From Research to Practice: How IFSA Member Julian Geisel wants to Apply his Master’s Research on Small Forests in his New Job

Picture by Julian Geisel

Julian

Julian recently graduated from Oregon State University with an MS in Forest Ecosystems and Society and an MS in Wood Science and Engineering. He conducted his research investigating strategies for generating income and structural diversity in small forests in 5 counties of Central Western Oregon. During the IUFRO 125 Anniversary Congress, Julian told the Tree News why he decided against a likely job as technical head of a forest botanical garden and chose instead to manage a forest for a small community in the German federal state Sachsen-Anhalt.

How come that you moved to the village of Sieben Linden to become manager of a 70 ha small-scale community forest?

Through my research I learned a lot about small forest management and became very passionate about the topic. Having the chance to practically apply some of the techniques I observed during my research sounded very appealing to me. I learned about the community through my wife, a dance teacher, who had lead workshops in the seminar center in Sieben Linden. She told a community member about my work in Oregon and the community was interested in meeting me to discuss opportunities for my involvement in the management of their forest. I spent two days working with the forest team, we clicked, they offered me a job. It was not an easy decision, since I will remain on the minimum wage-level after three years of studying. However, I feel really drawn to this opportunity. I have a good feeling because I can really sense that these people are interested in my expertise and open to experimenting with alternative practices. Sieben Linden is a small community (100 adults and 40 kids) and very proactive when it comes to eco-conscious living. They are sixty percent self-sufficient with food and have some projects going on in the realm of waste use and building solutions. Plus, life is simple there. My wife and I decided to give it a try, since we did not have the opportunity to spend much time together during my studies in the United States and this opportunity enables us to try something completely different together. However, we are also fully aware that this plan ultimately stands and falls with our compatibility with the community. I have signed the contract until next March and then we will assess our situation again.

What are main areas you will be working with in your new job?

In the long-term the community would like to be fully self-reliant with firewood. However, in its current form, the forest does not lend itself very well to firewood, as it is mainly composed of mature pine trees, whose size inhibits the community from applying sensitive forms of harvesting (they currently rely on horse logging). Also, the plan is thus to slowly convert the forest from pine to broadleaf tress. Cutting firewood, and tending those new stands will thus be a major task, along with finding solutions for sensitive harvesting of mature trees. Adding a log arch might be one solution here. I will have to assess that once I start the job in October.

Do you feel that your ideas resonate with the visions of the community?

Yes, I think so. But I am also fully aware that some of my ideas might be met with resistance. For example, their horses are not the youngest ones and I do think that at some point it would really be more feasible to switch to an ATV to pull the logs. We will see whether they like the plan or not. So there will likely be situations where I have to confront their visions with practical solutions.

What are your long-term visions with this new position?

It is a 25-hour position, which I have deliberately chosen in order to devote some time to publishing my MS research. My dream would be to stay in touch with research institutions in order to link my practical work in small forests with the collection of data. Plus I could continue to be part of IFSA and IUFRO. Pursuing my doctoral studies in the area of small scale forestry is something I can definitely see myself doing in the longer term.

Julian can be contacted at Julian@smallforests.com

The author, Meike Siegner, studies at the University of British Columbia and can be contacted under meike.siegner.ifsa(a)gmail.com

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Students set the bar high during the IFSA Incubator Session at IUFRO 125 Anniversary Congress

Pictures by Meike Siegner (UBC, Canada)

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One of the IFSA program highlights during the IUFRO 125 Anniversary Congress was the IFSA Incubator Session. Six forestry students took this opportunity to present findings from a research project or recent work experience in form of a TED-Style Talk. Read below:

Daniel Schraik, who pursues his master studies in Finland, kicked off the session with insights on his research. Daniel developed a model to measure leaf indices and canopy covers of boreal forests, using satellite data.

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Julian Geisel, who recently obtained a master degree in forestry from Oregon State University, presented findings from a study on income strategies and pursuit of structural diversity by small forest owners.

Mahtuf Ikhsan presented findings from his Bachelor research. Mahtuf studied stakeholder behaviour in community forests in West Bogor area, Indonesia.

