Youth play their part in conserving forests in Africa

Indigenous afrotemperate forest growing in a river valley. Western Cape South Africa

Indigenous forest in Western Cape, South Africa

Advocating forestry and conservation may sound boring to many young people who often lack ambition and know nothing but the latest hip-hop songs or latest trends in fashion. However, for Eric Ogallo from Kenya and Kiki Tassi from Togo, it is a different story. The two young men teach rural communities how to conserve their forests. They both attended the World Forestry Congress in Durban this week.

Twenty-five year old Ogallo is part of a youth-led non-governmental organization working in the forests of the central highlands of Kenya. “We want to rehabilitate the area by using the youth and their innovations, so that they can create solutions to livelihoods and forestry management issues,” he said.

Ogallo’s organization teaches youth about forestry management and conservation. Others are given the opportunity to get real-life experience after completing their tertiary education. They take the students to the field so that they can apply what they have been taught in class. After that they are expected to implement solutions to existing problems. “The other aspect is that we go to community members and train the youth in how they can use the non-forest products to create livelihoods,” said Ogallo.

Ogallo is an environmental resource conservation graduate who describes himself as an environmentalist passionate about forestry. And he speaks passionately about forestry – it is not surprising that he was one of the panelists at the Africa Day Special Dialogue at the Congress.

“I love forestry because it is the backbone of our economy. I also love it because it gives us life. One tree can have five thousand benefits to human beings,” he said enthusiastically. He encouraged young people to take advantage of what the forestry industry has to offer and to bring about change. “Young people are facing unemployment and it is time they come together to turn forestry into livelihoods so that they can create employment for themselves.”

In Togo, 32-year-old Tassi is part of the organization that aims to introduce the rehabilitation of forests in the countryside. Rural communities cause deforestation because they cut a lot of trees which they use as wood to make fire. “In my organization we have decided to help those communities to replant the trees. Our results were very successful because we replanted the forest and handed it over to the community.”

Several speakers at the Congress highlighted the importance of young people getting involved in advocating forestry.

The Deputy President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa said the Government- funded programme, Working on Fire, was instilling a lot of discipline to young people to love their environment and take care of the environment. He said he was pleased to see that the Congress planned to engage youth as they are central to achievement of a sustainable future. “The 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.”

Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, also from South Africa, said her department was developing young people who will be involved in conservation of natural resources including forestry. “To protect natural resources the department invested in skills development in forestry and other natural resources,” she said.

Blogpost by Limakatso Khalianyane, Provincial Communications Officer, Fs & Nc, Working on Fire
Photo courtesy Abu Shawka

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