Turning literature into reality - tales from a Bangor University MSc Tropical Forestry summer school in Ghana.

Students and staff on the final day of the 2015 Tropical Forestry Summer School, FORIG HQ, Ghana. © Mark RaymentStudents and staff on the final day of the 2015 Tropical Forestry Summer School, FORIG HQ, Ghana. © Mark RaymentIn the summer of 2015, 29 students (from 15 different countries) on the MSc Tropical Forestry (distance learning) programme at Bangor University embarked on a unique and shared learning experience, culminating in an intensive two week residential summer school in the forests of Ghana.  24 of these students are from developing commonwealth countries and are grateful recipients of scholarships from the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission.

The first week of the summer school enabled students to get to know each other in person and was designed to also provide an in-depth understanding of the forests of southern and central Ghana.  Assisted by the University of Energy and Natural Resources, Sunyani, and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, we were privileged to spend a week in the forests of the southern, western and central parts of Ghana.  We visited various forest sites along an ecological gradient, starting in the lush, wet evergreen forests of Ankasa and heading north as far as the forest-savannah transition zone around Kintampo.  We learned from discussions with landowners, tenant farmers, forest communities, charcoal makers, permaculture experts, forest managers, forest scientists and custodians of sacred groves and monkey sanctuaries.  This first week was clearly a success; one student later commented: "The overview of the forest types was essential…I feel I now have a much greater appreciation of tropical forestry across a range of different site types."

The second week of the summer school gave students the opportunity to carry out research proposals they had planned via the distance learning platform from their own countries prior to the summer school.  Working closely with researchers and field staff from the Forestry Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG), students conducted five different research projects, ranging from forest regeneration and ecology, to herbicide use in agroforestry systems, the bamboo supply chain, silvicultural standards in the Bobiri forest reserve and forest inventory/growth modelling.  Students had the opportunity to base themselves either at the beautiful Bobiri forest reserve and butterfly sanctuary, or within the FORIG compound in Kumasi where they could access facilities and other research organisations.  The students presented the results of these studies on the final day of the summer school at the FORIG headquarters in Kumasi, in the company of a number of FORIG research staff.

Students held focus group discussions with local farmers to learn about their use of herbicides in agroforestry systems, Kubease village, Ashanti Region, Ghana, July 2015. © Genevieve LamondStudents held focus group discussions with local farmers to learn about their use of herbicides in agroforestry systems, Kubease village, Ashanti Region, Ghana, July 2015. © Genevieve LamondThe summer school was a huge success, as evidenced by the overwhelmingly positive feedback we have since received from students, such as “It was such a privilege to meet my fellow students and teaching staff and completely indulge myself in the fascinating topic of tropical forestry for two weeks."; “It was great to have that immersion in the forest. Social and face-to-face networking with lecturers and fellow students brought the course to life literally."

We very much believe that this educational experience has not only enabled the formation of many new friendships and contacts, but also enables our part-time students, who are all employed in the forestry profession, to continue to implement the principles of sustainable forest management in their own countries.  The next tropical forestry summer school will take place in 2017.

Publication date: 19 October 2015