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Joakim Stenlund, who conducted his research in cooperation with the IUFRO task force on forestry education, presented findings from a study in which he explored the fit between job profiles and forestry curricula from the perspective of recent forestry graduates in Sweden.

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Salina Abraham, IFSA president and a recent graduate from the University of Washington gave a talk on her research in Eritrea where she investigated the case of a public-private partnership in the gold mining sector with respect to the relationship between the company and surrounding local communities.

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Last but not least, Charlotte Ross-Harris from Australia provided the audience insights on a recent internship experience with a successful carbon partnership REDD+ project in Tanzania, where she got to work on the community section of project design documents.

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Compilation of Best Reads, collected during the IUFRO 125 Anniversary Congress

From 18-22 September more than thousand participants gathered in Freiburg for the IUFRO 125 Anniversary Congress. The event covered the full breadth of topics related to forests and trees. IFSA took on the organization of a number of side-events aimed at engaging youth during the congress. One activity entailed the compilation of a special issue for the Tree News by IFSA congress delegates on the topic “Future of our Forests”. This special issue is meant to inform students about IFSA engagement during the congress and to showcase the role of youth in shaping the future of our global forests.  Here, we want to share with you a compilation of best reads as a source of inspiration for forestry students. We approached congress participants with the request to share with us sources which they belief are “must reads” for future leaders who will be working in forest contexts.

The outcome is a comprehensive list that entails a variety of sources, ranging from academic texts, to novels and practical guides on a variety of forest and non-forest topics.  We hope that you will find one or the other inspiring book in this list and wish you happy reading!

Recommendations by Dr. Lukas Giessen (Principal Scientist for Forest Governance with European Forest Institute):

Scott, J.C (1999). Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. New Haven: Yale University Press. 

Humphreys, D. (2006). Logjam: Deforestation and the Crisis of Global Governance. New York: Earthscan.

Recommendations by Dr. Pil-Sun Park (Professor for Sylviculture, South Korea University)

Nyland, R.D. et al. (2016). Silviculture. Concepts and Applications. 3rd Edition. Long Grove: Waveland Press.

Hua, Y. (2004). Chronicle by a Blood Merchant. London: Paperback.

Recommendations by Dr. Klaus Puettmann (Professor for Sylviculture and Forest Ecology, Oregon State University)

Pirsig, R. (2006). Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Reprinted Edition. Harper Torch.

Pretzsch, H. et al. (2017). Mixed-Species Forests. Ecology and Management. Berlin: Springer.

Manson, M. (2016). The Suttle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. New York: HarperOne.

Recommendations by Dr. Konstantin von Teuffel (Director FVA and IUFRO 125 Anniversary Congress Organizer)

Young, W.P (2011). The Shack. Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity. London: Hodder & Stoughton

Morris, I. (2011).Why the West Rules for Now. The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Ltd.

Mixed reads, compiled by Tree News co-editor in chief Mahtuf Ikhsan during the congress:

 “Forest and Nature Governance : A Practice Based Approach”, written by Bas Arts, Jelle Behagel, Severine van Bommel, Jessica de Koning, Esther Turnhout in 2013.

“Community Forestry : Local Values, Conflict, and Forest Governance”, written by  Ryan C.L. Bullock and Kevin S. Hanna in 2012

“The Sibley Guideto Trees”, written by David Allen Sibley in 2009.

“The Wild Trees : A Story of Passion and Daring”, written by Richard Prestons in 2008.

“The Fate of the Forest : Developers, Destroyers, and Defenders of the Amazon”, written by Susanna B. Hecht and Alexander Cockburn in 2011

“Forest Health and Protection Second Edition”, written by Robert L. Edmonds, James K. Agee, Robert I. Garrain 2010.

“Last Child in the Woods : Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder”, written by Richard Louv in 2010.

“The Secret Life of Trees: How They Live and Why They Matter”, written by Colin Tudge in 2006.

