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U of I Nursery Lends Hand to Deforested African Nation

June 29, 2018

This article was written by Garrett Cabeza and published in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News on Friday, June 29, 2018. Read the original article here.


The reach of the University of Idaho's Center for Forest Nursery and Seedling Research stretches farther than the Palouse.

In fact, it can be seen as far as Togo, a small country in West Africa inhabited by about 7.6 million people.

Andrew Nelson, director of the University of Idaho's CFNSR and Franklin H. Pitkin Forest Nursery, said the university has partnered with Togo locals and non-governmental organizations since 2016 to help the country grow high quality plants for restoration of degraded forests.

Nelson said the goal is to engage Togo residents with their natural resources and improve those resources to create a sustainable supply using native species to prevent deforestation.

Nelson said Togo is about 99 percent deforested, which means there are almost no native trees, partly as a result of exploitative logging. He said residents rely heavily on fuel wood, so they continuously cut trees for heating and cooking purposes.

Komla Semenyo Nyakokpa, a Togo resident who directs the U of I-built native tree nursery in Notse, Togo, said many native Togo tree species are destroyed and, while there is government policy, there is not a sustained effort in the fields to regenerate natural native species.

Nyakokpa recently visited the U.S. for the first time after accepting an invitation from the U.S. Forest Service to attend an international forest landscape restoration workshop in Oregon, where he learned about tools and techniques for combating deforestation and restoring forests.

He decided to make the short trip from Oregon to visit with Nelson and U of I's nursery outside Moscow on Thursday.

Nelson said he visits Nyakokpa and the nursery for six days every four months to collaborate and check on the roughly 8,000 trees inside the nursery.

He said eight species of native West African tropical hardwood trees numbered in the thousands have been planted at the Togo nursery. A few of the species are internationally endangered, Nelson said.

He said the project is a great opportunity for U of I and Washington State University students to gain international experience. Nelson said he, the U of I nursery, and other project partners make adjustments to the growing regime to ensure the trees are properly developing.

Nelson said he also conducts workshops for Nyakokpa, about 45 women who help grow the Togo nursery trees and other Togo residents and organizations.

He said while the U of I provides tree containers and some other technology to help grow the Togo nursery's trees, all other supplies are sourced from Togo.

"If they can't get supplies they need in country, then it's not going to be sustainable," Nelson said.

Nyakokpa takes the trees planted in the Notse nursery in Togo and plants them at various sites throughout the country.

He said reforestation is crucial because the lack of trees in Togo is causing crop failure, which affects food security. Residents' livelihood also depends on trees, Nyakokpa said. He said trees provide honey and timber production and energy fuel for cooking.

Matt Davis, an Oregon State University forestry student who is also participating in the project, said the loss of native forest is a large driver of climate change and loss of biodiversity in Togo and worldwide.

Nelson said more than $20,000 has been invested into the project, which is largely funded by private donors and the U of I nursery.

Nelson said U of I will be a part of the Togo project for as long as Togo residents and other organizations are interested in having the university involved.

"As long as there's a need, we'll continue to partner with them," Nelson said.

He said collaborating with Nyakokpa and other Togo locals has been very successful so far.

Nelson said the Togo project is the only international project U of I's nursery is involved in.

About the University of Idaho

The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 11,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky and Western Athletic conferences. Learn more at


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