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Update on Wilderness from the new Chairman... 

Dear African Forest Communicators,

With delight, I bring you a recap of what transpired at Wilderness but before I do that, I want, on behalf of the entire groups that convened at Wilderness, to extend our sincere gratitude to the Forestry Department of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) for making the Wilderness Workshop happen. 

Maria de Cristofaro worked tirelessly to liaise with delegates and develop the agenda, with Katherine Clyne providing superb administrative support.  To the South African logistics team from Working for Forests - Nceba, Kay and Morne – thank you for organizing the land arrangements such as accommodation, transport, food and refreshments.

It was very important to bring both the Francophone and the Anglophone wings of the African Forest Communicator’s Network together to share communication experiences, strategize together and discuss the governance structure/issues of the network. Deliberations from this meeting will go a long way in shaping the future of the network and I wish to salute all the participants for their individual contributions.

I want also to thank all those that prepared informative presentations during the meeting – what an opportunity you presented to us to learn from experiences drawn from various countries.

Examples drawn from using television in Burundi, radio in South Africa and Uganda, social media and online messaging demonstrate communication initiatives that bridge the digital divide, the gap between the rural poor forest dependent communities and the commercialized urban users/traders of forest products and services.

I hope these will continue to shape communications in the forest sector across Africa. Most important for us to note is the need to shape up our communication initiatives to meet the communication needs of the citizenry that we aim to reach.

Our trade as African Forest Communicators is simple – “to inform, educate, communicate and advocate” in a manner that does not jeopardize the integrity of the network.

There were a number of deliberations that were reached and will need follow-up and these include among others:

1.      To step up recruitment of members – the bigger the network, the more effective and efficient we will be in reaching out to the general public with “relevant and up-to-date” information. Each country coordinator is therefore challenged to enroll/enlist reputable communicators as members. At the Wilderness Workshop, participants agreed that they would recruit a minimum of 20 new communication members.

2.      Step up our fundraising drive – to attracting funding that will enable us put into action the many things that we hope to undertake in future. We are therefore challenged to package ourselves as a network worthy investing in, capable of attracting local, corporate or international funding and capable of reaching out to a wider audience.

3.      Create awareness for the forth-coming World Forestry Congress; to increase the number of African participants in the Congress. We are challenged to take pride in the fact that Africa will host this meeting in 2015 in Durban and therefore the number of African delegates needs to double (compared to the previous World Forestry Congress). This can only be achieved by demonstrating that we are a partner of choice to the organizers of the World Forestry Congress.

4.      All members are encouraged to sign up for a free Gmail address and submit this gmail address to us for listing on the existing Africa Forest Network Google Group. Gmail has a built-in translation feature which means that any email missive sent by Francophone members will be automatically translated when they arrive in the Inbox of Anglophone members and vice versa. This built-in translation mechanism will facilitate internal communications between English-speaking and French-speaking members.

5.      Facebook and Twitter pages will be initiated and all members pledged to update a website with the latest information on forestry in their countries and Africa in general. All members are encouraged to sign up for a free Skype account so that meetings can be organized on Skype going into the future.

Towards ‘One Africa’

In addition to the above, the governance structures of the proposed wings of the network were discussed at the Wilderness Workshop.

It was agreed that a single African network would be perceived to be a much stronger force internationally. More especially when it came to meeting at international levels with our brothers and sisters from Asia, Latin America, North America and Europe.

As such, the Wilderness Workshop participants pledged to work together towards a ‘One Africa’ concept.  At this point, the plan is to follow a ‘One Africa’ concept, whereby African members will be represented in a single African website divided into two sections – English and French.   

A Mediterranean Workshop, which will include participants from North Africa and the Mediterranean countries, will take place in May 2014. We look forward to getting feedback on whether we will, in the near future, be able to add a new set of North African Arabic-speaking members to our ‘One Africa’ group.

At this stage, a ‘One Africa’ home page is envisaged which will invite visitors to choose to go to either the French or English section of the website representing the:

      * Francophone wing (Central and West Africa).

      * Anglophone wing (Southern and Eastern Africa).

Francophone Africa

The Francophone wing pledged to develop further internal sharing of information and increase visibility of the network by growing members among the Francophone states of Africa.  

Our Francophone friends will choose their own French domain website name which will redirect visitors to the ‘One Africa’ Home page. They have also undertaken to populate all the French pages of this website in order to promote their Réseau des Communicateurs Forestiers de l'Afrique.

Under the chairmanship of Mamadou Barry (Senegal), the Francophone task team committee includes Jean Remy Ndayishimiye (Burundi), Kiki Tasso (Togo), Amadou Chérif Bah (Guinea) and Teddy Ntendayi Ntumbabo (Democratic Republic of Congo).

Anglophone Africa

The Anglophone wing elected new office bearers, with Gaster Kiyingi (Uganda) coming into office as Chair of the Network for the next two years.  The Chair will be supported by a task team committee comprising:  Odilia Chilekwa (Zambia), Charles Gondwe (Malawi), Barnabas Mawire (Zimbabwe), Kay Montgomery (South Africa) and Charles Ngunjiri Wanjohi (Kenya).

Anglophone members also pledged their support to the ‘One Africa’ website. Members are asked to submit features, resources and digital material from any communication campaigns that may be rolled out in your country and would be of interest to other members.

As discussed in Wilderness, the Anglophone group is planning a name change for the Anglophone entrance gate to the ‘One Africa’ website.  Rather than www.affcomnet.org, it is suggested that we use either www.africaforest.org or www.africaforestry.org – both of which are currently available and will be easier to find on a Google search.

Administrator passwords to the ‘One Africa’ website will be given to any member who requests them, but any documents or pictures can alternatively be emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for upload to the ‘One Africa’ website which is currently uses a Joomla content management template. 

On a personal note, I want to thank the participants for putting trust in me to Chair the Anglophone wing of the network going forward for a two year term.

Please enjoy the best 140 images (of 1600 images) taken at the Wilderness Workshop which have been uploaded to the www.affcomnet.org website by the South African team. Again, I want to thank Kay Montgomery for making the photos accessible to all.

Also take a look at the personalized folders in the Image Gallery which gather pictures of individual delegates under their own names. All images can be downloaded from the website. If you would like a high res version of a particular picture for reproduction in your country’s print media, send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with details of the picture number.  

Lastly, as Prof. Nair said during the recently concluded Agro-forestry Congress in Delhi, “He who has not made mistakes, has actually done nothing”. Any mistakes committed up till now is because we are doing something to better forestry communications on the African continent.

We may stumble along the way, but let’s join our efforts to take our uniquely African network to another level.

Gaster Kiyingi

Uganda                                                                                     

25 February 2014

Working for people and trees

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