“South Africa’s youth must use this opportunity to expand their horizons and find a role for themselves in the future development of the forestry sector at home and beyond,” Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa told the 14th World Forestry Congress. The “Working on Fire” (WoF) programme played a lead role at the opening of the Congress, showing how it is providing jobs for young men and women, as well as a critical community service.
A key theme of the conference is creating a sustainable future for forests and people. “Empowering women and youth in the forestry sector can create significant development opportunities and generate important spill over benefits,” Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma Chair of the African Union said. The WoF programme, run by the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, employs 93% of youth from previously disadvantaged communities and trains them in integrated fire management skills. More than one third are female – the highest rate of female employment in any organisation.
During the exhibitions, WoF shared its Integrated Fire Management expertise with local and international stakeholders. South Africa has more than 4000 wildfires per year, thus Integrated Fire Management becomes a clear solution to the veld and forest fires in the world.
The pressure of food security has, in many instances, resulted in deforestation as societies seek to increase their capacity to feed their people. Around 129 million hectares of forest have been lost to deforestation. The Government is also urging communities to be at the forefront of forestry conservation.
If our youth gets more involved in environmental issues then our world will surely be saved.
Blogpost and picture by Matema Gwangwa (Provincial Communications Officer: Limpopo, “Working on Fire”) – matema.gwangwa(at)wofire.co.za