 

 

 

 

Fighting the Hot Summer Flames – An Interview with Fire Fighter and UBC Forestry Graduate Julie Sheppard

 

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Author: Meike Siegner

Picture: Julie Sheppard

Julie Sheppard, a recent graduate from the Faculty of Forestry (University of British Columbia), currently works as a firefighter in the interior of the Canadian Western Province British Columbia. For the Tree News, Julie told us about her experience fighting the flames in the Canadian woods.

 Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to work as a firefighter?

 I personally learned about this opportunity from a friend of mine. She was like “Hey, you would love this. It is the perfect job for you!”. So when I finished my undergrad program and didn’t really have anything set up, I applied and got a job with the Burns Lake Unit Crew. Burns Lake is a rural village in the North-Central Interior of British Columbia. 2015 was my first season with them and then I took last year off when I started my Master’s at UBC. But this summer I am back with the same crew and on the same spot for 4 months. This is how long students usually get hired for. It is really one of these jobs where you tend to become part of a community of peers that engage in the same activities. Especially among forestry students in Canada, it seems a very popular thing to do. Some would even go abroad and work with the firefighters in Australia. Canada and Australia have a common agreement in place to share forces if there is need. So, some people’s reaction when I tell them about my job would be like “Oh yes, I know someone who does that, too!”, while others would be astonished, not knowing that is a job that students could do.

What training did you receive before starting the job?

 It is sort of a one-time thing before you get the actual job. They send you to a boot camp and at the camp you learn all the skills needed to become a firefighter. It is nine days of hard work and at the same time the instructors at the boot camp are crew supervisors or crew leaders around the province, who then pick the candidates which they think would fit their crew well. So you get trained there and after that you get called by a crew that offers you the job. And then you really continue learning and training when you’re at your crew. It is really ongoing training that we receive on the job. They would offer, for example, a chain saw training. So I did that one. The only thing you have to do every year before you come back to work is a fitness test.

 How do your weeks look like while being on the job?

 We just live in town. I share an apartment with one other girl of my crew. Right now we have a few days off. We just got back from fourteen days of working. Our shifts can be extremely variable. It all depends on the fire situation. We had some local fires that we did just for four days where we would come home in the evenings, prepare our own food and head back to the fire the next morning. But for the so called “project fires”, which are bigger in scope and intensity, we would be in a camp for fourteen days straight. And there we might end up working sixteen hour days or longer, depending on the situation. When sent to a camp we’d usually sleep in our tents and they would provide catering trailers and washrooms and such. Sometimes they also send us to hotels. The logistics and set-up in the firefighter camps is organized by a professional company. And after two weeks, we get some days off. During these days we mostly hang out in Burns Lake. There is lots of fishing up here and lakes where we go kayaking and swimming. Burns Lake is really small. There is not a ton going on. So people do lots of outdoor activities and usually spend time with their crew members. I like it up here. It’s not just a job, it’s really a life style.

What are the skills that you need in order to do this job?

 It is mostly about being outdoorsy and hard-working. Even if you don’t know a lot about forests, you can learn the skills pretty quickly. As long as you are hard-working, able to stand long days, and remain cool-headed in tense situations, you can be good at the job. They really like forestry students who are used to being in the field and working in teams with others. Which makes sense. I am part of a twenty people unit crew and we pretty much work like a sports team. We have our supervisor and also crew leaders who delegate smaller teams. So there are strict hierarchies in place which I think It is pretty important when there is an emergency situation.

What do you like about the job and what are major take-away from this experience?

 What I really like about it is being outside all day. Even if it is not the greatest day, I still feel lucky to spend so much time in the nature. And it is actually quite rewarding when you get to a fire and manage to put it out. Especially when it is close to communities. It is a good feeling to know that you really made a difference for those people’s lifes. Another great part is the team environment and working toward objectives together. I think it is actually a good skill that firefighting teaches you. To determine objectives and achieve them while being on the fire site. Even if they give you just little tasks. Within our team every task contributes to a larger whole and helps us achieve our goals. And then for me, as someone who is going to be a forest professional, there are many things I can learn just by walking through the woods. Forecasting the weather is one example or learning about different fuel types. Also, fighting a fire in the Interior Douglas Fire zone, for example, is very different from on in the Sub Boreal Spruce zone. I really enjoy learning more about forestry as part of the job.

