Waterford forester experiences ‘The Hardest Harvest’


Jamie Hawan travelled to Uganda and lived off the land using his bare hands & basic tools. He worked in the civil service and a bank before he embraced a long-standing family tradition.

Waterford forester experiences ‘The Hardest Harvest’

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Jamie Hawan travelled to Uganda and lived off the land using his bare hands & basic tools. He worked in the civil service and a bank before he embraced a long-standing family tradition.

Waterford forester Jamie Hawan will take on the most physically challenging role in the last episode of The Hardest Harvest, a three-part series screened on RTÉ 1.

An Irish farmer( Paula Hynes); forester(Jamie Hawan); and fisherman(‘Big’ John) travelled to the harshest of environments in some of the world’s poorest countries to live off the land and sea using nothing but their bare hands and basic tools.

Jamie will be faced with the challenge of chopping down trees by hand in the intense humidity of the Ugandan rainforest, carrying them over a mountain on his back, attempting to apprehend illegal loggers at night not to mention moving a colonised beehive on his head!

Family Tradition

Scottish-born Jamie Hawan comes from a long-line of foresters: his great-grandfather was a logger in Ukraine, and Jamie’s grandfather and father were both foresters (in Scotland and then in Ireland). Jamie took a roundabout route into the family profession working everywhere from a call centre to the civil service to the bank. Six years ago he took the chance to go back to education and studied forestry. Now a harvesting manager for the State forestry company, Coillte, working with machines that can cost up to half a million euro, 32-year-old Jamie was determined to take on The Hardest Harvest with everything he had to offer.

Young, fit and confident, Jamie is a good fit for an assignment living and working with a forester and his family on the side of a mountain in Uganda, near the border with Congo. But logging by hand with just an axe and a machete inside a tropical rainforest is a far cry from managing national forestry in Ireland: working in the searing heat is not just hard, but perilous. Jamie needs his wits - as well as his skills - about him if he’s to emerge from the rainforest unscathed. Tracking illegal loggers at night deep inside the rainforest and attempting to arrest them, to moving colonised Bee hives by hand to hauling trees by hand over a mountain peak all present Jamie with some of the biggest challenges of his life.

Forestry in Uganda

Ireland's forests may be as valuable for recreational use as for timber production, but forestry in Uganda is fraught with danger, making this perhaps the most hazardous assignment of all. Logging crews lack elementary safety equipment; injuries from falling trees and from transporting the logs by hand across the mountain are common. Illegal logging, mostly at night, is rife, driven by Chinese demand for timber but with local villagers providing their own, ill-equipped security forces, there is always the danger that they will confront an illegal logging crew that is prepared to fight back rather than accept arrest. Jamie will run greater risks in Uganda than mere homesickness.

The Hardest Harvest – RTÉ 1 this Wednesday, May, 16th at 9.35pm.

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