Posted on | juni 29, 2012 | No Comments
One of the forest principles adopted by the on-going United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) is that forest management will be based on the best science, but this is a challenge for Africa, a continent ravaged by low number of scientists and under-resourced forestry training institutions.
Prof Fredrick Owino, a forest policy and science specialist said in Nairobi at the ongoing first International Union of Forestry Research Organisation conference that for Africa to meet the UNFF expectations, “the continent has to revamp its forestry education and research.”
However, education and research remain very low in priority in both national budgets and donor support.
According to Prof Owino, only a few academic institutions in the continent have achieved continental and international repute.
Even those like the University of Khartoum (Sudan), University of Ibadan (Nigeria), Makerere University (Uganda), Sokoine University of Agriculture and Forestry (Tanzania) which have made some repute, they are however all under resourced as compared to institutions in developing countries. Further, he said, their uptake of new knowledge and skills is very slow and unpredictable in African institutions.
Education and research programmes are not development oriented with frequent reports of the products of education and research institutions being misfits in development arena.
Worse, said Prof Owino, practical education is particularly limited.
Most of practitioners educated up to 1970s received general and specialized education from other continents – mainly Europe, North America and Australia.
The education offered to African practitioners during those early periods was mainly based on temperate climate forestry experiences.
However, the education proved relevant for plantation management with exotic tree species in Africa.
The result is that present day forest practitioners who are alumni of these institutions exhibit deficiencies.
“Weaknesses in practical education results in “arm chair” forest practitioners of little value in forestry development,” said Prof Owino.
Moreover, he adds, the present tertiary level education are narrowly structured to offer minimum education package with few engaging in effective research and extension.
To help the situation, the African Forest Forum has identified the above weaknesses and is addressing them through strengthening post-graduate education and research programmes.
If Africa is devoid of quality training institutions, the overall impact is that only a few countries in Africa have vibrant forestry research institutions.
The few existing institutions run programmes which do not address development needs, they have weak technical capacities and are underfunded.
Experts at the meeting pointed out that while in the past, institutions like EAAFRO, South Africa, Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Nigeria had strong research programmes , they however had wrong focus.
“They focused on plantation forestry with exotic species while the scenario showed dwindling land sizes, and a tropical environment that did not favour temperate-kind of forests,” said Prof Owino.
These institutions made important influence in timber production in respective countries.
Similarly, research institutions in countries like Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, etc. had research programmes focused on management of tropical high forests which had strong influence on forest management and conservation in Africa.
Since 1980s, some African countries have benefited from regional research networks driven by organizations such as World Agroforestry Centre, CIFOR, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.
These more recent research initiatives have been unique in being development focused as they have been designed to address identified development needs.
Prof Owino decried lack of documentation of indigenous knowledge given that had existed in Africa over the years.
He said in many African countries, there exist valuable indigenous knowledge base on management of forests and tree resources – particularly for minor forest products. “However with passing on of older generation with this knowledge, it is rapidly being lost,” he said.
AUTHOR: Henry Neondo
URL: http:// www.africasciencenews.org
E-MAIL: neondohenry [at] yahoo.com