Would you like to take this experience further?

 I do feel that the job kind of hooks you in. There are actually some opportunities for people who do have a forestry background to make a career out of this. For example, as a fuel management specialist for one of the private service companies in the north of the Province. These are organizations that I could see myself potentially staying in. I am actually thinking about extending my current contract until the end of September. This year is quite an intense season, which is why more people are needed toward fall also.

The author, Meike Siegner, is editor in chief of the Tree News and currently pursues her doctoral studies at the University of British Columbia. Contact: meike.siegner(a)gmail.com

A Look Back on the 45th International Forestry Students’ Symposium (IFSS)

Author: Jayi Chew

Pictures: Jiayi Chew; Helinä Poutamo; Jiri Novak

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

World Environment Day (WED) Celebration held on 5th June, 2017 under the Theme “Connecting People to Nature” in Benin City, Nigeria

Peace Report Nigeria

Picture and article by Peace Ikponmwonba

The World Environment Day (WED) held at Ramat Park, Ikpoba Hill, Benin City, Edo state, Nigeria was indeed a success. Participants included the Executive Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Noghehase Obaseki; Deputy Governor, Rt. Hon. Comrade Philip Shaibu; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Public Utilities, Edo state, Mr. A.I. Omoruyi; Director of Ogba Zoo, Sir Andy Ehanire; Head of Department of Forestry and Wildlife, Dr. G.U. Emelue and other notable staff/lecturers of the Department of Forestry and Wildlife, University of Benin, amongst others.

Effect of environmental degradation on biodiversity and its remedy to ensure environmental sustainability

The guest speaker of the event was Chief Giwa Bisi Rodipe, (the Nigerian tree planter) who gave a lecture on the “Effect of environmental degradation on biodiversity and its remedy to ensure environmental sustainability”.

Chief Giwa Bisi Rodipe gave an extensive lecture on environmental degradation as the disintegration of the earth or deterioration of the environment through consumption of assets, for example, air, water and soil. He noted that the environment belongs to all living beings and thus is important for all as everybody is affected by environmental issue like climate change, global warming, depletion of the ozone layer dwindling forest resources, energy resources, loss of global biodiversity etcetera.

He also stated the contributions of forestry to national economy, challenges of forest resources in Nigeria, causes of environmental degradation, effect of environmental degradation on biodiversity, human activities and their effects on environment, and the need for forest conservation in Nigeria stating that “a fast-track nationally subsidized tree planting investment programme of 1,000,000,000 (one billion) trees annually for 10 years to increase Nigeria forest land area from the present 2% to 40% and have a sustainable forest management structure put in place is a solution to the ongoing mindless deforestation and mismanagement of our forest”.

He said “national forest policy without national will and national commitment will be meaningless”.

Keynote address by the Executive Governor of Edo state

The Governor stated that the WED theme encourages us to get outdoor and visit nature to appreciate its beauty and significance and to take forward the call to protect the earth that we all share dearly. He noted that the amount of illegal logging and deforestation in Edo state particularly in the last few years is alarming and as a government they will not allow this to continue to happen.

First thing they have done is to create a separate Forest Commission and set up a separate arm of the Ministry, an agency for parks and gardens while creating more parks. He said that they have also set up a Green-squad who will work with the Forest Commission on a target that within the next four years, over 250,000 trees will be planted in Benin City. They are also planting five hectares of forest trees in five Local Government Areas in Edo state as well as acting on the issue of flood and erosion, sanitation and urban renewal.

Lastly, he concluded that the environment should be our concern and not just the responsibility of the government alone but each and every one of us should join the global effort in saving the mother earth for our sake and that of our future generations.

Goodwill messages by Dr. G.U. Emelue and Sir Andy Ehanire

According to Dr. G.U. Emelue, the people and communities must have a role to play in forestry and must be a stakeholder in all these so they will have the consciousness to protect it.

