The Republic of Korea is one of only four countries, and the only former developing country, to succeed in rehabilitating its forests following World War ll. Despite the devastation of South Korea’s forests due to occupation and war, the country successfully transformed bare lands into rich forests in less than half a century, due to wide-ranging policies and effective implementation. South Korea’s unique experience is timely for countries that are looking to implement sustainable forestry initiatives, including community forestry, wildfire management, and national reforestation efforts.

UNDP Seoul Policy Centre (USPC) has worked with national counterparts to exchange these policy tools and experience with developing countries through its Development Solutions Partnership (DSP) programme. The National Institute of Forest Science (NIFoS), and the Korea Forest Service (KFS) are the main Korean partners in this initiative, having considerable experience in reforestation and sustainable forest management in Korea. USPC also collaborates closely with forestry experts at Korea University.

Through a competitive process, Ghana, Timor Leste, and Myanmar were selected as the DSP partner countries for sustainable forestry. The decision was based on a variety of domestic factors, such as existing legal frameworks that protect forests and robust political will.

Ghana has witnessed significant deterioration of its forests since the turn of the century. Forest fires and fire damage have contributed to the nation’s deforestation and has also caused drought, loss of biodiversity, and livelihoods. Accordingly, Korea will be sharing its methodology in forest fire management with Ghana, including its remote monitoring system using drones and a multitude of other firefighting techniques.

As part of this partnership, a delegation of government officials from the Forestry Commission of Ghana and UNDP Ghana visited Korea from 22nd to 26th in July. The mission focused on acquiring an in-depth understanding of Korea’s experience with forest fire prevention and management, along with post-fire regeneration and forest conservation.

A vital component of this mission was on-site training related to fire management procedures and practices at relevant institutions. For example, participants received detailed presentations on nurseries, seedling production, seedling storage, regeneration, silviculture, and forest tending at the Forest Technology and Management Research Center of NIFoS.

At the Forest Aviation Headquarters, participants learned about: forest fire prevention and management tactics; along with pest control; rescue operations and disaster recovery. They received details about flight training, equipment, operating systems (real-time position tracking and aviation maintenance system) and details on how precisely helicopters are used to contain forest fires.

Furthermore, at the East Coast Forest Fire Centre of Gangwon Province, participants received detailed information about recent forest fires in the province, how these fires were contained along with challenges that the firefighting team encountered. The team also visited a site in Yangyang, that had been severely damaged by a forest fire in 2005. They learned about post-fire procedures and re-vegetation efforts, along with methods for reforestation that included moving large trees and planting them in the area to minimize soil erosion. Korean forestry experts also discussed how different tree species could be planted strategically to reduce the chances of fire or re-ignition.

During a meeting at NIFoS headquarters, a representative from the Forestry Commission of Ghana noted the “importance of extensive research for effective forest fire management and prevention.” The delegation further deliberated the contextualization of Korean methods such as setting up command centres at fire sites and facilitating improved cooperation between various government departments. Based on the success of this capacity building mission, the officials from Ghana and representatives from NIFoS and USPC agreed upon exploring possible initiatives for establishing long-term collaboration between Korea and Ghana on sustainable forestry.

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