maria is determined to promote both social and economic benefits of forests.

Maria Fernanda Tomaselli Msc Candidate, Forests and Society Program,
Faculty of Forestry, Vancouver Campus

Maria Fernanda Tomaselli had always been interested in environmental issues, but it wasn’t until the MSc graduate from UBC’s Faculty of Forestry worked for a forestry-related NGO in Ecuador that she became determined to promote both the social and economic benefits of forests. “Ecuador is 30 to 40 percent forests, but the public perception of forestry is bad,” she says. “We developed a campaign to change that image. The forestry industry can be sustainable, and is a good economic option.”

Tomaselli’s master’s research, which she will carry through to her PhD, examined the use of community-based forests in The Gambia to elevate people from poverty. “For many developing countries, forestry can be such a good alternative for development. But forestry enterprises face many challenges, including lack of managerial capacity, lack of training and no access to finance. I went to The Gambia and did an assessment. My findings were that the government has given a lot of support around land tenure, training and sustainability, but there are challenges: corruption and illegal competitors are very common.”

Tomaselli’s research was funded through AFRICAD, UBC’s research initiative on conservation and development of African forests. “The research about forests in Africa will help policy makers to make better decisions,” she says. “The projects take social issues into account. My main aim is to find ways to promote conservation of forests while improving the quality of life for people who live there.”

She’s also looking to develop opportunities for forestry students around the world through the International Forestry Students Association. “I was elected as a liaison officer with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. It’s very likely we’ll be hosting a conference in Vancouver in 2014.”

And Tomaselli improves her own quality of life with runs and bike rides in UBC’s Pacific Spirit Park forest. “Nature inspires me,” she says. “I need to be in nature every day.”

Sustainability initiatives in Africa
UBC’s AFRICAD works in Africa’s forested regions on applied research to address poverty alleviation and sustainable livelihoods, social equity, and conflicts over natural resources. It aims to be a leader, in both the generation of knowledge through scientific inquiry and the communication of knowledge through teaching and capacity building, on poverty and forest-dependent livelihoods.

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