Sir Andy Ehanire made reference to the damage done to Ogba zoological gardens as a result of encroachment, illegal logging etcetera. He stated that the Forestry Commission will be an important forestry landmark in Edo state, Nigeria.

The event cumulated with a joint tree planting exercise in the park.

The author, Peace Ikponmwonba, is a graduate of the Department of Forestry and Wildlife, University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria and a Member of the IFSA Online Editorial. peikponmwonba(a)gmail.com

Reflections on the Asia Pacific Regional Meeting (APRM) in Bogor, Indonesia

APRM group photo

Picture and text by Yenyu Lin (Taiwan); link to video recorded interview by Mahtuf Ikhsan (Indonesia)

The Asia-Pacific Regional Meeting (APRM) offers students from the Asia-Pacific Region the unique opportunity to engage and interact with members from other Local Committees. Not only does the meeting enable the delegate to engage in cultural and languages exchange, it also helps to build and cultivate friendships and develop long-lasting memories.

This year, the APRM was organized by the LC from Bogor Agriculture University from Indonesia, with the theme ‘Forest Value towards Sustainable Development Goals’. The event was officially opened on May 15th . The opening ceremony started with a traditional dance of Indonesian cultural groups, followed by a key-note by the Minister of Environment and Forestry. During individual sessions, speakers aimed to enhance the student’s understanding of the Indonesian forest sector.  The program further consisted of several forestry-related public lectures on the theme ‘Peatlands Matter’, which was meant to provide an international overview of the important role of peatlands and current issues related to their preservation, such as peatland fires that subsequently cause air pollution. The program further included a poster session and short presentations where the participants presented their research.

The program further consisted of several field trips. For example,  to the Gunung Walat University Forest in Sukabumi West Java. The tour provided the students with insights into the management of the university forest. On day three, the group gathered in Gunung Walat, where participants were given the chance to learn about the culture and traditions of the local indigenous (of Indonesia at Sindang Barang Cultural Village) For example, the traditional use of bamboo for the construction of housing and the maintenance of these traditional buildings. Other field trips included a tour in the Bogor Botanical garden.

Filled with traditional songs and dances from different represented countries. Time flies but memories and friends last. The event allowed us to return to our homes with a widened perspective on the forest sector in the Asia-Pacific region and an understanding of the importance of cultural integration and development of strong relationships with students from different places.

The Author, Yenyu Lin, is a third-year student in Forestry at National Chung Hsing University (Taiwan) and responsible for the content of the above contribution. Yenyu can be reached via e-mail under: qwsd9087)(a)gmail.com

Mahtuf Ikhsan, student at Bogor University and member of the APRM organizing committee, conducted an interview with Dr. Petrus Gunarso, ex-Sustainability Director and current advisor with Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL Group) during the event. The company is a developer of fibre plantations and a producer of pulp and paper, with operations mainly in Indonesia and China. Mahtuf interviewed Dr. Gunarso about the current role and vision of the APRIL group in promoting sustainable forest operations.

Link to the video-recorded interview below:

 

 

 

NARM 2017 in Ghana, a Personal Experience

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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.

Interview with IFSA Statutes Councillor Salina Abraham on her Exchange Experience in Europe

by Meike Siegner

 

Pictures: Salina Abraham

Salina Abraham has been an active member with IFSA since 2015 and currently serves at Statutes Councillor with IFSA International. As part of her Environmental Science and Resource Management Program at University of Washington (Seattle) she chose to spend one year in the Netherlands to study Economics. For the Tree News she reported on her exchange experience in Europe and the insights she gained by combining both economic and natural resource management perspectives in her studies.

Can you provide us insights into why you chose to pursue exchange studies at a European University?

 About a year ago, when I was three months away from my graduation in Environmental Science and Resource Management at University of Washington, I decided that I wanted to double major in Economics. That was a big decision for me that arose out of my interest in studying the interface between people and the environment. I always knew that I wanted to learn Economics at some point, but I had imagined it as a hobby – something fun to do during retirement. However, based on my desired career direction (environmental policy), I quickly realized it made sense to understand Economics earlier rather than later. Economics is the study of how humans manage resources and I felt like understanding the development of this discipline would be important.  Even though it has a limited focus on natural resources, I felt that knowing the logic, frameworks, and models would be useful in my future career in environment and sustainability field.

