Group picture of the joyous certificated participants
Group picture of the joyous certificated participants

22 Forestry Technicians Receive Herbarium Management Training -US Forest Service intensifies capacity support to FTI


Following the establishment of the first post-civil war herbarium in Liberia at the Forestry Training Institute (FTI) in Tubmanburg, Bomi County by the U.S. Forest Service in collaboration with the U.S. Agency for International Development(USAID), at least 22 forestry technicians have successfully completed a five-day intensive workshop in herbarium management skills and techniques, an exercise that is generally described as vital and expedient for Liberia, as far as forestry education and research purposes are concerned.

Group photo of the participants during the opening ceremony

The workshop which began on June 27-1 July 2022 and was facilitated by Prof. Alex Asase, BSc, Ph.D., the Executive Director of the Centre for Plant Medicine Research and Professor of Botany at the University of Ghana. The workshop addressed several pertinent scientific topics including herbarium collection management, herbarium infrastructure and /or facilities, herbarium policies and services, pressing and preserving plant specimens, and arrangement of the collection, among many others.

Other salient lessons learned by the participants included managing herbarium loans, pest management, introduction to plant systematics and taxonomy, and digitization of plant collections, and imaging specimens, among others.

By scientific measurement, an herbarium is an extended collection of dried plant specimens that are stored in cabinets, curated, and made accessible to the public for educational and research purposes. However, small, or big it may be, it is a storehouse of information and a research tool of immense value in forestry, botany, and biodiversity conservation. Given its importance, the workshop brought together participants from key forestry-related institutions including the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Wild Chimpanzee Foundation (WCF), Green Consultancy, Petro Resources, Fauna & Flora International (FFI), The Nature Compact (TNC), SCIL, Bomi Community College (BCC), FTI, amongst many others.          

In separate, yet similar remarks, during the closing ceremony, the participants labeled the outcome of the workshop as exceedingly appropriate and a timely gesture, especially at a time when the need to digitize and scientifically keep records on our plant species cannot be overemphasized. They said the weeklong workshop gave them supplementary knowledge and shaped their understanding of the scientific relevance of herbarium while calling on the organizers to repeat more of such exercises. They expressed gratitude to the USAID through the U.S. Forest Service for organizing the workshop and hoped the herbarium will go a long way in serving its intended purpose.

Making remarks on behalf of the U.S. Forest Service, Dr. Benedictus Freeman, Liberia Country Coordinator, highly extolled the participants for their demonstrated seriousness and cooperation thereby making the workshop to earn its desired results. He reiterated the U.S. Forest Service's continued interest in supporting the FTI to achieve its dream as it relates to making the herbarium fully functional and operational at all times. He observed that although Liberia seems practically green regarding its rich forest heritage, little is known about our plants. He challenged the participants to be useful tools by practically demonstrating the knowledge they have gained from the workshop to benefit the greater society. "As you conclude this exercise, go with the mindset of spreading the message to all of your institutions. He believed the participants will make an impact and raise up high the importance of the herbarium in the forest sector while thanking the FTI family for its cooperation.

For his part, FTI Assistant Director for Instructions, Rutland E.N. Shilue hailed the participants and called for concentrated efforts if the herbarium is to achieve its intended purpose. He said the herbarium represents an important component of scientific research and therefore called for increased collaboration from all forestry related institutions to make the herbarium what it is supposed to be as far as plant data collection is concerned. 

The facilitator of the workshop Prof. Asase for his applauded the participants for being calculatedly attentive and exertive during all sessions of the workshop, something he said lifted his courage and enthusiasm. He cautioned them to make Liberia a destination that will be recognized as far as research purposes are concerned. 'Make Liberia to smile," he concluded.  

Earlier during the official opening ceremony, FTI Executive Director Joel Garmys acknowledged the US Forest Service for helping the FTI to achieve its desired dream of being a useful learning institution in the sub-region. He emphasized the importance of FTI in the forestry sector given its role to prepare middle-level foresters as was envisaged by the Mano River Union long ago, a dream which he said should be given its practical birth. The Executive Director said he was the happiest man given that FTI which was once windswept by the civil war is being gradually recuperated and therefore regaining its lost position in society evidenced by the support of the US Forest Service. He promised to work with all forestry-related institutions to make the institution a place of excellence.          

The U. S. Forest Service currently implements a two-year, USAID-funded program titled Building Capacity of the Forestry Training Institute (FTI) in Liberia or FTI capacity support program. Basically, the project identifies and develops priority experiential learning, research, and educational resources aimed at preparing FTI to become a center of excellence in mid-level forestry training in Liberia and West Africa. As part of this partnership with the FTI, the USFS provided the needed technical and financial support to establish the herbarium at FTI to enhance the experiential learning experience of students, the first post-war herbarium in Liberia since the Harley Herbarium at the University of Liberia was demolished.