Great oaks from little acorns grow

Alan Pottinger

The Young Forester Award is helping to ensure the preservation of the world’s forests by encouraging the professional development of the next generation of custodians. 

The Commonwealth Forestry Association (CFA) is committed to supporting young foresters and does so in several ways – by inviting young people on to the Governing Council of the CFA; by setting up its Young Scientist Publication Award; by providing assistance with writing scientifi c papers; by publishing news and information relevant to young foresters in its newsletter; and perhaps, most clearly, through its Young Forester Award. 

The Award is designed to support the professional development of foresters under 35 years of age through the provision of a short-term work placement in a country other than their own. This consists of a designated placement combined with a bursary of between £1,000 and £1,500 to cover a stay of three to six months with established and renowned forestry organisations. The hosts might be major timber companies, research organisations or NGOs, but they all share the desire to support the development of the next generation of foresters. 

On 1 February, after a rigorous application process, the two winners of the 2010/11 CFA Young Forester Award, Chidiebere Ofoegbu from South Africa and Chisika Sylvester from Kenya, began their work placements with the Uganda Sawlog Production Grant Scheme (SPGS). Over the following 12 weeks, the two young foresters worked closely with the team at SPGS under the expert guidance of the Senior Plantation Officer, Celia Nalwadda, who is also the CFA Youth Officer. They were able to develop their skills in a wide range of forest-management tasks. 

“Every activity has been a unique learning opportunity for me,” declared Sylvester. “One-on-one interaction with hardworking SPGS staff, together with contracted clients and office visitors has taught me how [the] provision of incentives can change people’s perceptions towards commercial forestry.” He intends to use his newly developed skills in his homeland, adding: “I envisage transforming the existing community forest associations into vibrant institutions with the full capacity for petitioning the government to provide incentives for the development of commercial forestry in Kenya.” 

When reflecting on his journey, Ofoegbu said: “Winning the 2010/11 Young Forester Award is a dream come true for me. Overall my experience has been nothing short of amazing. I have learnt much about plantation forestry and commercial forestry in Uganda. I have also learnt a lot about the Ugandan people and their culture.” Ofoegbu believes that the skills he has gained through his placement with SPGS will remain with him throughout his career. “My sincere wish and desire is for this scheme to continue so that other young foresters can take delivery of the inherent benefits for their career development and advancement,” he said. 

The full diaries of the CFA Young Forester Award winners can be viewed at:

About the author:

Alan Pottinger is Technical Director at the Commonwealth Forestry Association


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November 29, 2011 2:03 pm

This is a brilliant idea. Young people need to be given the chance to learn new
skills in a specialist area so that they can be applied in the future. The work experience is also essential. I also think that the Young Foster Award is a great way to get people involved
in the scheme and rewarding hard work.

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