Jan Joseph will be moderating a youth roundtable discussion on key topics relating to the theme “Forest Landscapes for food and biodiversity”.
Find out more about the youth session here!
Eat. Sleep. Do Forestry. These are the words that would probably best describe what I do each day. My workplace is the forest and, for the past four years, I have learned about all the benefits that can be derived from it. The mapping of trees, a skill I honed at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, makes it easier for other people to also see those benefits.
As part of my research, I went to lowland areas in the Philippines, specifically urban and agricultural areas, where the ecosystem and land use is very different to that of forests. Seeing scattered patches of trees outside forests, I wondered how those trees are used and accounted for, given that the government does not manage that land. I found that people in residential and urban areas rely on the trees for food in addition to what they buy in the market.
One of the urban households I met told me that they had the Duhat/Dhuwet (Syzygium cumini) tree planted in their backyard because of its delicious fruit. I had the opportunity to grab fruit from the tree and it was juicy and nutritious. As I moved from house to house, I never failed to see fruit-bearing trees such as Mango, Coconut, and Guava trees planted in backyards. That’s how my interest in the linkages between forestry, food security and biodiversity started.
To nurture my increasing passion for forestry, I wanted to get involved in environment and community service with my fellow youth. As former head of the college student council, I had already experienced how important youth can be in conservation activities and so wanted to bring youth involvement to forestry.
Information dissemination plays an important role in promoting sustainable forestry practices and this is where youth involvement comes into play. With the advance of communication technology and social media, which youth are particularly adept with, communication is easy for young people. The promotion of indigenous and local fruit bearing trees, for example, can be done by youth organizations and has the potential to make forestry activities more attractive.
To make things happen, we, at the Association of Filipino Forestry Students-UPLB, conduct awareness campaigns through community service and outreach programs, and mangrove tree planting activities. Unfortunately however, I have found it difficult to gather support for activities that mainly benefit the environment. People tend to invest more in something that gives tangible returns. However, although our efforts may not completely solve the problem, at a minimum, they will promote the involvement of youth as part of the solution.
The upcoming Forest Asia Summit gives us an opportunity to share new information and concepts, and learn from them. I look forward to learning from others, and of course, sharing what I know. The role of research coupled with collaborative action initiated by youth will greatly help in solving the challenges faced in Southeast Asia’s forestry sector.
Jan Joseph Dida is a forester, research assistant and graduate student at the College of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of the Philippines Los Baños.