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Human resources formation: The weak link in forestry development

Franz Schmithüsen

FRANZ SCHMITHÜSEN is in charge of the Forestry Personnel Department, Forst-direktion Stuttgart, Federal Republic of Germany.

The lack of trained personnel and educational facilities is in many developing countries still one of the principal impediments to forestry and forest industries development.

FORESTRY STUDENTS IN NIGERIA practical training for forestry development projects

Forestry for local community development as a concept has gained a great deal of momentum during the last few years. National forest and rural development policies are gradually embracing the concept and there are new efforts under way to try to put it into practice. The concept implies far-reaching modifications of sectoral objectives and important institutional changes. It also provides a great challenge to forest education and training, in both quantitative and qualitative terms.

Improvement of the living conditions of rural people through a balanced use of agricultural and forest lands implies the involvement and motivation of peasants and villagers. Vocational training of community leaders and extension work by local forestry staff are essential in order to initiate and sustain the mobilization of the rural population. Thousands of people should thus be able to benefit from vocational training programmes. A massive effort to provide the necessary institutional and pedagogical structures for the implementation of such programmes will have to be undertaken.

The expansion of vocational training and extension in rural forestry has important consequences for professional and technical forest education. Decentralization of public forest administrations and active involvement by local communities and individual farmers call not only for an even larger number of foresters and technicians but also for foresters and technicians who have been educated in a different way.

The educational profiles of university departments and technical schools will have to be modified in order to embrace more consistently the concept of communal forestry and combined agroforestry production by farmers and villagers. Land use, rural sociology, agricultural economics and ecology should become specific teaching units. Their influence should also be felt in the presentation of classical forestry subjects in present curricula. Professional and technical students should be selected not only in accordance with their educational and intellectual performance but also by taking into consideration their ability to communicate and their willingness to live and work in rural areas.

Foresters and national forest services alone cannot motivate rural communities and promote vocational training for improved agroforestry production. Agronomists and agricultural extension services have to contribute and cooperate. Agricultural extension programmes should be adapted and expanded in order to include the concept of forestry for local community development as well as specific field programmes within the forest sector. Agricultural education, at both the university and the technical level, has to broaden its scope in order to train agronomists who are able to recognize the complementary rode of forests and forest land in rural development. Whereas the concept of forestry for local community development is gradually penetrating the various components of forest education and training, much remains to be done in order to initiate a similar process in the agricultural education and extension system.

In many countries, vocational training of forest workers engaged in plantation forestry, forest management operations in natural forests and logging and road construction are still at a very elementary stage. This is in spite of the fact that vocational training has long been acknowledged as an important task and one that is indispensable in order to improve the living conditions of field workers and to increase the effectiveness of forestry operations.

In the case of logging and timber extraction, the responsibility for vocational training has so far been deft, in many countries, to the private timber-harvesting companies. Apart from a few cases, these companies have limited their educational efforts to introductory on-the-job training. In the future it will be necessary to introduce combined training schemes for the large number of forest workers employed in logging and timber extraction. The basic training should be provided by specialized training centres that are specifically concerned with forest industry education and training, services and/or national institutes for worker training, whereas private industry should participate in short-term courses and improved on-the-job training practices.

Contrary to what might be expected, vocational training in forestry demands a high level of institutional and organizational strength if it is to be done consistently on a large scale. The weakness of public forest administrations and their lack of sufficiently developed regional and local field services have thus far been the biggest obstacle to achieving this strength. The second major constraint is the lack of experienced and well-prepared forest technicians who could be used as instructors. Little emphasis is generally given in professional forest education either to labour questions or to forest utilization. The advancement of forest worker training is closely linked to improvements in forest service organization as well as to forest education as a whole.

A FIRE-CONTROL TOWER IN NICARAGUA foresters should live and work in rural areas

In the developing world there are only about 20 university-level institutes and 90 technical and vocational training.

