A pilot initiative to create awareness amongst youth and communities to appreciate the benefits of forests was recently piloted in the Fiji with support from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The initiative, called Kids to Forest, was implemented by Live & Learn Environmental Education through the National Forest Program Facility (NFPF) partnership.
According to Morena Rigamoto - Live & Learn Environmental Education, Country Manager (Fiji), the initiative is a pilot project implemented over a period of six months in two Fiji schools - Mataso Primary School in Ra and Nakavu Village School in Namosi, Viti Levu.

'The overarching theme given to the Kids to Forest initiative is Imagining Tomorrow: Forests for all.'

'This theme encompasses the concepts of education for sustainable development (ESD), and encouraging children to be part of the development and delivery of actions for a sustainable future,' Ms Rigamoto said.

She added that the Kids to Forest initiative primarily was developed to provide an avenue to expose younger generations to the multiple benefits of forests through hands-on learning experiences that can lead to a better understanding of sustainable forest management.

The Kids to Forestinitiative included research on aspirations and perceptions of children, teachers and parents, allowing programme activities to be designed based on the perspectives of the direct beneficiaries.

'Recognising that the forest is an educational resource in itself, forest day camps were organised for children from the two schools. These camps featured local community-based resource personnel,' Ms Rogamoto explained.

'Nurseries were set up in schools, a forest fair day was organised showcasing valuable forest resources and artefacts, and educational resources were developed based on forests and sustainable forest management from children's perspectives.'

Ms Rigamoto made a presentation on these activities during a side event organised by NFPF at the second Asia Pacific Forestry Week (APFW) in Beijing.

She emphasised that such opportunities present a good platform to convey to the whole world the views and aspirations of children from the Pacific.

She explained that the initiative includes activities linking communities to schools whereby village resource personnel support and play an instrumental part in building awareness among children.

'Intergenerational transfer of traditional practices/knowledge and customary folklore enable appreciation of local skills and knowledge and is a valuable contribution to children's development.

'The Kids to Forest initiative provides benefits that cut across all age groups.Hands on learning experiences instil appreciation for the rich biodiversity held within forests, creating lasting impressions on children, teachers and whole school community, thus helping them become better managers/guards for the forest,'she said.

'The initiative also sends a message regarding the importance of sustainable forest management practices and the fact that education around forest management must integrate social, cultural, economic and environmental perspectives.'

Through this initiative SPC, through its Land Resource Division (LRD), and Live & Learn are providing innovative forest education methodologies for children across the Asia-Pacific region.

This partnership offers a tremendous opportunity for countries to share and learn from each other, and to build innovative approaches to education for children.

The overall goal of this initiative is to build interest in forestry among youth, an area of emphasis for SPC LRD.