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Oct 6, 2015 7 Min Read

A Young Voice at the World Forestry Congress 2015

Can you imagine the whole world coming together in Africa to discuss the future and sustainability of forests? Well this became a reality for the first time during the recently concluded World Forestry Congress in Durban, South Africa which took place from September 7th to 11th. There were nearly 4,000 participants attending the meeting, representing governments and public agencies, international organizations, the private sector, academic and research institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and community and indigenous organizations.

Kijani had the honor of being invited as a voice of the youth to give a 5-minute address in front of the plenum; and I had the honor to represent Kijani and give this address.

Youths forming WFC pattern during the WFC in Durban
Youths forming WFC pattern during the WFC in Durban

The most interesting part of this congress was a special platform that was set for the young people which resulted in a meaningful engagement; this allowed youths to share some of the initiatives on forest conservation and concerns about how they would visualize the status of future forests. This was evident through various sessions organized by youths, declarations made, and action items deliberated upon by the young people in the conference from all over the continent. I got a great opportunity to be one of the young people to attend this congress, not just as a participant, but as a youth speaker, to share the experience of the forest restoration project model undertaken by Kijani, a youth-led non-governmental organization based in Kenya. This was a breath-taking experience, sharing with the whole world our conservation model and motivating the young people to get involved in forestry conservation as a way of livelihood creation. My journey to Durban involved a three hour flight from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to Johannesburg and later a connection to Durban, all this time figuring out what the congress would be like, this being my first time to attend such an international gathering. At the South African Airport I could see advertisements flashing on the television screens for the congress, and welcoming delegates that were flocking in from all over the world. This was an affirmation that indeed I was at the right place.

Plenary Session During The Africa Special Day
Plenary Session During The Africa Special Day

The first day of the congress started with a colorful opening ceremony with a few sessions. I took a walk through the exhibition stands that were full of information and materials rich in forest management and conservation knowledge, providing me with an opportunity to network with various organizations that implement sustainable forest projects and programs. The rich insights and information shared was so immense, this made me realize the significance of sustainable forest management to a nation’s economy and development, especially for the rural community members that depend mostly on forest resources. All this time my focus was on day two, the 7th of September 2015, when I was to give a five minute presentation. I called it five minutes of fame since this was my chance to do my best to shine. At night I could find myself going through my notes for final practice just to ensure I rocked the stage and represented Kijani well. It was finally Tuesday morning, and I dressed in my best suit just as a gesture of appreciation, gratitude, and respect to the time accorded to me by the audience and the entire group of organizers of the congress; this also boosted my confidence, since the first step to feeling good is looking good.

This session on Tuesday the 7th was called Africa Special Day Event where African delegates were to do a spotlight check on Africa’s sustainable forest management challenges and opportunities. At exactly 3:15 I was given the platform to share Kijani’s work in Kenya with the local communities focusing on livelihoods and employment creation for the young people.

Erick at the podium during his presentation
Erick at the podium during his presentation

I recall the moderator struggling to pronounce my surname (Ogallo) but this caught much of my attention as I walked straight to the podium with the multitude of welcoming claps, not to waste even a single second of my time, because indeed the five minutes of fame had began, and the moderator was very keen to ensure I didn’t go past the allocated time. Kijani sees an opportunity in forestry by involving the youths in forest restoration and livelihoods establishment for employment creation. These were my key marks to my fellow youths in the audience as I explained some of the achievements, challenges, and opportunities experienced by Kijani in its forest restoration project in the Central highlands of Kenya. Within a span of five (plus one) minutes I managed to summarize my oral presentation. Indeed the golden time had been well utilized as I reminded the world that forests can bring great change to our society and youths are the ones to drive this change to the next great level through innovations and well-thought-out initiatives.

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  1. That is great and am so proud of the good work you guys do to better communities.Keep it up!

    • mercy
    • Oct 7, 2015
    • Reply
    • Thanks Mercy…

      Erick Ogallo
      • Erick Ogallo
      • Oct 12, 2015
      • Reply
  2. that was great…see u going far bro

    • sally matoka
    • Oct 6, 2015
    • Reply
    • The sky is the limit ,and we should do the best in whatever we do and share our experiences.

      Erick Ogallo
      • Erick Ogallo
      • Oct 6, 2015
      • Reply
  3. Yes this was awesome , lets keep the fire burning Eric

    • david oyaga
    • Oct 6, 2015
    • Reply
    • Thanks David,we shall keep the bar high and aim for the best in our restoration work for our youths and future generations

      Erick Ogallo
      • Erick Ogallo
      • Oct 6, 2015
      • Reply
    • The sky is the limit ,and we should do the best in whatever we do and share our experiences.

      Erick Ogallo
      • Erick Ogallo
      • Oct 6, 2015
      • Reply