Another state plantation handed over for community management

May 31, 2024
DFFE Deputy Minister Makhotso Sotyu (blue dress, centre) helps to plant a tree to commemorate the handover of the Mabama plantation to the traditional authority in Limpopo.

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries & the Environment (DFFE) is on a roll as another state-owned plantation is handed over to a local community to manage – this time in Limpopo province in the far north of the country. The 72 ha Mabama plantation – planted primarily to Eucalyptus species – is situated in the Vhembe district of Limpopo, and was handed over to the Mashamba Traditional Council recently.

The Community Forestry Agreement was approved in March this year by the Minister of Forestry Fisheries and the Environment, Ms Barbara Creecy, after numerous engagements between the Department and the Mashamba Traditional Council who had expressed interest in managing the plantation.

This is the 28th plantation to be handed over to communities since 2023, and the first in Limpopo province. These are small, Category B and C plantations many of which are not currently viable commercial enterprises as they have been poorly managed by under-resourced DFFE staff for years, and have been further damaged by timber theft and wildfires.

The handover of Category B and C state plantations is one of the commitments expressed in the Forest Sector Masterplan approved by government in 2022. The Masterplan maps out the growth, investment and transformation plan for the sector.

It presents the recipient communities with an opportunity to establish local businesses to operate and develop these plantations for the collective benefit of the community members. DFFE has undertaken to provide support to assist the communities to operate the plantations optimally and add value to the resource, and has opened the way for the involvement of the private sector to partner with the recipient communities.

Excited community members at the plantation handover.

“The Department takes cognisance of the fact that these plantations are not necessarily in a condition that is ideal for timber production purposes and require a lot of work and resources to turn them around,” commented DFFE Deputy Minister Makhotso Sotyu at the handover ceremony.

“I would like to make a commitment on behalf of the Department that we will provide the community with the necessary support that is required to make these plantations productive in future. It must be noted that these plantations are categorised as woodlots, and the Department will work with the affected communities to develop a plan that will ensure the management of these resources in a sustainable manner going forward.

“We commit to undertaking initiatives such as site species matching to determine the ideal species that can grow well in this area, provision of technical and advisory support services and training of beneficiaries to empower them with knowledge and skills of sustainable forest management. Furthermore, the Department can provide seedlings that will be needed to re-establish the plantations. These commitments are further outlined in the post settlement support package that is in the process of being finalised by the Department,” said the Deputy Minister.

“Where feasible, we will also try to link communities with strategic partners who will then assist with additional expertise and resources to recapitalise the plantations. The success of this project depends on the commitment of the communities in ensuring that the land is kept under forestry production,” she said.

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