Two years ago, Samuel Adeyanju couldn’t have imagined he would be studying at UBC on a fully-funded scholarship through the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program. In 2017, he became one of nine African students to be selected for the scholarship at UBC, and the first award winner to be admitted into a research-based master’s program in the Faculty of Forestry.
When Samuel first arrived at UBC, he had a broad idea of what he wanted to do: to work on Sustainable Forest Management and Forest Policy and Governance in Africa. After digging in deeper, he developed an interest in forest certification systems.
“Voluntary, independent third-party forest certification is the process of assessing the quality of forest management in relation to a set of predetermined principles and criteria. Once implemented, certification might be a useful tool to enhance benefits received by forest communities and small-scale producers from active forest management and product sales,” he said.
But when Samuel looked at the data on adoption of this system, he discovered that despite the fact that the system had been around for over two decades, its uptake in most developing countries, including those in Africa, was slow and challenging. He also found that there wasn’t sufficient data on the linkages between forest certification systems, and smallholder forestry in Africa.
Today, Samuel conducts his research in partnership with Mpingo Conservation Development Initiative (MCDI), an environmental NGO based in Southern Tanzania.The initiative established the first and only community-managed certified forest in Africa. Through his research, he hopes to provide an understanding about the experiences of communities operating under the FSC Group Certificate in Tanzania.
“My research will provide recommendations that could help to improve the low adoption levels of third-party forest certification systems in forest communities in Tanzania. These recommendations could also help various stakeholders in the forest sector, including environmental NGOs, tree growers’ cooperatives, government, donor agencies and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), “he said.
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
I decided to pursue a graduate degree to deepen my knowledge on forests and forestry with a focus on forest policy and governance in Sub Saharan Africa. Through my five years undergraduate study on Forestry and Wood Technology in Nigeria, I have come to understand how the policies of government on forests determines the management systems employed by nation states. Forests and the environment in general, have become an increasingly important topic globally due to issues of global warming and climate change, hence I am very proud to be researching on a subject that could contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation either directly or indirectly. I also believe that pursuing a graduate degree brings me to closer to becoming a specialist that can contribute to changing narratives in the governance systems in the forestry sector of countries in Sub Saharan Africa.
Why did you decide to study at UBC?
I first heard about UBC during one of the classes I took with a professor during my second year. The professor described how prestigious the university was having had his sabbatical there in the early 2000s. On concluding my undergraduate degree, I did a lot more research about prospective universities that I could approach for graduate studies. UBC was one of the universities that stood out especially with the ranking of the Faculty of Forestry as one of the top three universities to study forestry globally. In addition, it's recognition as a top 40 research university with world-class facilities, with reputable professors with internationally recognised research findings. More importantly, an opportunity to apply for the prestigious UBC MasterCard Foundation Scholarship to fund my graduate studies could be regarded as my greatest motivation.
What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?
In my experience, getting to study at UBC is very competitive especially with securing a professor that is available and willing to supervise your research. I have studied the faculty profiles of the professors in the Forestry faculty and found that my research interest coincides with some of them. What caught my attention was the amazing research being done by these professors and I was very interested in benefiting from their supervision and mentorship. My supervisor, Dr. Janette Bulkan, is a leading scholar on indigenous and community forestry with decades of experience in the field.
What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?
Being the first time outside my home country, definitely things look quite different - the culture, food, infrastructure and the environment (parks and beaches all around) are some of the best surprises I found about living in Vancouver. I was also surprised to see almost everyone on the bus with their ears plugged in because in my culture when we use the bus, you see people chatting with each other on various subjects of interest and anyone could join in. Frankly, the education system at UBC is very different from what I was used to during my undergraduate degree. The kind of support given to students by staff and faculty is overwhelming. At first, it was very challenging sitting in a class where you had one or two African students. But after some time, I felt comfortable and able to relate with everyone I came across.
What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?
I would say I am enjoying the whole program but graduate studies might be a little lonely and one needs to be self-motivated to get things done sometimes. However, with the support from friends and community that I have built over time, it makes the process more fun. I look forward to my research with great curiosity. Mainly because it will be my first time using the research method I will be adopting for my research.
What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?
I'm particularly interested in bottom top approaches to solving some of the key issues we have in the forest sector such as deforestation, illegal logging, trade, and climate change among others. A challenge is how to develop strong partnerships with local communities to make this happen.
How do you feel your program is preparing you for those challenges?
I think that is where the courses I took during my first year becomes very important. Most of the courses were focused on community forestry and forest management in British Columbia and countries in Africa. These have broadened my mind and taught me how to productively collaborate with local communities both for research projects or as a consultant representing an institution to propose projects to communities. Through my research, I will be able to experience this firsthand in the field.
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?
My passion for excellence in my previous endeavours both in my academics and the various extracurricular activities I have been involved with has prepared me for my UBC graduate program. I believe with the opportunities and enabling environment available at UBC, I will be able to achieve all the goals attached to my graduate degree.
What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?
I like to hang out with friends for games, walk in the park, or visit the beach. I also go to the cinema to see movies regularly and visit other beautiful sceneries in and around Vancouver.
What advice do you have for new graduate students?
I will advise new graduate students to enjoy all that graduate studies has to offer. They should be deliberate in their actions and ensure they are making the right choices and connections that will be useful in achieving their future aspirations.