I also knew that I didn’t want to study it in America. Mostly, because I did not want to learn conservative, classical economic thought and the Netherlands was attractive to me because of their social policies. I had thought that, for the most part, you can’t come to a country with a very progressive social safety net and then teach, for example, “taxes are really bad!.” I wanted to explore the ways that economics could contribute to these social policies. So, I was hoping that a different political environment would result in a less conservative and potentially more progressive economics learning environment, which could, hopefully, translate into a different take on natural resource economics as well. Those were the thoughts that led to my decision to pursue my exchange studies at Tilburg University, in the town of Tilburg with around 200.000 inhabitants. They allowed me to complete my final year before graduation abroad, which tends to be rare.

And did you feel that the different economic environment in the Netherlands influenced the way the subject was taught?

Well, in general the economics literature is very conservative. You can’t escape it but you can have a professor who understands the differences in application and highlights the limitations of theoretical models, that is its application in reality versus practice by pointing out limits when it comes to applying economic models and frameworks in real-life situations. I’ve seen professors identify the points of breakdown for frameworks more here than in the United States, which is refreshing. However, my disappointment with the program here was primarily that it was a classic Business and Management School and there was a huge shortage in terms of any environmental application to economics, or a perspective that would combine human economic behavior and the environment. I started out with one environmental econ course and I ended up dropping it because it is the same material that we had already covered in an environmental science major as an undergrad. One thing that I did fall in love with though, outside the standard courses, was taking development economics, which I truly love. Development Economics is essentially the study of poverty and how it can be relieved.

One course I’m taking this quarter looks at the power of randomized control trials to determine the effectiveness of certain poverty interventions in many fields. I found this really appealing as it finally allowed to me to quantitatively study livelihoods. The exploration of livelihoods is what I felt I was missing when studying only environmental science and what drove me to economics. I absolutely loved having this class and dissecting literature on the influence of microcredits on individual decision-making in agriculture or energy use. Bringing the math and quantitative data into the questions that we discuss in environmental science but in very ‘fuzzy’ terms was exhilarating for me. Taking that science beyond the soil and trees and into the people was something I loved.

With respect to the environmental and sustainability discourse, did you experience any difference between Europe and the United States?

 The biggest shock for sure is lifestyle differences. Coming from the U.S., I learned, for example, how to live in a smaller space and I started to bike a lot. I miss my car in some ways but my carbon footprint has changed radically here with an excellent public transportation system. You can’t escape a lifestyle change when coming to Europe. The food aspect is also very interesting. There are so many local stores, farmer’s markets and bakery’s, centrally located, which I had not experienced before that.  In addition to lifestyle, I noticed a greater international awareness among people that seems to be absent in the United States. People in Europe know about a variety of political systems, events on the news, and understand a sense of interconnectedness largely because of the interactions within the European Union. This type of diverse global knowledge doesn’t exist in the States in the same way. In the US, the average person does not know about global politics. Whereas here they do and it is integrated into media, and as a result, discussions and I think that this has an influence towards the acceptance of environmental issues and sustainability as a whole. Simply because people recognize the interconnectedness of different countries and people and the impact of various countries and policies on the other. Maybe it is a European Union thing but in that sense I found that there is a general openness. Even if the average person does not know a lot about the environment, they may still digest the issue in a different way than the average American would.

How did you experience being involved with IFSA at the European level?

I regularly attended the coffee hours and I oversee the Northern European Region as councilor during the past five months. What is shocking to see is how much larger the organization is in Europe and how very well established. There is history in LC’s that didn’t exist with IFSA for me in North America. In my home university, we are only two years old. I also think that there seems to be a greater variety in forestry practices in Europe which is reflected in the organization. It seems that there is a lot more to discuss in  Europe with respect to forest management history and practice in different countries, compared to North America. You can definitely see a greater exchange in historical and technological knowledge and ideas in Europe.

