Building forestry technical skills; FAO supports training in Forest Engineering
As Uganda’s forestry sector continues to grow; with Government, private sector players and communities involved in commercial tree planting, it has become increasingly important to focus on skills development as a mechanism to promote sustainable forest management. Forest engineering is one of the critical skills required for sustainability of commercial forestry. Forest engineering provides the methodology and technology to plan forest operations such as building and maintaining forest roads, harvesting trees, making logs, transporting logs from the forest to the mill, while paying attention to environmental management and health and safety standards. It is against this background that, in February 2020, the FAO/ SPGS III Project organized a Forest Engineering training for key forestry sector players, focusing on Harvesting and Roads.
The two-week training course, held in Kampala and at Busoga Forestry Company (BFC) in Mayuge, aimed at equipping forestry processionals, particularly those involved in harvesting operations, with relevant knowledge and practical skills to work safely, productively and sustainably. The training addressed key performance areas and related harvesting indicators including: conducting hazard identification, risk assessment, determining appropriate control measures and identifying different harvesting systems and methods. Participants also learnt about costing harvesting operations, criteria for selecting appropriate harvesting systems and developing harvesting plans for strategic, tactical and operational levels.
Since 2004, the SPGS Project has supported planting of about 80 000 hectares of forests; many of which have ongoing harvesting operations and others due for harvesting and processing. It is therefore crucial for forest owners and tree farmers to integrate new, modern and appropriate technologies to improve their operational efficiency.
The training featured theoretical and practical sessions. It was facilitated by Centre for the Modernisation of Operations (CMO)- a South-African based forestry consulting, training and auditing services company, with a global footprint in over 70 countries. Participants included representatives from Ministry of Water and Environment, National Forestry Authority (NFA), Nyabyeya Forestry College, Uganda Timber Growers Association (UTGA), harvesting contractors and forestry companies- Global Woods, BFC and New Forests Company, as well as FAO staff.
According to the CMO trainer Andrew McEwan, “with more training opportunities, the human capacity in forestry is going to be big and we shall see more competent forestry personnel. This is a journey and the only way the industry will get ahead is by training more people”.
He urged tree farmers to invest in understanding commercial forestry business, taking into account not only costs and productivity, but important values such as access for communities, environmental management, health and safety and social aspects.
“There’s too much wood coming onto the market and growers will have to integrate old systems with slightly more modern and appropriate technology systems in order to sustain their operations while improving productivity, reducing inefficiencies and controlling cost of inputs”, he said. McEwan urged training institutions to align their content with the developments in commercial forestry and the market because these teaching institutions produce the human resources for the industry.
For Ego Dennis- a Logging Supervisor and Trainer at Nyabyeya Forestry College, the Forest Engineering training was beneficial because it helped him to identify the hazards in harvesting, showed him how to produce maps to demarcate special management zones, assess obstacles during harvesting and determine productivity by conducting work studies. “All this is knowledge that I will share with fellow College staff and impart in my students, to make them fit for the industry”, he said. Nyabyeya Forestry College is the only educational institution in Uganda, that offers vocational training in forestry.