Picture and text by Ositadinma Evaristus
The long awaited Northern Africa Regional Meeting (NARM) took place at the University of Energy and Natural Resources, Sunyani, Bhrong Ahafo region, Ghana. The event with the official title ‘Improving resilience to climate change and sustainable use of forest, land and Water resources: the role of the youth’ was attended by over one hundred participants from Ghana, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Sierra Leone, and Malawi. The organizing committee of NARM 2017 did an excellent job in planning the event. There was never a dull moment and the meals were simply fantastic! NARM was an exquisite opportunity to learn, unlearn, relearn and expand one’s Forestry network. I was able to do so and I am sure other participants did as well.
Within minutes of arriving I felt that this event was going to be explosive. The opening ceremony was top notch and covered by media houses like JOY TV, ADOM TV and GREENA FM. The highlights of the opening ceremony were motivating speeches from Dr. Emmanuel Marfo (a former president of IFSA) and Professor Harrison Dapaah (vice chancellor of the University of Energy and Natural Resources).
We then reconvened for a session on climate change with special focus on Africa’s changing climate condition. Further talks were delivered over the next days by renowned researchers, such as Dr. Ernest Foli, a senior fellow at Forest Research Institute Ghana (FORIG). His session focused on “Global climate change outlook and possible causes, vulnerability of the natural environment to global climate change and capacity development of participants on adaptation to climate change impacts”. The session was very interactive, and participants spoke on the peculiarity of climate change issues in their locality and offered possible solutions to problems raised by other participants.
The program also included an entrepreneurship training with Mister Vitus Dono. His session was geared towards training participants on setting up and running a profitable green business. Participants were distributed into groups. By fate or luck, I led group one, the most culturally diverse and innovative group. As a group, we developed a blueprint for a renewable energy company that would regulate energy production and consumption in Africa and other parts of the world. We dubbed it: “Africa Renewable Company”.
On day four, all participants convened for a training session on proposal writing which was sponsored by IUFRO. We were amazed by the hidden politics and considerations taken during the review of proposals by various funding organizations before selecting beneficiaries. We were divided into three groups and the session leader, Professor Joseph Cobinnah gave us challenging problems about sustainable forest management. He then asked each group to present a proposal. The session helped us to bond as a group and expose our weaknesses. It made us better at pitching ideas and improved our proposal writing skills.
In the afternoon lecture Professor Femi Akindele , motivated participants on the need to spread news about Africa’s rapidly disappearing forests, emphasizing the various roles we can play in climate change mitigation efforts, particularly via social media. Some participants were selected and we spent about an hour at the studios of GREENA FM informing and educating the people of Ghanaian about climate change.
On the last day, all participants were invited to join a field trip to Mim-Bour forest reserve which is located on massive rocky terrain. After one hour of hiking, we were greeted by an absolutely beautiful sight- an almost unending stretch of lush green rain forest. The forest provides clean air and abundant natural resources to the native people. On the lofty heights of Mim-Bour, we had a panel discussion focusing on how the Northern Africa Region of IFSA can best contribute to the growth and expansion of IFSA, as well as focusing on how to solve various challenges faced by IFSA Local Committees in the region.
The meeting closed with another grandiose gathering; the IFSA international night. The evening was colorful, fun and enlightening. We learned unique Kenyan dance steps, Ghanaian war chants, Makossa dance skills of the Congo, the importance of palm wine and kola nuts to the Sierra Leoneans, the unique meals and delicacies from Tanzanian and Malawian kitchens and about the cultural diversity of Nigerians. We had great time learning, unlearning and relearning.
Will I see these amazing people again? I believe and hope so.
Daalu nke oma Ghana. Thank you, Ghana
Daalu nke oma IFSA. Thank you, IFSA.
For comments or questions please contact the author Ositadinma Evaristus, a recent graduate of Forestry and Wildlife Technology from the Federal University of Technology Owerri Nigeria. He is currently training with the Imo State Zoological Gardens, Nekede, Owerri, and can be contacted via evarsergio(a)gmail.com.