Author: Jayi Chew
Pictures: Jiayi Chew; Helinä Poutamo; Jiri Novak
The 45th International Forestry Students Symposium (IFSS) took place from July 2nd – 16th across five provinces of South Africa (Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Kwazulu-natal, Eastern Cape and Western Cape). The event brought together twenty-one participants from thirty-two different countries —united by common interest and enthusiasm—to determine the future of IFSA and its work.
The main event of IFSS was the general assembly, divided into a total of 5 sessions. During each session, individual local committees (LCs) had the chance to voice opinions or ask questions by raising a voting card. At the end of the session, new officials and board members had been elected and amendments had been made for the coming year. Salina Abraham has elected to be our president, and Jan Joseph Dida for Vice-President for incoming IFSA year.
Unique forestry scene in South Africa
The focus of the symposium, however, was not exclusively the general assembly; the symposium was as much about exploring and learning about theunique environment that we are visiting. In South Africa, the breathtaking landscapes, the ranges of human experience, and the forestry practices of the country taught us important lessons that are impossible to convey through single texts or stories.
The two major pulp and paper production companies, which we visited during one of the field trips, employ a local labor force and build strong connections with the communities. While most developed countries have adopted machinery systems to boost output and obtain optimum production, the scenes of production within the two biggest companies were a big contrast to anything I had ever seen. Instead of complex machinery at work, women are busy with processing, cutting propagation, and preparing medium.
The image of a plantation in a town of the Eastern Cape, Hogsback, has become one of the landscapes that amazed me the most. The mountain sides are only partially covered with pine plantations. Other areas known to contain water resources are used for plantation forest in order to conserve the remaining water. Because the lush landscapes of pine plantations and natural areas of the Hogsback Mountains, it has imparted an image of an oasis deeply in my mind.
A must-do in South Africa is game drive, and to have a chance to visit to the Kruger National Park made one of my absolute dreams come true during IFSS. And we were lucky that day, because we got the chance to spot all of “The Big Five”: African lions, African elephants, Cape buffalos, African leopards, and rhinos. With these beautiful pictures in mind, most of us fell asleep on the way back, accompanied by traditional South African music beats.
IFSA connecting people
The International Forestry Students’ Symposium was not only about visiting country forestry operations or attending plenary sessions; it also provides a unique opportunity to make new friends, learn about other cultures and learn about interesting forestry experiences and stories. Besides, we haven’t been lacking opportunities to engage in sport activities either. A football, volley or rugby ball belonged to the inventory of each outing. While entertaining ourselves when waiting for further instructions of where-to-go or what-to-do, I realized sports are the perfect way to communicate with the world even if you don’t share a common language to tell stories and make jokes. As long as you are fit enough, sports can be just as much fun as talking with people.
Unfortunately, everything must come to an end, including IFSS 2017.We had fun during all the discussions, dialogues, and field trips. The memories won’t fade away. I know this experience will be something I can look back on as a reminder of why I am so excited to continue my studies and work to become a forester!
Special thanks and appreciation
I want to express my utmost gratitude and appreciation to our IFSS 2017 organizing committee and supporting committees for devoting their time and effort to realizing this important event. Special thanks also given to universities and colleges such as, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Fort Cox Forestry College, Cedara Agriculture University and University Pretoria for providing accommodations for IFSS delegations. See you next time, my friends!
The Author, Jiayi Chew, is a recent graduate in Forestry from National Chia Yi University (Taiwan) and responsible for the content of the above contribution. JiaYi can be reached via e-mail under: chewjiayi(a)gmail.com