Forest industry development. A similar situation exists in education and training for forest industry development. For a long time this aspect of human resources development has received less attention in sectoral planning than professional and technical education in the field of forest resources management. Recently a more systematic approach has been taken, particularly because several of the large producers and exporters of tropical timber have realized that the lack of qualified personnel is one of the principal obstacles to the expansion of wood conversion within any given country. Indonesia, for instance, is currently planning to establish a new forest industry training institute with a capacity of 1000 students in order to provide an integrated package of training from the machine-operator level up to the technician and professional level.

A new and more specific methodology for estimating the requirements for trained personnel in forest industries has been developed, and it is hoped that the results of such estimates will speed up education and training in these fields.

A study of five Latin American countries - Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru - shows that the present requirements for trained forest industry personnel in these countries would probably amount to 364 professionals, 2822 technicians and about 20000 qualified forest workers (Albin, 1978). Anticipated needs for the period 1990-2000 will be approximately 700 professionals, 4500 technicians and 31000 qualified workers.

A survey covering eight countries in Asia and the Far East - Bangladesh, Burma, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand indicates that the actual requirements of the primary mechanical wood industry in these countries amount to about 250 wood-processing technologists (professionals), 1500 technicians and 20000 skilled workers (Mahlberg, 1978).

For the African region, the results of a written inquiry are available which list requirements as estimated by the governmental agencies of 32 countries (Deherve, 1982). According to this survey, a total of 105 wood technologists. 250 technicians and 2500 skilled workers are at present needed in the timber-processing sector. The corresponding figures for the year 2000 would be approximately 250 wood technologists, 550 technicians and 8000 skilled workers.

Whereas the demand for trained personnel at all levels is substantial, the number of available schools and training centres is still small. In the developing world there are at present only about 20 university-level institutes and 40 technical and vocational training centres that are specifically concerned with forest industry education and training.

Many countries have a well-established general system of vocational training and technical education to meet their specific needs and to develop their human resources. The wood industry, which plays an important role in the economy of most of these countries, is unfortunately quite often not included in the national training system and is thus obliged to take care of training itself. General instruction in timber-processing technologies for skilled workers and technicians must become much more closely incorporated in the national industrial training programmes than has been the case so far. A definite need also exists to provide specialized professional education in wood sciences and wood-processing technologies at university level and to design training programmes that increase the managerial abilities of plant managers and intermediate personnel.

New organizational and pedagogical approaches are gradually emerging that are different from those currently practiced in the field of forest resources management. It can be concluded that education and training for forest industry development are at the takeoff stage and that substantial efforts will have to be made during the next 20 years to develop country-specific training schemes and build up new centres for technical and vocational training.

The weakness of public forest administrations and their lack of sufficiently developed regional and local field services have thus far been the biggest obstacle to proper vocational training in forestry.

Systems approaches. Forest education and training have been dealt with in the past largely on a case-by-case basis. There have been numerous reports, both national and international, examining one particular aspect of human resource formation, be it the establishment or enlargement of a forest faculty, the creation of a training centre for logging personnel or the determination of educational profiles for forest extension workers. However, few studies or reports present an evaluation of the overall educational and training needs for forestry and the forest industry development plan as a whole. The lack of a comprehensive and coordinated educational development prevents many countries from making full use of even the limited number of trained personnel they have now.

Sectoral development planning, which is usually in the hands of planning specialists and forest economists, is often separated from the assessment of personnel requirements, which is primarily done by professional educators. This may be one of the reasons why national development plans for the forest sector generally contain much too little about the importance of human resources development and about practical measures that would allow the growth of specific forestry expertise so essential for implementing the envisaged sectoral targets. An integration of educational and sectoral planning is necessary. This implies, in particular, a close coordination between the ministry in charge of a given sector and the ministries in charge of higher and technical education.

Most of the personnel estimates made in the past - at least if judged by present-day standards - have grossly underestimated the demand for professional and technical forestry personnel. This does not imply that past estimates were explicitly wrong, but rather it underlines the rapid evolution of personnel needs in relation to changing sectoral targets and constraints. The relationship between the formation of human resources and sectoral development is particularly complicated and dynamic during the initial stages of an expanding forest sector. A regular review of sector personnel estimates, based on improved assessment techniques, is indispensable in order to provide regular adjustments to the education and training system.

