The CFA Young Forester Award - winners' stories

The CFA's most recent Young Forester Award winner was Tolulope Daramola (Nigeria) who was supported by the John Wyatt Smith Forest Educational Trust.  He undertook his work placement in British Colombia, Canada and you can read his diary here.

It was a fun filled last quarter of the year 2013 with nice experience learning about new things and adding more people in the circle of my network. My work placement at the research forests of the University of British Columbia which lasted for thirteen weeks came to an end on the 13th Dec 2013. Many thanks to the CFA for the opportunities given to young folks in the Commonwealth Nations to experience and explore more opportunities in forestry outside the shore of their countries. The work placement has added more value to my curriculum with more exposure to forestry career. I remain loyal to the organization, with continuous wills to provide support to the best of my abilities for the promotion of a Sustainable Forest Management in the Commonwealth Nations."

Chidibere Ofoegbu (South Africa) Winning the 2010/11 Young Forester Award of the Commonwealth Forestry Association was a dream comes through for me. My placement with Uganda’s’ Sawlog Production Grant Scheme (SPGS) provided me with my first ever opportunity to travel to East Africa. Not only did I gain work experience but I also established network with other foresters from different part of the world. One outstanding benefit of the SPGS experience is that it has accorded me the right skills for the promotion of commercial forestry in my home country (Nigeria) where the potential contribution of forestry to the national economy has been constantly undermined.

Sylvester Chisika (Kenya‘Better teach a young man how to fish than give him fish’ This wise saying has been quoted in the world over by men and women in the course of challenging those who intend to provide help, guidance or support to others in the process of re-energizing or propelling them to new horizons in life. The Commonwealth Forestry Association (CFA) has mastered the hidden meaning of this saying through implementation of its Young Forester Award programme and I am a living proof that attests to the fact that the young forester award and an opportunity worth dying for.

I remember two years ago when I was a fresh BSc. Graduate in forestry from one local university in Kenya. I considered myself a learned, virile, ambitious and highly dynamic young man well molded in forestry practice with the intention of hastening societal socioeconomic development. Little did I know that I was just about to begin wading in turbulent waters of applying my knowledge and skills to practical life situations. My first memorable assignment came hot on heels when I was working at Kenya Forestry Research Centre (KEFRI). I was in charge of collection, filtering and preliminary analysis of both quantitative and qualitative forestry data. More often than not my immediate supervisor could be heard complaining about the quality of work I had presented on his desk. The first day ‘you have taken too long to prepare that work plan’ the second day ‘the design of data collection was not the right one change it’. One day I sat back on my desk to reflect about the quality my performance at work.

 I realized that there were some inefficiencies which needed to be acted upon without further delay. One evening while browsing the CFA website I came across an advert about the CFA Young Forester Award, I went through the requirements quickly, met them and applied by submitting a small write up about why I thought I best suited for the award. After some time the results came out and I was selected as a recipient. Little did I know that this was going to be a rare life-changing opportunity in my career life. I was attached to Sawlog Production Grant Scheme (SPGS) an international partnership between the European Union and the Government of Uganda as an intern for a period of three months. While at this prestigious forestry organization located at the heart of Kampala City in Uganda and charged with the mandate of developing a commercial forestry sector in Uganda by promoting investments through issuance of incentives. I was mesmerized at how life can offer more than we can imagine. I learnt a lot of things at SPGS, I became a master of one on one interaction with clients and supervisors, I learnt the art of planning forestry plantation establishment operations, I attended and participated actively in community resource mobilization and community exchange tours all over the republic of Uganda. I also sharpened further my research skills while attached to SPGS.

At the lapse of the attachment period. I came back to Kenya at KEFRI; I was a weapon and a minister of forestry development. I remember an incident where I challenged my supervisor with a new technique of carrying out lining out with ‘cross head’ as opposed to the conventional 3-4-5 technique. I am telling you this earned me both trust and confidence from my supervisor who was amazed at the sudden rise in creativity and professionalism on my part. He even when ahead and recommend me for the current position at the Kenya forestry service as a management trainee.

The new fire that had been lit by CFA in my professional forestry life did not only stop at excellent work performance at the place of work but also in the course of transforming the society. I mobilized a group of young people in my home village; we came up with a project dubbed ‘trees again project’ whose mandate is to encourage private farm owners to establish commercial tree plantations on their degraded farmlands through provision of technical incentives and training. Barely since months after commencement, the local community development fund extended Kshs. 500,000 to the project to upscale the activities of our project and to involve more young people.

I can comfortably and boldly tell the aspiring candidates of CFA young foresters Award 2012 that this is you redefining moment. Do you want to explore the forestry world beyond your limits and learn about how you can effectively impart positive change in your society through your knowledge and practical skills in forestry? Get up and grab this chance! I dare you! You won’t regret it. you will become better, bold, bigger and effective in your practice.

Sahibzada Irfanullah Khan (Pakistan) To me the placement as Young Forester in 2008 was a unique experience in the sense I was exposed to a work situation that was so similar to my professional interests but so challenging at the same time. Working with Rainforest Rescue International at Bandarewala, Sri Lanka was interesting as it involved studying the interface between forest and people under a dynamic Analogue Forestry model. It provided me a rare opportunity to interact with communities living in tropical forests, and I developed a knowledge base that could also support the use of tropical tree species for restoration of degraded sites. But it was not all that, I really enjoyed visiting tremendous scenic places and meeting diverse cultural communities in Sri Lanka.  

The experience helped me at home to better understand the linkages between resource and resource users through an investigative approach and use this for restoration of the environment. As a forester I would like to recommend every young professional forester should be willing to avail this opportunity to broaden his/her vision.   

Jenny Greaves (UK) My Young Forester Award placement was split between two forestry organisations in Guyana, South America. The first was a community group who had recently acquired a forestry concession to harvest trees from an area of forest close to their village. I helped them work out an action plan and gave them advice on pricing and selling the timber. In turn they showed me how they undertook inventories. The second organisation was harvesting a concession of greenheart and purpleheart trees. The company was certified and the harvesting was following the principles of reduced impact logging. The placement gave me a valuable insight into tropical forestry. I learnt a lot about organising work in challenging conditions and I still refer to my experiences there in my current job. 


Rachel Murray (Australia) In 2005 I was fortunate enough to be a recipient of the YFA. My placement was to Guyana South America, a very long way from Australia!  I spent 4 months living in a small regional village in the Rupununi with the local people which gave me a real insight into village life.  The main project I worked on was a small scale very low impact harvesting operation conducted by the local loggers.  We worked on falling techniques, safety, board cutting, sales and marketing.  I also gathered traditional histories of different species from the village elders. The work I did during the YFA placement assisted in getting a sample of large slabs of timber exported to the UK for trial into various markets including castle doors.  Each sample was sent along with its traditional story.  I also spent some time assisting a young local girl in book keeping skills.  The YFA was a once in a lifetime opportunity of which I have so many fond memories.  I would encourage any young Forester to apply, you wont regret it!

Courtney Johnson (Australia)  I was the recipient of the 2005 Young Forester Award from the CFA and spent 8 weeks with Rainforest Rescue International in Sri Lanka.  I was involved in establishing forest monitoring plots across different land uses to allow a comparison with Analog forestry.  I helped to map nursery and biodiversity corridor lands and train employees in the use of ArcGIS.  I now work for the Department of Sustainability and Environment in forest monitoring and reporting.  I encourage all young foresters to apply and use the skills you have acquired in your home in a different country, culture and environment.