Tasmanian Forestry Mentors Remain Active and Effective

November 17, 2020

Heimuli in the forest nursery with coconut seedlings for distribution to farmers – Photo courtesy of Graham Wilkinson.

While we recently reported on our new e-mentoring initiative, and will soon announce those involved in this program, our existing mentors remain active in remote mentoring through the pandemic. We have recently had reports from our forestry mentors from Tasmania.

In the work of Dr Chris Harwood and Prof Rod Griffin on Mentoring for the Acacia tree improvement program in Vietnam, they report that they have been able to maintain collaboration with their colleagues in Vietnam’s Institute of Forest Tree Improvement and Biotechnology. Of particular note is that during the COVID-19 difficulties, two papers have been published which derive from the Crawford Fund supported work.  

“It’s so satisfying to see the high level of work being undertaken. Chris and Rod say that they could not have helped their colleagues to complete this work without the assistance of the Crawford Fund, and that they are most grateful for the support,” said Neville. 

The two papers give a good indication of the technical and practical success of the program, reported Neville. The paper in Australian Forestry gives the main practical benefits of the triploid Acacias in commercial forestry, which in Vietnam includes smallholders, with over 50% of the area. The paper in Euphytica covers an important technical problem in breeding hybrids between two Acacia species and whether it is more efficient to use one or the other as the female parent.

“I’m confident that publication of these papers, in highly regarded journals, will help our Vietnamese colleagues in gaining further support,” he said.

Dr Chris Beadle reports that colleagues in Vietnam involved in Mentoring for silvicultural practices for growing planted acacias and eucalypts in Vietnam are coping quite well with the Covid-19 restrictions. This has included developing an online relationship with a replacement mentee when a former mentee/collaborator on the demonstration plantations left to do a Masters in Germany. Two other colleagues of Chris, who both did PhDs in Australia as ACIAR John Allwright Fellows have left their positions, so Chris is rebuilding more new relationships.

“These changes illustrate the difficulty of remote mentoring when staff change but are being well-managed and Chris continues to assist his mentees get papers to a publishable standard,” reported Tasmania Coordinator Dr Neville Mendham.

Mentoring to support the professional and managerial skills of the Head of Forestry and his staff in Tonga also continues with Graham Wilkinson’s mentoring within the Forestry Department in Tonga. Foresters without Borders, in conjunction with the Crawford Fund, is supporting this mentoring for the professional and managerial skills of the newly appointed Head of Forestry, Mr Heimuli Likiafu, and his staff. Graham and Heimuli have remained in contact during the Covid-19 lockdowns and they hope to resume country visits and training when the travel restrictions are lifted.   Graham is also working on an FAO project in Tonga developing some training packages on tree nurseries, tree establishment and management, so our mentoring support is just part of his overall effort there and in the Pacific.