Institutional aspects. Forestry education and training cannot be undertaken in isolation. Professional foresters and forest technicians, once they are trained, have to be able to find useful and satisfying employment in their fields. A considerable proportion of the job opportunities for foresters are in the public sector. Institutional improvements, in particular in the national public forest administration, have to be undertaken in order to take full advantage of the growing number of professionals and technicians. Institutional or structural changes, however, can be undertaken only if they are understood and supported by the personnel already employed. Here, in-service training programmes can make a contribution by increasing the acceptance of and motivation for such changes.

The promotion of forestry development and the implementation of large-scale forestry programmes for community development, in particular, are intimately linked with the effective execution of rural extension and vocational training. These tasks should not be left to a handful of specialists, but should become the major responsibility of the professional, technical and intermediate staff, supported by specialists familiar with extension and communication techniques.

Vocational training, to a large extent, should be done locally, with its administration decentralized. A mini, mum training package of several short courses should be designed for each group of forest workers, and the length of training periods needed to reach a higher functional level should be determined. Extension work and vocational training have many aspects in common, and frequently the same facilities and instructors can be used. Both should therefore be planned and organized in a coordinated manner in order to avoid duplication and waste of scarce human and material resources.

International efforts. During the last 20 years multilateral and bilateral assistance has contributed increasingly to the launching of forestry education and training in the developing world. A considerable number of forestry schools and training institutes have been established and supported, in particular, by FAO and UNDP projects. The Forestry Department of FAO, assisted by its Advisory Committee on Forestry Education, has made several valuable contributions to the planning and improvement of forest education systems. The international efforts in strengthening forest education and training have been, on the whole, some of the most effective and lasting contributions in fostering the development of the forest sector.

Yet the task of human resources formation is a much greater one than had probably been anticipated in the past. Consequently, an increasing proportion of future international assistance to the forest sector must be devoted to forest education and training. Such aid should focus on assisting countries to develop a comprehensive forestry education system and to establish the necessary national schools and training centres.

A new dimension of forestry development

The growing awareness of the decisive role that must be given to education and training in the development process leads gradually to a new dimension of forestry. Here it will at last be possible to talk about forest services that, thanks to the availability of trained personnel, have a real chance to address problems, both at headquarters and in the field. This new dimension of human resources would have the personnel for teaching, vocational training, rural extension, forest research, forest industry development and all the other activities that have been acknowledged as important in the past, but which have gone unfulfilled due to the lack of human resources.

To build up national education and training systems will require a sustained effort lasting between 10 and 20 years. It is this factor that should be considered most critical in assessing the need for establishing new educational institutes and training centres.

The use of forest resources and the development of the forest sector depend on people. These are:

· people in rural areas who need the land and the forests for their subsistence and well-being;

· people who work in the forests and forest industries and who draw their daily living from them;

· people who understand how forests can be used without being destroyed, and how new forest and agroforest crops can be produced;

· people who are responsible in national forest administrations and other governmental services for the sector's development;

· people who may have to make far-reaching and long-lasting political and social decisions affecting land use and environmental conservation.

A constructive and rational attitude by people of all kinds toward forests, forestry and forest industries depends on understanding, skills and scientific knowledge. Peasants and rural families have to understand why it is profitable to plant and protect trees and then to wait for many years until they can be harvested. They must also learn what the effect will be upon agricultural crops if nearby forests disappear. Forest workers need specific skills in order to be able to plant or fell trees and to operate forest machines. They should understand why it is essential to maintain equipment and to respect safety rules. Foresters and forest technicians have to know how to evaluate forest sites, prepare inventories and management plans, and explain rational utilization practices. Forest industry specialists and wood technologists need practical and managerial knowledge in building and operating timber processing units, and in adapting technology to new species. Economists, planners and other governmental officials need data on sectoral potentials and requirements. Finally, politicians and community leaders have to be informed on present and potential benefits from forests and on the economic and environmental consequences of their disappearance.

