Forest education at all levels - from primary schools to universities - is insufficient in many countries, according to the results of a global survey led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) and the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), with the support of other international and regional partners.
The survey revealed that more must be done to improve forest education in many parts of the world. Additionally, in most regions, primary and secondary schools are not educating students effectively about forests and trees, and they are not motivating them to pursue forest-related studies and careers.
These findings and others were revealed during a three-day international conference about forest education, from 22-24 June 2021. During this conference the “Collaborative partnership on forests (CPF)” and its “Joint initiative” were launched as well, in order to improve forest education for forest practitioners and professionals for them to be able to face the growing forest related challenges. The survey, the international conference, as well as the partnership initiative, are all activities of a project entitled “Creation of a Global Forest Education Platform and Launch of a Joint Initiative under the Aegis of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests”, which is led by FAO, ITTO and IUFRO and financed by the German government.
ATIBT and RIFFEAC (the central African network of forest and environment training institutions), participated in the panels of two group outbreak activities and shared their opinions with regard to forest education, based on their experiences with forest education in general and the implementation of the ADEFAC project (Support to the development of vocational training for the forest and wood industry sector in Central Africa).
The first outbreak group focussed on the increasing roles of private sector in enhancing forest education. The group exchanged about current challenges of forestry education and needs to enhance the governance in the forestry sector to achieve sustainable forest management.
ATIBT and RIFFEAC stressed the need to focus international support projects to improve forest education not only on university level, but on secondary school level and professional training, as the majority of people working in the private sector and with a daily impact on forests or on wood consumption don’t have a university degree. To make sure that the education offers reply to the needs of the private sector, it is also important that private sector representatives participate in the planning of educational programs of training institutions, and that these programs are accessible both for boys and for girls.
The second outbreak group focussed on digital opportunities to improve forest learning. The group exchanged about current efforts and their lessons learned, but also about needs and challenges. This is where RIFFEAC shared their experiences with the development of e-learning modules through GIZ and ITTO funded projects. ATIBT and RIFFEAC explained that in Central Africa, infrastructure to supply or follow digital training (permanent internet access and electricity) are not guaranteed, and that permanent investment is also needed for schools to stay updated with the latest software (like GIS), hardware materials (like GPS or drones), and technical skills (for trainers). Indeed, digital learning can provide many opportunities, but for many technical job aspects (like tree felling, recognition of standing tree species or sawn wood, etc.) physical training stays essential.