FOREST21 Exceeding Expectations
FOREST21 is a collaborative project between five South African and three European universities aimed at strengthening capacity across South African higher education institutions offering forestry programmes.
The initiative recently received great praise from Deputy Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), Maggie Sotyu, at a stakeholder engagement workshop.
“FOREST21 illustrates the true spirit of partnership, as contained in the Commercial Forestry Sector Masterplan. It is not a common thing for one to receive a progress report even before a project is concluded, so thank you very much.” The Deputy Minister congratulated all the coordinators and their teams for work well done.
The strength of the FOREST21 initiative lies in the alignment of its three key pillars – climate-smart forestry innovation, curriculum transformation and entrepreneurship advancement in forestry education, and addressing issues of poverty and unemployment. With South Africa’s national imperatives and the global imperative of climate-smart living.
Although its work is far from done, following its official launch in April 2021, the FOREST21 project has made significant progress. Deliverables to date include a feasibility study evaluating knowledge needs and current competencies, the provision of training on a variety of subjects for more than 150 staff and 280 students, the staging of three workshops, and notably, the production of essential training material, including six videos, one podcast and a short film.
With more than a year’s worth of EU Erasmus+ funding, the changes FOREST21 has already brought will ensure that even after its conclusion in 2024, it will live on in the mind of every student, teacher, industry player, entrepreneur and community member who has been impacted by the project. It will continue to be implemented in the government policy framework on education and will develop, evolve and improve through the revised and reformed academic curriculum and re-engineered teaching methods it has initiated.
During her address, the Deputy Minister recommitted herself and her department’s support to the project, and called on Pumeza Nodada, Deputy Director General of the forestry branch of DFFE, to ensure funds are available from the department to sustain the project through its next phase, post-EU Erasmus+ funding.