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Teachers along the Western Area Peninsular forest reserve receive training on environmental education

By Samuel Bassie

It is now apparently becoming crystal clear that the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve project is not only focusing their attention to the community people who are engaged on constantly destroying the forest through charcoal burning, stone mining and logging on a daily basis. The management has thought it necessary that those who are tasked with the responsibilities of impacting knowledge on school going peoples should also benefit from trainings that will focus their attentions on the environment. On the 16th and 17th of September 2011 at the Levuma Beach along Tombo community, WAPFOR in collaboration with the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary through their Training Kits on Environmental Education Programme (TKEEP) had provided training for a handful of sixteen junior and secondary school teachers along the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve on various environment topics so that they can be able to pass through the ideas gained to their school going children and the community in which they belong.

Teachers along the peninsular forest undertaking training from Mr. Bunduka on packing poly bags for seed nursery

The Environmental Officer for the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve, Lahai Ensah Bunduka said the best outcome in environmental education is when someone who has been taught passes such vital environmental information to others and those that receive it make good use of such information to the general public. He cited out that if WAPFOR passes out information to communities to avoid cutting down trees in the forest and at the end of the day the communities did not heed to those calls and education, there is no environmental education gained or received after the forest has been deforested.

Mr. Bunduka noted that they are targeting the younger generation and teachers and impact knowledge on them so that they will also have the opportunity to pass on information during their daily practical teaching services. He added that teachers have traditional roles and that they serve as vehicles of change in the society they live. The WAPFOR Environment Officer stated and confirmed that it is obvious that with the training of the teachers, there will be change in the communities around the forest.

Speaking on environmental education, Mr. Bunduka said it can have different meaning to different persons and organizations as it is a program that aims to provide knowledge and understanding about the environment which can also be defined as the art and science of packaging environmental issues which include biodiversity promotion and conversation that enables effective learning and understanding about what are at stake and a clear road map for a sustainable road map of the environment.

He noted that the reasons for embarking on environmental education range on focusing on the problems in the environment, promoting the values and benefits of the environment, encouraging debate and discussion about the problems in the environment, developing interest in persons or groups about environmental management and generating solutions or forms the required awareness that will rebate further destruction of the environment.

He taught the participants on the economic benefits of the forest in that they serve as fuel wood, source of raw materials for the production of papers e.g. pulp/paper, source of food, medical benefits, recreational benefits, timber for production of housing and furniture. On the part of the ecological benefits of the forest, Mr. Bunduka said they include climate regulation, control of water table, pollination and fertilization of plants (Agents – insect, bats, mammals, etc.), dispersal of seed and other planting materials, genetic potentials of plants and animals and soil fertility.

Mr. Bunduka said environmental degradation is the lowering of the value of the environment or biomes and also a negative change in state of a given ecology/biome that would affect biodiversity including man. He added that it can be a partial destruction in which case there is regeneration over a number of years, or it can be a total destruction, in which case regeneration would hardly occur.

He made known to the teacher participants that the causes of environmental degradation and their impact are fuel wood harvesting/collection, logging, mining, agriculture through crops and animal production, development projects e.g. Road, dams, housing/shelter etc. construction, improper waste disposal, over exploitation of marine resources, illegal hunting and games, wild fire and population growth. Mr. Bunduka mentioned to the participants on what will happen when trees are removed from the forest mentioning that the animals depending on those trees would have to move away from the area some and some would even die, other plants like lianas will die because they depend on trees for support, the soil will be exposed to the physical attracts of the weather and climate, erosion of the top soil will result and land degradation will occur, the ground water regime will shift because of evaporation, other delicate living things exposed to the harsh climate may perish e.g. earth worms, fungus, ferns, etc., the aesthetic beauty of the surroundings will be lost and that there will be imbalance in Carbon Dioxide sequestration and lead to global warming.

Deforestation from any activity (wood harvest, stone mining, housing, road construction etc.) leads to the lowering of the value of the forest. Mr. Bunduka stated some mitigate measures against deforestation thus;

  • Ø Cultivating firewood lots will assist to reduce pressure on the natural trees of the forests
  • Ø Embarking on timber plantation will also help avert attention from natural trees of the forests
  • Ø Avoid mining completely.  Or embark in land reclamation that should lead to rejuvenation of the mined out land.
  • Ø Always allow a small percentage of the land around the house to be planed with trees
  • Ø Roads must be lined with trees to make up for some losses of vegetation as well as for promotion of the road itself.
  • Ø Tree planting must be a cultivated habit-remove one tree and plant five.

Environmental security Mr. Bunduka said is a condition in which a nation or region, through sound governance, capable management, and sustainable utilization of its natural resources and environment, takes effective steps toward crating social, economic, and political stability and ensuring the welfare of its population. He also said environmental insecurity is a condition in which a nation or region fails to effectively govern, manage, and utilize its natural resources and environment, resulting in social, economic, or political instability that over time may lead to heightened tensions, social turmoil, or conflict.

Speaking on establishing and managing WAPFOR nature clubs, when people work in groups, they will bring out innovative ideas, which will help them progress on the environment and that the individuals within the group will share the workloads where each person will know and respect his own assignment.  This will make work participatory and faster. He also taught the teachers on the methods of forming nature clubs in the society citing various criteria.

Mr. Bunduka taught the teachers on nursery Practices, why Forest Nursery, soil Collection and Treatment, soil Treatment, filling of Poly bags/Poly pots, stacking, seed Collection, type of seeds or fruits, seed treatment, sowing of Seeds, conditions necessary for germination, watering, pricking out, procedure in pricking, transplanting seedlings within the nursery, root pruning, procedure in root pruning, grading, hardening-off-and compost making and organic gardening.

On establishing a school garden, Mr. Bunduka said every school should be encouraged to establish and maintain a school garden where vegetable crops and some cereal and permanent crops can be cultivated.  He added that school gardens may not be necessarily very large but must be largeenough so that every child (normally put it in groups) has an opportunity to own and maintain a plot. 

The WAPFOR Environment Officer said that the school gardens are established as a livelihood project and it is expected that once the students cultivate the interest in gardening and appreciate the economic gains, they shall establish their own gardens at home.  It is also expected that they shall be a vehicle of change in re-directing the dependence of the communities on forest harvest as the main source of livelihood.  He opined that in the near future the entire village community realizing the benefits gained from gardening shall involve in back yard gardening and gradually commercial farming as a source of livelihood adding that the gains made shall be enormous as far as the protection of the environment is concerned; bio-diversity will increase, logging for charcoal and commercial wood production and stone will drastically reduce.

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