Studying forestry made me realise my destiny

My name is Basiru Adeniyi Okanlawon, PhD student of Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria.

Brief about the study and aim.

  My research is about Climate change and climate justice. My research study will answer this questions:

a.            What kind of livelihoods, disaggregated by gender and marginalized groups, are obtained from different biophysical and socio-economic systems in the selected study sites?

b.            How vulnerable are the sources (forests and trees outside forests) that supply the identified livelihood support identified in (a) to climate change and climate variability?

c.             What are gender-sensitive resilience and adaptation measures and/or strategies employed and/or could be employed to address the adverse effects of climate change on the forest and tree resources that women, youth and marginalized groups depend on in the selected study sites?

d.            What conditions enable or constrain the enhancement of adaptive capacity of women, men, youth and other marginalized groups who depend on forests and trees outside forests in the selected study sites?

e.            What is the level of engagement and institutional arrangement of different partners in the selected countries particularly in implementing relevant adaptation and resilience measures?

Aim and significance of the research

The concept of gender is one that is either not well understood or misunderstood in many institutions and societies in Africa. This is compounded by the cultural norms and patriarchy that render the socio-economic status of gender sensitive low in Africa.

Basiru doing his field work in Southern Nigeria

The cause, the effect on the livelihood, mitigation and adaptation to climate change is gendered in iforest based communities in Africa. Because majority especially the people living in rural areas are highly dependent on natural resources for their livelihood, therefore the full adaptation and responsive strategy to climate change vulnerability may never be grasped without an understanding of gender differential and social relations in the use forest resources, interests and household needs


Destiny know how to fix you and achieve its mandate over your life! My own case is not different from other stories. I was born into a polygamous family, fourth and the first male child. Been the first male child, culture demands more from me, but I was handicapped because formal education is mirage in my family lineage. I vowed that I will have formal education, though it is not easy as expected but with perseverance and determination, I was able to make it to first degree. But! There is something I will never forget in my life, I was forced to study the course that I am not interested in “FORESTRY” Though it wasn’t intentional. Admission tussles pushed me to adopt forestry as last resort, my main targeted course is “MECHANICAL ENGINEERING”. Consequently, studying forestry gave me audacity to say this unequivocally that “The best thing that have ever happened to me and my destiny is studying forestry”. Forest is the ‘lung’ on which other sectors breathe! I have my reason to say this. Among the reasons are: Three prominent security is ravaging global village: Terrorism, Food and Environment, considering all, forestry is the only sector that can addressed the 3’s at once. Provision of food, employment, and environmental protection. There is an adage saying “When you cut the last tree on the planet, the last man standing goes into extinction”. This adage has been my driving force for years and this propelled my vision for forestry and Africa forest respectively.

My vision for Africa’s forests and forestry is to see an association of individuals who share the quest for and commitment to the sustainable management, use and conservation of the forest and tree resources of Africa for the socio-economic wellbeing of its people and for the stability and improvement of its environment. Also, like-minded people that will provide a platform and create an enabling environment for independent and objective analysis, advocacy and advice on relevant policy and technical issues pertaining to achieving sustainable management, use and conservation of Africa’s forest and tree resources, as part of efforts to reduce poverty, promote gender equality, economic and social development and environmental stability in the continent. Promoting the empowerment of all stakeholders in African forestry, including women, youth and marginalized groups who are often forgotten or not given sufficient voice, recognition and resources to play their role effectively on forestry and related matters. Before the vision can be achievable and see the limelight, different stakeholders hand must be on deck for the goal to be achieved. Among the undisputable actors are the YOUTH! Why the Youth? The role and engagement of youth and young people in Africa forest and forestry cannot be over-emphasized because youth needs to be engaged in many capacity buildings so as to resuscitate the worst conditions that have emanated from forestry sector due to deforestation and anthropogenic activities. Older people have tried their best in achieving goals for the forestry sectors in Africa but their best is not good enough, it is high time the youth take the mantle of leadership, I mean the youth with passion and vision for “sustainable forestry” in form economic, environmental, social, ecological, and recreational, and not the youth with “quick money” syndrome. Comparing the situation of today’s forestry with the likes in 70 or 80 years back, both the individuals, governmental and NGO’s needs to work on modalities on how youth must be engaged based on technicality and passion on forestry area of specialization: Ecology, Silviculture, Economics, Woods, Wildlife, Biometry, Agroforestry and Climate Change. Consequently will bring effectiveness and goals. The aforementioned institutions above needs to engaged in the area of: Awareness, capacity building, liaise with institutions to updates the “forestry curriculum” in our various institutions offering forestry related courses so that the profession will be attractive from onset. The passionate youth categories can start small from tree planting, schools awareness and volunteering programmes to make this happen.

