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Education and training of foresters

IN THE ENDEAVOR to help countries develop sound forestry practices, FAO is continually being confronted by the problem of lack of trained personnel at all levels and in all sectors. For this reason, the last Conference of FAO, the governing body of the Organization, gave highest priority in the future program of work of the Forestry and Forest Products Division to the whole subject of professional education and technical training.

One approach to the shortage of personnel is to encourage the strengthening of such schools as already exist in the developing countries or the establishing of new educational centers. This is the course already being followed with some success in Latin America, with the help of both multilateral and bilateral technical assistance programs. Another approach is for countries already endowed with well-established training facilities to receive foreign students. This at best, however, can only take care of a limited number of students and mostly those destined for the higher echelons or particular specializations. The training of staffs for the lower echelons whether in forest services or in industry can only properly be conducted inside the country and in the environment where they will be eventually called upon to work.

The lack of education and training facilities in the developing countries appears at first sight to be so overwhelming that there is danger of advocating their wholesale expansion. It must, however, be remembered that in very few instances have any detailed or even approximate estimates been made as to the future requirements of countries for staffs and technicians. Not even the methods have been established for estimating what is and what will be the demand for personnel at all levels and in all the varied spheres of forestry, and what sort of rhythm it will follow. Despite the vast number of factors to be taken into consideration, methods must be worked out before launching too far into setting up new schools and training centers.

Side by side with an attempt to find a realistic answer to the question of manpower needs, there is another matter of no less importance that should be examined, and that is the best internal organization for forestry schools. Should such schools be attached to a university or be directly dependent on a forest service? What should be the standard for admission of students (which will also govern the length of their studies)? At what stage and in what manner should specialization be introduced? What should be the link up between education and research? The answers will be different in different countries.

Then there is a whole series of problems relating to the curricula for schools of different levels and specialities. There are subjects which have come to the fore in the last few years, such as advanced statistical methods for research, aerial photography for forest inventory work, genetics, modified wood products instead of solid timber. Forestry economics is increasingly important, and so is forward planning. Where are all these subjects to be fitted into curricula to retain a proper balance with what might be called the classic subjects - and what is the proper balance between the classroom and field work?

FAO intends to devote increasing attention to such points in the coming months, relying heavily on its Technical Panel on Education in Forestry which has been in existence for several years now and has men of eminence from all regions among its members. Africa will probably be the area to which initial emphasis is given. Here a large-scale education and training program will depend in part on general improvement in primary and secondary education. It is also important that the general public be educated toward a "forest consciousness." In most developing countries the vast majority of the population are peasants or small farmers, alien to forestry. Many of the highly-developed countries still have difficulty in inducing popularity for forestry. How much more difficult is the task in the developing countries. Yet what has already been achieved, even in the Near East countries where conditions at one time seemed so difficult, must give encouragement to all who are working in this field.

FIGURE: 1. - Modern aerial cameras and equipment used for survey purposes are compact. Here an RC9 aerial camera is shown installed in a light aircraft together with ancillary controls - intervalometer at the right hand of the operator and optical eight in front of him (Photo, Wild Heerbrugg)

FIGURE 2. - Aerial photograph (scale 1.5,000) showing, right, rubber plantations of various ages and left, 30-year-old dipterocarp forest of 100 cubic meters per hectare

FIGURE 3. - Aerial photograph (scale 1.10,000) of hill dipterocarp. Shorea curtisii can be recognized because of the cauliflower-like crowns

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