Such understanding, skills and knowledge do not come free but are a result of a forest education and training whereby forest workers acquire knowledge and then transmit it to other people. Forestry development, whether national or regional, cannot occur unless it is possible to educate and train both the necessary specialists and the local populations affected.

This statement in itself says nothing new. It corresponds fully to the general belief within developing countries that the mobilization of people through education and training is one of the principal assets toward social, economic and cultural advancement. However, if the question is asked to what extent forest education and training is part of the daily reality in forest resources utilization, or to what extent it is integrated with forest development, the statement appears in a different light.

A MACHINE OPERATOR AT A WEST IRIAN SAWMILL COMPLEX logging companies often provide their own training

Increasing personnel requirements. Many countries, because of a lack of adequate educational and training facilities, still do not have the possibility of building up the necessary stream of trained forestry personnel. Even where those facilities exist, they need considerably more support in order to be used at their full potential.

Developing countries contain approximately 50 percent of the world's forest resources, but employ only a small proportion of the forest professionals and forest technicians. The lack of educational facilities and training centres is particularly severe in the field of forest extension, vocational training of forest workers, and forest industry education and training. This is in spite of the fact that forestry and land use are rapidly changing. Such change will, in fact, require more expertise and human resources than in countries with fairly stable land-use patterns and with long-established forest practices.

In this context, it should be remembered that even in the Southeast Asian region, where considerable efforts have been made to improve forestry education, a very unfavourable relation between the available forestry specialists and the forest resource base still exists. In fact, the ratio between the number of professional foresters in the government forest services and the total forest land area is 1:366000 ha for Burma, 1:263000 ha for Indonesia, 1:231000 ha for Malaysia, 1:35000 ha for the Philippines, 1:86000 ha for Sri Lanka and 1:27000 ha for Thailand (Lantican, 1979).

During 1978-1980, several studies were made by the Forestry Department of FAO in order to assess the order of magnitude of present requirements for professional and technical staff within Asia, Africa and Latin America.

According to a review summarizing the findings of individual case studies for 18 countries in Central and South America (Contreras Salas, Eisenhauer and Hartwig, 1979), a total of 3500 professional foresters had graduated up to the year 1978. It was estimated that an additional 3200 professionals would be required by 1985. By 1978, 1300 forest technicians had been trained and an additional 14900 forest technicians were estimated to be needed by 1985.

A review of the personnel requirement studies for 13 African countries south of the Sahara shows that there were then approximately 1000 forest professionals (Baumer, 1980; Debazac, 1980; Kulkarni, 1978; and Viart, 1980). The anticipated requirements of these countries for the time period 1990-2000 are more than 2900 professionals. The number of forest technicians available in 1978 was 3200, whereas the estimated needs for the period 1990-2000 were around 14000.

A regional study for eight Sahelian countries prepared in 1977 and updated in 1979 (de Montalembert) shows that only a small number of professionals (80) and forest technicians (245) are available in this zone. Estimated requirements by the year 1990 would be 290 professionals and approximately 1100 technicians.

A study of six Southeast Asian countries concludes that there were 4300 forest professionals of whom 2100 were government-employed and 10500 technicians of whom 7300 were government-employed (Lantican, 1978). The estimated actual requirements are 11800 professionals and 33500 technicians, and the likely requirements in the year 2000 are calculated to be even twice as high.

The present estimates, which not only are the result of international consultations but also reflect the contributions of national government services, offer an indication of the dimension in which the process of human resources formation in the forest sector must be seen.

Present-day demand, quite apart from the anticipated requirements of the next 10 to 20 years for professional and technical forestry personnel in the developing regions, has to be measured in thousands and tens of thousands. On a country level, actual and foreseeable needs for trained forestry personnel are of the order of 500 to 1000 professionals and several thousand technicians, particularly in the case of large countries. Even in smaller countries, however, the forestry personnel needed has to be measured in hundreds.

