In August, the Colorado State Forest Service led 15 students – five from Colorado State University – on a three-week tour of the forests and national parks in Ghana, West Africa. The international field experience focused on forestry and natural resource management, including timber and logging, wildlife and parks management, ecotourism and indigenous cultures.
Michael Kollker, a forest and rangeland stewardship major in the Warner College of Natural Resources, said that as a future natural resources manager, the tour provided important insights into the management methods utilized in a place very different from Colorado.
“To have an opportunity to understand resource management practices in Ghana is to enter a world, at the end of the spectrum far from our own, where a great many people depend heavily on a highly direct relationship with their natural environment,” he said.
The program, which students could take for academic credit, provided exposure to technical facilities such as the Forestry Research Institute of Ghana, Cocoa Research Institute and Plant Genetics Research Institute, as well as cultural destinations including Elmina Slave Castle, Mognori Eco-Village and Mole National Park.
“Participants went on walking safaris, completed service projects and visited wet and dry tropical forests, all while learning about a culture and environment vastly different from our own,” said Sky Stephens, CSFS forest entomologist and tour organizer. “They gained a broader perspective of global natural resource issues, challenges in developing countries and career opportunities in natural resources.”
Stephens, who has one of Ghana’s native ants named after her, has visited the region six times, primarily to conduct research on forest health and sustainability issues for her doctorate. She said the students on the August tour really appreciated the chance to put themselves in the shoes of natural resource managers on another continent.
“In order to do successful ecological restoration in developing tropical nations, one must understand their value towards land,” said Preston Brown, another forest and rangeland stewardship major on the tour. “It was valuable to see and understand how land management works in a progressive African country.”
In addition to Stephens and the five CSU students, two CSFS foresters and nine Northern Arizona University students also participated in the tour.