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UCL’s Friedel Eggers addressing small-scale growers at the Ozwathini trial block, now five years old.

It’s not so much about how you establish your woodlot – it’s more about how you maintain the growing trees so that you can get maximum volumes of timber and bark out at harvest time.

This was the gist of the message that UCL’s Friedel Eggers passed on to small-scale timber growers at a recent field day held at Ozwathini in the KZN midlands.

The field day was held at the one ha wattle trial block that was established at Ozwathini in 2011, as part of a Grasslands Project aimed at improving land management and usage practices with a long term benefit of minimizing negative environmental impacts and conserving biodiversity.

Project Ozwathini is now part of the Global Environment Fund’s Municipal Land Use Project, which provides mentorship and extension services to local tree and vegetable farmers to improve forestry practices as well as food production. Environmental sustainability is a key component of the project.

Another key objective is to test innovative ways to get the plantations certified under FSC so that the growers can get a premium price for their timber, and use the system to improve the sustainability of their forestry operations. This work is being led by Steve Germishuizen, who reports that good progress is being made in developing a risk-based approach to certification that can be applied at a landscape level. This approach is more appropriate for small-scale growers farming on tribal land.

Ozwathini, situated in the Ilembe District Municipality, is an area with high unemployment, where small-scale forestry is the dominant land use and employer. There are some 145 timber growers at Ozwathini, most of whom grow wattle. Most of the timber is marketed through NCT, while the wattle bark is marketed by UCL.

The trial block was established in 2011 using three establishment methods, to provide a live demonstration of good forestry practices for the benefit of local growers. Both NCT and UCL have been collaborating closely with the project team to provide technical input and general advice and guidance.

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Local growers at the trial block at Ozwathini. This photo was taken in November 2012, one year after planting.

Field days have been held every year since the establishment of the trial block to provide info to growers on a wide range of forestry and land management practices.

The trees in the trial block – now five years old – are showing excellent growth and form, providing visible evidence of good silviculture practices.

Friedel told growers that for every ton of bark they should expect to get out five tons of timber at a net profit of R 4 500. He said that they should easily get 12 tons bark and 60 tons timber out of one hectare of wattle, and if they look after their trees really well they could get 15-16 tons bark and 75-80 tons timber from one ha.

At current prices, a harvest of 12 tons bark and 60 tons timber would net R54 000 for the grower at the time of harvesting at eight years. Growers would also be able to utilize timber from thinning operations for fences and building.

Husqvarna’s legendary chainsaw expert and trainer, Innocent ‘Bigboy’ Sefolo provided info on chainsaw maintenance. The Midlands Spraychem team of Michael Macky and Callum MacKenzie gave a demonstration on how to apply a chemical spray effectively.

Foresters Gilbert Plant and NCT’s Eric Msomi also gave the growers some useful tips on good forestry practices, plantation maintenance and management.

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Innocent ‘Bigboy’ Sefolo from Husqvarna talks to the growers about the importance of chainsaw maintenance.

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Michael Macky and Callum MacKenzie from Midlands Spraychem showed the growers how to apply a chemical spray effectively.

Check out this short video clip highlighting the day’s activities…

*First published in SA Forestry magazine, Dec 2016



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