This article forms part of a Black History Month initiative led by Samuel Adeyanju, a UBC Forestry PhD student, with support from the Faculty of Forestry Alumni Engagement Office and the Communications team. Please reach out to Sam email@example.com to connect or learn more.
By Sarah Ripplinger, Faculty of Forestry Dean’s Office writer
Meet Yemi Adeyeye. The City Forester/Manager of Forestry and Natural Areas with the City of Windsor, Yemi has extensive experience in many facets of forestry and across different institutional settings.
The multifaceted nature of Dr. Yemi Adeyeye’s (PhD(Forestry)’20) academic and career pursuits have helped him secure opportunities ranging from research and faculty roles in Nigeria to program coordination, management and directorial roles with the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF), Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), World Agroforestry (ICRAF) and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. For his current role as the City Forester and Manager of Forestry and Natural Areas with the City of Windsor, Yemi has led the development of the city’s first urban forest management plan — within one year of being hired. On top of travelling around the world to study and work, Yemi has given back through extensive volunteerism in support of youth/young professionals and other often marginalized or underrepresented communities.
Yemi holds a National Diploma in Wood Science and Wood Products/Pulp and Paper Technology from the Federal College of Forestry, Ibadan; a B.Tech in Agricultural Technology from the Federal University of Technology Akure; an MSc in Environmental Forestry from Bangor University; an MSc in Agricultural Development, Forests and Livelihoods from the University of Copenhagen; and a PhD in International Forestry with a focus on global spaces, communities and natural resources from UBC. Yemi’s PhD dissertation examined intersections of power, people and spaces in resource governance, part of which includes issues within the development of an Indigenous-driven environmental intervention in Bolivia and knowledge politics in global environmental forums.
What drew you to the study of forestry?
I first learned about the opportunity from my dad, who met with one of his friends and discussed educational options for high school graduates. He returned home and showed me a piece of paper on which he/his friend had written “wood and paper technology” along with “forestry technology.” He asked me which interested me the most. I chose the one that looked the strangest to me, which was wood and paper technology. Ultimately, it was a sense of curiosity that initiated me into the forestry profession.
What attracted you to travelling internationally for school and work?
One of the main reasons is that I love to travel. I am someone who seeks adventure and new challenges. There was a period of time when I was going between Europe, North America, Africa and Asia for different reasons, and other times when I had multiple residences in different countries. It was exciting, but also meant that I had to leave a lot of things behind me as I moved from place to place.
Tell me about your current role as the Manager of Forestry and Natural Areas with the City of Windsor, Ontario.
I lead strategic and operational activities for urban forestry management within the Department of Forestry and Natural Areas, which includes the Ojibway Prairie Complex, Peche Island and Spring Garden ANSI. While I’m accountable to fulfilling the city’s mandate, I need to listen closely to community needs and incorporate the sometimes competing interests of community members. It is crucial to engage in conversations and consensus-building to balance the need for green space with other city infrastructure, such as utilities and sidewalks.
How do you stay motivated to volunteer your limited time with various organizations in support of marginalized communities?
I have been heavily involved in community-level, equity-focused forestry throughout my academic and professional career. My volunteer work is an opportunity to advocate for or translate complicated policy, practices and processes to community members, working alongside them to further forest management, utilization and protection. The communities that I work with are First Nations; young people/professionals; people who are limited by resources, access and/or power; students; young women in agricultural sciences or forestry; among others. I often see a bit of myself in them. And I recognize that access is required to negotiate power.
Can you elaborate more on the importance of giving people access to power?
For example, almost everything I’ve been able to achieve academically and professionally was made possible because a gatekeeper chose to open the gate to me. Even with the right qualifications for a role, you still need someone to let you through the gate. For example, Dr. Shannon Hagerman with UBC Forestry gave me access to a PhD program at UBC by agreeing to be my supervisor. Now I try to be that person for others whenever I find myself in the position of a gatekeeper. For example, I support, advocate for and provide information to students from Nigeria who are seeking admission to UBC.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black History Month encapsulates some of the fundamentals of what we have discussed. It is a time in which people from the Black races are recognized for what they’ve achieved, as well as the limitations and oppressions they have faced. It celebrates Black people who have succeeded and those who are seeking success. It is also a month in which to focus on how people in power have the ability to shape the existence of others.
What would you say is your biggest career accomplishment so far?
The fluidity with which I have transitioned from different roles and the range of disciplines I have covered throughout my career are sources of pride. I started teaching forestry at a young age and have conducted forestry research. I’ve held managerial roles in the agricultural sector and worked with international organizations, as well as with governments and organizations at all levels and across continents. I’m always open for new challenges, and often take on roles that involve making sense out of what might seem like chaos.