Sustainable forestry student Tatiana Prudence Eboua – who Virgin Balloon Flights have supported with donations to the TFT’s Centre for Social Excellence in the Congo - is currently enjoying her Equatorial Forest Company (CEB) work placement in Bambidie, Gabon. There she is helping the company to manage a forest area of 600,000 hectares (that’s an area bigger than 700 football pitches!).

Tatiana’s main aim whilst on her placement is to implement plans to engage with the communities living within the concession, ensuring the company take on board all the needs of the local communities to thoroughly safeguard the future of the forest and its inhabitants.

The photograph above (left) shows Tatiana interviewing a group of local women from a forest site in East Cameroon finding out their thoughts and views on access, protection, resources and rights of the forest.

James Mudie from the TFT says there are two primary points for Tatiana to focus on during her internship: “Firstly, Tatiana will facilitate the establishment of an agricultural programme, in Ogooue-Lolo. The company, through its social forest management component, is trying to establish this community programme using their own finance loaned to the communities themselves to build a long-term sustainable business. Tatiana’s role combines fieldwork and institutional work for the Centre of Social Excellence (CSE) and she is helping the communities to decide what they want to do, whether small livestock farming, or planting cocoa or coffee.

“The other task under her responsibility is the establishment of partnerships for training local communities. She is helping them to get training and advice from local specialised organisations and other agencies that could assist in capacity building and training. Her skill in moderation and conflict management, (gained at the CSE), is enabling her to reconcile the sometimes divergent expectations of all stakeholders leading to much more successful partnerships.”

Tatiana is over half way through her placement now and has until November 2010 to meet her goal and implement the changes and relationships that are so important to the future of the forest.

We wish Tatiana the best of luck with her final few months in Gabon and look forward to congratulating her when she graduates.