A loud, warm sound of drums was heard through the ICC corridors as the group of African drummers invited people to the communications session during the XIV World Forestry Congress. As primitive as the drums seemed, but they were very effective – loud and clear in sending the message across!
The value of communications and its potential in promoting forestry is under estimated. Strong dialogue, imagination and innovation are needed at all levels to engage audiences better.
One loud voice, political will, capacity building, resources, strategic approach is currently lacking in delivering strong and effective forestry communications.
Communications that instil love, hope and the future that forestry represents, especially for the younger generation, will go a long way. “Forestry communications has always been negative without inspiration. We need to communicate messages that bring hope to the people,” said Patricia Sfeir, the coordinator for the Forest Communicators Network for the Mediterranean and the Near East. (FCNMedNE).
Even though forestry communications has not reached the optimal level yet, visible progress is being made in Africa. The Africa Forests Communicators Network is already at work in an attempt to transform the face of forestry communications in the continent. “The network is a platform exchanging and building capacity for forestry communicators in Africa. It aims to bring communicators together and ensure they communicate in a unified voice on behalf of the forests. The network is currently aligning its strategy to provide a framework within which members can engage effectively,” said Gaster Kiyingi, the Chairman of the Africa Forest Communicator’s Network.
This FAO-funded programme has expanded into 24 countries and is gaining popularity and momentum with almost 90 members in Africa
As communcators, our messages can only be effectively spread if we have appropriate strategies, target the right audiences and speak in one voice. We also have to understand the needs and aspirations of communities living closer to the forests so we can deliver relevant messages.
The “Smokey Bear” project by the United States Forest Service was used as an example of how we can effectively communicate a forestry issue. It shows how innovation and creativity can sculpt a complex issue into a simple message and make it more effective and engaging.
A “rowdy crowd” was again heard at the end of the session. Each participant picked up a drum from underneath their chair. Guided by our tribal drummers, they engaged into a thunderous beat. It symbolized how effective our communications can be if we unite and communicate with one loud voice.