Students measuring tree size during harvesting planning training.

Sappi is making a massive investment in skills training as it moves ahead with its aim of creating ‘shared value’ across its forestry value chain.

The training effort is not only targeted at own employees and forestry contractors, it also extends to the provision of practical, one-day courses designed to upskill key personnel involved in community land reform projects, as well as small-scale outgrowers and the independent forestry contractors that provide them with services.

Sappi launched the Ulwazi Training Programme in 2015 to support Sappi Khulisa, its revitalised outgrower programme. The 4 000 small-scale growers and 68 community owned land reform forestry projects on Sappi Khulisa’s books currently supply around 483 000 tonnes timber a year into Sappi Saiccor, making them significant suppliers to Sappi.

The Sappi Khulisa programme – originally known as Project Grow has moved way beyond being a CSI project, which is how it started off. It has become a strategic component of Sappi Forests’ core business, as Khulisa’s Development Manager, Dutliff Smith, points out.

Chainsaw mechanic training presented by Husqvarna to Sappi’s small-scale grower staff.

A key aspect of this strategy is to transform these small-scale growers and their contractors – through training and support into more self-reliant, sustainable timber businesses, capable of providing a reliable supply of fibre that meets Sappi’s quality standards into the future.

To this end, Sappi’s training team has developed a series of practical training courses offered in English and/or IsiZulu that cover key aspects of silviculture, harvesting, human resources management, cash flow management, health and safety, fire management, environment, chemical spraying, entrepreneurship and the institutional arrangements of Trusts and CPAs.

The Institute of Natural Resources was brought on board to help the Sappi team package the training material into user-friendly modules that can be presented by Sappi’s own trainers, foresters or third parties.

These are typically free, one-day courses with theoretical and practical components that can be presented in Sappi’s own training centres at Richmond and KwaMbonambi, or in community halls, or in field.

The small-scale and community growers and their contractors are also encouraged to form local associations that promote networking, sharing of ideas and learning from each other. This is part of the effort to promote good forestry practice across the value chain, and to create an awareness of forestry as a worthwhile and valuable occupation that brings numerous benefits. It also makes it easier for the Sappi Khulisa team to interact with the outgrowers, who are spread out over a huge area extending from Manguzi to Lusikisiki.

Sappi Khulisa’s strategy is to facilitate the transformation of small-scale growers and their contractors into more self-reliant and sustainable business.

The contractors who provide services to the small-scale growers and land reform farms are included in all of these activities as they play an important role in the value chain. Many of the small-scale growers are dependent upon contractors to do the forestry work in their plantations as their children seek more exciting employment in the urban areas.

In addition to these one-day courses, Sappi organises a number of accredited training courses from chainsaw training to safety rep and first aid training right up to the one-year Supervisor Development Programme which is equivalent to NQF Level 4.

“We got funding from FSA and FP&M Seta to do accredited training for our small-scale growers and contractors,” said Sappi Ulwazi project manager Tim Netterville.

He said that over 2 000 people have attended training courses since the Ulwazi Training Programme started in 2015.

“Ulwazi is an investment in people to ensure that we can get the volumes of timber that we require at the right quality,” commented Sappi Khulisa Manager Mbeko Nkosana.

He said that the growers and contractors have shown that they are ready and willing to take the step up.

“Many of them are on their second or third rotation, so they understand forestry, they have seen the benefits, and they are hungry to grow their businesses,” he said.

*First published in SA Forestry magazine, July 2019

Related article: Sappi re-tools its small-scale timber grower programme



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