ITTO strengthens professional expertise in tropical forestry by supporting hands-on education and training through field projects and fellowships. Photo: DGFRN (Benin)
Rome, 24 June 2021: Forest education at all levels—from primary schools to universities—is insufficient in many countries, according to the results of a global survey led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), ITTO and the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), with the support of other international and regional partners.
The survey revealed that more must be done to improve forest education in many parts of the world. Although forest education has evolved and the number, diversity and qualifications of graduates have increased in most regions, forest education resources are insufficient or limited in large parts of the global South.
Additionally, in most regions, primary and secondary schools are not educating students effectively about forests and trees or motivating them to pursue forest-related studies and careers. Graduates’ understanding of cultural and social aspects of forest and tree management is often limited. Innovative teaching approaches, digital tools and online learning resources are inadequately employed in many regions, and forest education to prepare students for entrepreneurship and to participate in the growing green jobs sector is insufficient in most regions.
International Conference on Forest Education, 22–24 June 2021
Key findings of the survey were unveiled at the International Conference on Forest Education, a three-day event that finished today designed to highlight the importance of forest education in maximizing the contributions of forests and trees to the Global Forest Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals and in overcoming the growing disconnection between people, nature and forests. The conference was organized by FAO, ITTO and IUFRO, and supported by the Government of Germany.
During the event, participants discussed the current state of forest education, sharing their experiences and perspectives through discussions of key challenges, needs, opportunities and initiatives to strengthen forest education. It was agreed that robust forest education and training programmes are vital for reducing the rate of deforestation and forest degradation, protect and restore ecosystems, mitigate and adapt to climate change, and realize the full contributions of forests and trees to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
“The sustainable management of forests and trees is crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. We must reverse deforestation and forest degradation and manage forest resources sustainably,” said FAO Deputy-Director General Maria-Helena Semedo in her opening speech at the event. “To do this, we need a well-trained cadre of forest managers, workers, policy makers, scientists and educators. We also need the rich and valuable forest knowledge and skills of local communities and Indigenous Peoples. We urgently need to strengthen all levels of formal education - the forest workforce of the future.”
ITTO launched a free online learning course during the conference as part of a global effort to improve forest education. It will assist entrepreneurs, forestry professionals, government officials and students in understanding legal and sustainable timber supply chains.
“Forests are where most of us learn about the importance of nature in our lives,” said Steve Johnson, ITTO Officer-in-Charge. “Education and training on forest management is also crucial for ensuring forest sustainability and productivity into the future, as well as for developing an informed population that appreciates the many complexities of sustainable forestry.”
Dr Johnson said ITTO would continue contributing to forest education and training throughout the tropics, including through the groundbreaking ITTO Fellowship Programme, which, for nearly 30 years, has been helping improve the career prospects of young and mid-career forest professionals in the tropics.
“Increased funding for this important programme would greatly expand opportunities for practical training, professional development and improving career prospects in tropical forestry,” said Dr Johnson.
IUFRO President John Parrotta confirmed the need to strengthen forest education globally. “IUFRO seeks to advance updating of forestry related curriculums, promote innovative and improved teaching approaches and techniques, and help address key gaps in forest education worldwide,” he said.
Call to action
Participants took advantage of the event to endorse a global Call to Action on forest education. The aim is to raise awareness of the need to strengthen policies and strategies to improve forest learning at all levels of education, heighten awareness of the societal importance of careers in forestry, and improve understanding of traditional and indigenous forest-related knowledge. The Call to Action will remain open online after the event to encourage other stakeholders and actors to endorse the message.
Launch of Forest Education Partnership
The three-day conference concluded with the launch by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests of the Joint Initiative on Forest Education, the aim of which is to catalyze action, generate increased awareness and support, and foster partnerships for forest education. Among other things, the initiative will establish the Forest Education Partnership, launch an online platform to facilitate information dissemination and networking on forest education, work to improve forest education curricula and training systems, and run a global communication campaign to encourage young people to pursue forest-related careers.
Read “Call for a Renaissance in Forest Education” by IISD SDG knowledge hub.