With this exchange experience in your pocket, what are your plans for the near future?

My plan is to graduate in the next few weeks and finish my thesis. I am still undecided whether I want to pursue a job at this point. I may start my masters at the Wageningen University in a few months. I could easily imagine staying longer in Europe and Wageningen University represents exactly what I wanted to study when I went on this exchange. I would look at doing a focus on Economics within the Environmental Science masters. This exchange has been great in providing me with basic economic knowledge and a different context for application. Now I want to get it from a focus on the environment, people and agriculture. I think that’s the right next step. It is just a matter if I will do it this September or in a few years. Either way, the year ahead will be full of learning.

Meike is the current Head of Publications with IFSA and the founder and Editor in Chief of the Tree News. She can be reached under meike.siegner.ifsa(a)gmail.com

Looking back: what were the key results of the 46th intersessional UNFCCC conference? And what about forests?

 

by Naomi van den Berg

Now, a week after the finalization of the 46th intersessional climate change conference of the United Nations, plenty of time for reflection has passed. This means it is time for a good recap of the conference.

Such an international, multi-stakeholder platform may seem pretty overwhelming. Lots of different topics and documents were discussed, many of which require a second, third or fourth (or umpteenth time, no one is judging) thorough reading. Granted, with a few ‘wait, what does this acronym stand for again?’ moments before they start to make sense. Therefore, for you, the fellow foresters, I composed a short overview of the key achievements reached at this conference, both at the general level and the more forest-specific level. Hopefully, this will help you get more familiarized with what exactly happens at UNFCCCs and what IFSA’s contribution to this conference has been. Ultimately, basically, why the F in UNFCCC should stand for forest instead of framework.

 

Alright, so the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) embodies the climate talks done at an international (and multi-stakeholder) level. Diplomats flying over from all parts of the world gathered this month in Bonn, Germany, in order to further prepare themselves for the next Conference of Parties (COP), of which the 23rd edition will take place November this year. Indeed, meeting once a year at the COPs alone is not enough to discuss something as complicated and dynamic as climate change. These intersessional meetings – even though they may seem less cool than the COPs – are now vital for the success of the execution and operationalizing the Paris Agreement. A pretty indispensable underdog of a conference if you ask me.

 

So okay, operationalizing… yet another fancy word. What it means is the following: the Paris Agreement needs to be implemented, and for this to happen in clear pathways, we also need a very, very clear set of rules. This set of rules, however, has a deadline: namely COP24 (November 2018). You may think: ‘ah, well, that is pleeeeenty of time! No sweat!’ Well, yes sweat. Because the negotiations leading up to such official, binding documents are slow. Although this progress may be slow, it is definitely steady.

 

A special aspect about this UNFCCC, is that it was the first one that took place in the ‘era’ of Trump’s administration. Peculiar? The USA sent a way smaller group of delegates to Bonn (a mere 7 as opposed to 44 last year). Trump, a climate change skeptic, now leader of a big country that significantly steers climate change’s future course. The same guy promised his voters to pull the USA out of the Paris Agreement[1]. And yes, this fact led to an increased level of uncertainty among those countries whose representatives actually do care about the celebrated and deemed ‘historic’ Paris Agreement. But everyone realizes that this historic value of the Paris Agreement lays in the fact the large actors, the big guys, all ratified it. With the leading greenhouse gas emitter, the USA, pulling out of the contract, the fear of a potential domino effect is not a completely irrational one.

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Trump pulling the plug out of the Paris Agreement?

 

However, besides some worrisome signs, the actual pulling of the plug has not been done yet. And maybe, Trump will take the subtle hint provided by the Pope (May 24th, a few days ago) and actually never live up on his campaign pledge. For now, we remain hopeful, with a slight yet incessant eye on the USA.

