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You are never too young or too old to learn to love forests

The joint EFI-IFSA-IUFRO project, funded by the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture, recently launched the ‘Dare to Explore!’ traineeship programme. Each year for 2019, 2020, and 2021 the programme will offer four unique, paid traineeship positions at three partnering organizations as well as other international forest related institutions. The traineeship programme aims to enrich students and recent graduates’ formal education and gain insight into science-policy interactions at the international level. In 2019 the traineeships address topics such as forest education, forest restorations, rewilding and rights-based approaches and includes knowledge sharing, literature review, outreach and communication activities.

For the International Day of Forests with the topic “Forests and Education – Learn to love forests” on the 21st of March 2019, the International Forestry Students’ Association (IFSA) organized workshops in a so-called “World Café style” all around the world. In small groups several questions addressing forest education, challenges of today’s university students and employment were discussed. The results will inform the research of the joint project which besides the traineeship programme is also investigating the transforming employment trends in the forest sector with special focus on the perspective of students and recent graduates. One of the workshops was held in Rome at UN Food and Agriculture Organization after the official celebration of the International Day of Forests. It was run and attended by a group of 25 university students and members of the IFSA, inviting FAO staff to join.

World Café results Photo credit: Lisa Prior

During the opening remarks in the morning ,FAO Programmes Deputy Director-General, Daniel Gustafson pointed out that “you really are never too young and also never really too old to learn to love forests”.  The focus of the day was clearly on pointing out ways to teach the young. A panel of “education champions” (Gustafson) presented best examples of forest education for children such as schoolyard ecology and Waldkindergärten (Forest kindergarten) from Argentina, Germany and the Philippines. Further, two projects funded by Germany were announced. One initiative will develop teaching modules for children educating on the need for sustainably managed forests, piloting in Tanzania and the Philippines. The second project aims to create a global forest education platform.

Now, a panel discussion indoors may not be the most obvious choice for a group of school kids to celebrate a day designated to enhance appreciation and understanding of forests. But for this year’s topic the usual audience of member state and NGO representatives got a lively addition of two school classes (age ~10).

In the spirit of the proverb ‘Children are never shy about telling the truth’ the best question of the day was raised by one of the young students: “I just wanted to ask if all these things you say in conferences… I want to know how much of this is actually done in reality?”- Judging by the applause and laughter in the room a question most of the audience has pondered on before. FAO’s Assistant Director-General of Forestry Department, Hiroto Mitsugi was quick to reply by inviting the student to come and join FAO.

The call for the traineeships is still open until the 21st of April, and we encourage applications. Contact for further questions regarding the applications: lisa.prior(at)


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