Present tendencies. The forest sector of many developing countries is still at the initial stages of national programming and resources administration. This is presumably one of the reasons why the emphasis of past and present educational efforts has been on the formation of professional foresters who can cope with the macroeconomic, institutional and resource management aspects of forestry.

According to the World List of Forestry Schools (FAO, 1981) there are at present 15 African countries that have a university-level institute, department or faculty for professional forest education. Five countries (Guinea, Morocco, Nigeria, Sudan and Zaire) have two or more university-level institutes. In Latin America there are 45 forest faculties or university-level institutes for professional forestry in 16 countries. Ten of these countries have two or more forest faculties or equivalent institutes. Eleven countries in the Asia/Pacific region have a total of 59 university-level forestry schools, and four of these (India, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea and the Philippines) have eight to ten forestry schools. The Philippines has an unusually high number of university-level institutes, possibly excessive in the long term. The number of university-level forestry schools in the three regions, Africa, Latin America, and Asia and the Pacific, amounts to approximately 150. This figure compares with 47 forest departments, faculties or university-level institutes in 23 European countries; 52 in the United States; 6 in Canada; and 24 in Japan.

As far as professional forestry education in Latin America and Southeast Asia is concerned, there are good chances of obtaining the additional personnel required by 1985. Taking into account present enrolment rates, there will be, in fact, a substantial surplus of trained professionals in several Latin American countries.

A similar situation is to be observed in Southeast Asia where, at least in some countries, the present enrolment rates exceed the foreseeable needs and some adjustments will be necessary.

The situation is different in Africa. Too many African countries have underestimated their requirements for forest engineers for too long. They have lost valuable time for establishing university-level educational programmes that would allow them to create the much-needed stream of trained personnel in the forest sector. The present facilities of the continent are still inadequate in relation to its immediate and medium-term requirements.

On the whole, the situation of professional forest education is evolving quite rapidly in Third World countries. The following tendencies are recognizable at present:

· the establishment of university-level departments or equivalent institutions in those countries that do not yet have the facilities for professional forest education;

· the consolidation and strength-ening of existing university-level institutions, in particular with regard to the improvement of teaching staff, as well as the adaptation of curricula to the national context of forestry and the initiation of forestry research as part of the academic programme;

· an increase of the subject areas and scientific disciplines associated with professional forestry education, in particular those covering ecology and the environment, economic and social sciences, and technological and managerial problems of forest industry development;

· the expansion of basic forestry courses and/or additional specializations in land-use economics, rural forestry (particularly agroforestry production systems), soil conservation and protection, nature conservation and recreational forestry, wildlife and national parks management, and wood sciences and forest industry technology;

· the introduction of postgraduate training and research programmes in order to foster self-reliance in postgraduate education and to educate qualified research personnel.

Forest technician training. In the field of forest technician training, much remains to be done in all three regions. The available estimates of present and medium-term require, meets reflect the experience that the demand for forest technicians starts to multiply once an organized forest sector has been created. Technicians will be needed in large numbers when forestry activities move from mere administration and control to land management based on intensive field work and close cooperation with the rural population. There is also an increasing need to provide for a wider range of technical subjects and specializations, in particular in the fields of forest plantations, timber harvesting, agroforestry production, rural extension, wildlife and national parks management.

Several developing countries have now created a framework for forest policy and sectoral planning as well as an institutional and administrative basis allowing them now (or in the near future) to engage in larger field programmes and to begin productive land and forest management efforts. It is significant that in some of these countries, where the forest sector is approaching this threshold, people are becoming aware of the need to strengthen and increase the facilities for the training of forest technicians. It can thus be concluded that an expanding sectoral activity in forestry will require a much greater effort in technical forest education.

STUDENTS FROM THE NATIONAL FORESTRY SCHOOL OF HONDURAS most job opportunities are in the public sector


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