 

Okay, so this set of rules, what do they govern? They mainly govern matters of communicating, monitoring and financing climate mitigation (reducing factors leading up to climate change) and adaptation (alleviating response to climate change impacts) efforts. How will countries be held accountable for their promises? How can the most successful transfer and transparency of technology be realized? What about tracking and registering carbon emissions? A start to formulating these rules was made at the COP22 conference, a year after the Paris Agreement was born at the COP21 conference.

 

The official concluding statement released by UNFCCC[2] outlines the many more in-detail stepping stones that were achieved during this intersessional. For example, further boarding up of rules regarding adaptation was accomplished through interactive Technical Expert Meetings on Adaptation (TEMA). And yes, we were able to contribute to these sessions, facilitated by Musonda Mumba –important figure within UNEP – in which we were able to ask questions to the country delegates present, but also to those representing non-governmental organizations (such as the private sector). Our contributions, as stated by Mumba, would be processed in the official documents that serve as the basis of COP23. This may sound pretty far-fetched, but this type of platform did allow us, the foresters, to ask questions about for example (trans-national) forest management. After all, both climate mitigation and adaptation cannot exclude forests.

 

The conference was concluded with a lengthy plenary session, in which each of the agenda items + amendments to the documents, such as SBSTA (Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice), were taken to the floor for each country to give some final comments on. For example, one of the stepping-stones reached in this conference was successful furthering the negotiations regarding the Paris Agreements’ goal to enhance transparency[3].

 

However, some obstacles are often still in the very fundamentals of the commitment associated with the Paris Agreement. For instance, the nature of certain commitments is formulated as “on a voluntary basis”, which of course is very much up to the country’s own interpretation. The legal pretentions are frankly countless to a law layperson like me.

Another light in an otherwise dark and twisty tunnel that is called climate finance, is offered in the form of a 800 million euro donation by the European Union for the sake of “increasing cooperation” to struggling countries in the Pacific region (this region will be in the spotlight the next COP, as it will be organized by Fiji).  This fund is i.a. meant to help climate adaptation and mitigation strategies in this region get off the ground.

 

And now, more specifically of interest to us, the foresters: what about carbon? A big point on the agenda for this intersessional conference in Bonn was Article 6 of the Paris Agreement regarding the formulation of a global carbon stock market. Carbon pricing is a difficult discussion and we expect that this discussion will take some time to be finalized, however, current issues with the concept have been identified and captured in the informal notes. This will form an important basis for the continuation of the discussion during COP23. This discussion has included mentions of capturing carbon and the idea of negative carbon emissions (see my blog post: Carbon, carbon, carbon and a billion trees). And yes, capturing carbon requires some serious (re)considerations of forest restoration and management.

 

Alright, now, let’s come back to IFSA’s part in all of this. In particular during technical expert meetings, IFSA’s voice was heard. These meetings often allowed for a more in depth discussion, as they are ‘technical’ in nature. These meetings often take more than a day and discuss a specific part of the APA (Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement) to ultimately ameliorate it or complement it.  Representing forestry students, we found it important that our voice was heard and actively reciprocated. This way, we put pressure on the international community at the UNFCCC to talk about forests.

 

So yes, forests will be discussed during the next big climate conference: COP23. And I am eager to see how this discussion will translate to a bigger inclusion of forestry in supranational climate adaptation and mitigation policies! I hope by now you are too. Let the F in UNFCCC stand for Forest!

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[1] The US delegate did restate during this intersessional that Trump is not planning on continuing the USA’s contribution to the Green Climate Fund – the previously promised 2 billion dollar will most likely be cut.

Hirji, Z. (2017, May 19). Fight Over Fossil Fuel Influence in Climate Talks Ends With Murky Compromise. Inside Climate News. Retrieved from https://insideclimatenews.org/news/18052017/paris-climate-talks-fossil-fuel-influence-conflict-interest

[2] http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2017/apa/eng/l02.pdf

[3] More specifically: the ‘enhanced transparency framework’, as was formulated in the Paris Agreement. Van Asselt, H., Weikmans, R., Roberts, T., & Abeysinghe, A. (2016). Putting the ‘enhanced transparency framework’ into action: Priorities for a key pillar of the Paris Agreement.