. There is little we can do alone but more when we work together, we can achieve a common objective. This worked for the Korea Forest Service as they worked for hand in hand with their government to be the only country to significantly recover their forest after the devastation of World War II.
TRA: I also reached out to five post-graduate students and early professionals to hear how their educational experience in Forestry has impacted them.
Some background on obstacles in Africa to pursuing a career in Forestry: Recognizing opportunities for youth in the forestry sector is a vital part of sustainability. In Africa, forestry education is one of the less prevalent fields of study, and the term does not entice students as much as other fields of study such as medicine. Furthermore, forest education is not offered to students in junior school, leaving them with little or no awareness of the forest.
“Forestry wasn’t my first choice; my university chose it for me. It truly was an unpopular field of study, yet I realized as an underrepresented person in this field, I committed myslef to creating more opportunities for growth. I saw the possibility of establishing a plantation of trees [a business] in the future and creating job opportunities for forestry graduates since forestry-related opportunities in Nigeria were scarce. Most of the forestry graduates end up as lecturers or they find themselves in non-forestry related endeavors where their expertise is not needed.” ~ Eko Omobola (graduate of the Department of Forestry and Wood Technology, The Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria)
“Forestry was not my choice of study however I accepted it because I had no other option and could not afford to stay home for another year before making another attempt. I did not feel encouraged by the topic, but I would always tell myself back then that whatever I find myself doing, I have to do it well. So I made up my mind to come out [of my degree] with good grades.” ~ Jumoke B. Oguntimehin (graduate of Forestry and Wood Technology, The Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria)
“I never dreamt or chose to study Forestry. It was the Malawi University Office that chose it for me, but I don't regret I studied Forestry, I fell in love with trees and the environment, if I was given a chance to study another course, I would still choose Forestry.” ~ Maggie Munthali's (holds an undergraduate degree in Forestry, Malawi University, Malawi)
“I studied Environmental Resource Management at Technical University of Kenya and I chose this course of study. Networking has enabled me to learn more about my area of study as well as connecting me to various stakeholders in the forestry sector.” ~ Claire Nasike (studied Environmental Resource Management, Technical University of Kenya, Kenya)
“I never chose forestry and never knew that it existed. Forestry became my fate since there were limited seats to pursue environmental studies. It was not by mistake, however, that forestry became my fate. The more I stayed active the more I enjoyed and stepped outside the box. Attending workshops, and meetings and engaging myself in forestry and volunteering within programs was ideal for my growth. With very high confidence I can say forestry professional network fixed my vision.” ~ Chediel G. Marisa (holds an undergraduate degree in Forestry, Tanzania)
TRA: Lastly, I want to thank the students above for their reflections and time during our conversations. It's great to have learned from you all that networking can make a difference as it boosts professional confidence to be part of the solutions for global goals. The WildHub community will greatly benefit from your lessons learned and experiences shared while attending the WFC.
For more information about the WFC, please use the links below