After the first degree and the secondary degree, it will be necessary to highlight briefly on my academic journey and what has been done to impact the society positively through the research. After Bachelor of Forestry from Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, I was awarded a postgraduate scholarship programme (EU supported Intra-ACP SHARE project) to study Research Methods at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Kenya in 2014. My MSc research focused on “Vulnerability to climate change and variability: A gender analysis of Forest-Based communities of Southwest Nigeria”won me (US$10,000) in 2015 African Forest Forum (AFF), World Agroforestry Centre research grant targeting how climate change affect gender. Among the contribution of the research to the body of knowledge include: impact of climate change and vulnerability are not gender-neutral, female are more vulnerable based on forest resources affinity, collection and utilization, low awareness on climate change, low understanding and basic interpretation of climate change, decision making, governance and forest resource management were dominated by male and gender inequality in coping strategies. In fairness, to me, the AFF research award/grant is the best thing that have happened to me academically because it has shaped my career to be focused and put me in a limelight academically from global perspective. In continuation for next line, another PhD proposal received a financial support from RUFORUM under the Social and Environmental Trade-offs in African Agriculture (SENTINEL) Project with research title “Climate Change and Climate.

Basiru (2nd from Left) with other Sentinel PhD Students at the RUFORUM AGM in Cape Coast, Ghana

Justice: A gender Analysis of REDD+ piloted site in South-South Nigeria”. I have built upon these exposures and networks to engage in collaborative creating awareness on climate change and variability, gender empowerment, gender oriented capacity building programmes, knowledge sharing and dissemination of research findings that will benefit Africa and his home country Nigeria through sensitized the dwellers, created awareness on climate change. I am currently a PhD student at Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria and also serving as a Forest officer at Ogun State Ministry of Forestry, Abeokuta, Ogun state, Nigeria.

Career and mentorship are two inseparable if one want to go far in life! I enjoyed unquantifiable support from my mentors: Dr. Oladoye (FUNNAB), Dr. Oeba (ICRAF) and Prof. Mukundi (JKUAT). They collectively shaped my career and specialization with tutoring, engagement by allowing me to work independently followed with constructive criticism. These strategies are what I am still enjoying till date, I can say this unequivocally that, it is an arsenal that have make me compete with rest of the world, and I have won on many occasions! Many thanks for allowing God to use them for me!

I have also been engaged academically and been to many academic outing, RUFORUM engagement is the best of all, I love those knowledge oriented programmes organized both virtually and physically such as the RUFORUM Biennial Conference 2018 and the Sentinel Students Research Orientation Week during the 15th RUFORUM Annual General Meeting in Cape Coast, Ghana held in December 2019. People from United Kingdom Ms Beth Downe (IIED), Dr Adam Devenish (Imperial College London), Dr. Geoffrey Griffiths(University of Reading), Professor Majaliwa Mwanjalolo (Makerere University) and most especially the RUFORUM Secretariat (Dr Anthony Egeru and Mr. David Ekepu) channel of communication have been fantastic.

Lest I forget, No human creature envisaged what could happen with the outbreak of COVID-19. To be sincere, the pandemic slowed down my research activities and I am still trying to adjust to the “new normal”. I have a good relationship with my Supervisor and things are moving gradually though not as expected due to COVID-19 restriction in my data collection state coupled with Academic Staff Union strike that has been ravaging the academic environment in Nigeria since March 2020.

For more details, please contact Mr. Basiru Adeniyi Okanlawon via email:

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