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Forests are my livelihood and therapy

Let me explain. I, Sarah A. Namiiro, come from Uganda, a tropical country in Eastern Africa. And life here like mostly everywhere else is uncertain and busy with all the changes in the world.

I stumbled into forestry, sheer luck I must say when I was given a scholarship by the state to do a Bachelor of Science in Forest Conservation and Forest Technology at Makerere University eight years ago (2016). I say stumble because I had always dreamed of being a doctor or a pharmacist, the health sciences (lol). But when this came, I embraced it. Not right away because you go on to think – ‘trees and forests what am I going to do with that?’ To be honest, the forestry sector and profession wasn’t a prominent one in my community, and I didn’t know any foresters growing up.

However, when I reached university, there was a whole community of these brilliant instructors and professors that shared their forestry experiences and research interests with enthusiasm, it felt like a whole different world. And it is a whole different world. The facets of forestry, the science, the trees. Oh, the trees! Those giant life forms are a wonder above and below. Mesmerized by it all, I had a pretty active stay at campus with leadership and activism especially around youth involvement in climate action and raising community awareness on climate change.

I did my undergraduate research in a comparison study of carbon contained (in vegetation and soils) in natural forests and other land cover types (grassland, agroforest and cropland) in western Uganda. I have since picked a keen interest in the role of forests in climate change mitigation and adaptation. I have participated in trainings to integrate computer programs especially geographical information systems (and soon programming, I’ll let you in on that in a moment) in monitoring and managing ecosystems for sustainable management. And I have since been a part of research assistantships plunging further into the knowledge of forestry and its various facets.

One thing about forestry is the people you meet. The fact is forests can be so solitary and that is a good thing for many but there is also a community vested in it just like my university faculty and classmates. I have attended conferences and most recently the XV World Forestry Congress (photos of mates to left) in Korea and that is how I ended up writing this blog for Women in Wood when Lacey Rose asked me to share my story. I met a number of wonderful people (I wish I could list you all but it’s a blog not a biography).

Mine is a growing story. I believe I have just started my journey, right now doing a Master of Forestry at the University of Alberta (joined this Fall, 2022). Again, I am lucky to be working with some amazing and really smart people. This I think (haven’t figured it all out) is going to focus on a bit of programming and working with climate data to better inform climate actions and I’m on cloud nine about it. Thank you to all that made it happen especially my mentor.

So that’s where I am. One thing I want to get back on is really the therapeutic effect of forests or woodlands. The scents, the sounds, their overwhelming presence relative to our own existence. In this world where we are constantly tried by life, experiences, loss and everything in-between (pandemics!) I can say there is that feeling you get with nature. It could be fictional, but I have experienced it and I know many have too so maybe it holds some truth.

“We came down from a tree in order to become humans” - Vicente Guallart, XV World Forestry Congress, May 2022

We have so many connections to forests, with the goods and services we accrue but also our role/responsibility in preserving, utilizing and managing them sustainably.

Please note that forests can be scary too. Even dangerous at times. I recently ran into a deer (it was beautiful) in the forest and it scampered away but my mind quickly went to it could’ve been a violent feline (you’d not be reading this far). Loggers and other forest workers never know what they might encounter. I do salute all you foresters and encourage you take all the safety precautions.

One last one, thank you for reading this far and my heartfelt appreciation to Women in Wood for giving me the platform. You do a great job out there!


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