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September 4, 2020

Download SA forestry magazine July edition for free and read Chris Chapman's editorial for all the highlights of the 'comeback' issue...

COVID-19 continues to disrupt our lives, and as I was preparing this ‘comeback’ edition of SA Forestry magazine for print, President Ramaposa announced new Level 3 restrictions, including a ban on booze sales and the re-introduction of a night time curfew (9 pm to 4 am). These restrictions have been introduced in an effort to curb the Covid storm in SA which is upon us, according to the Pres.

I have labelled this the ‘comeback’ edition as we were forced to cancel our May 2020 edition, so it has been four long months since the last SAF magazine was published in March. Fortunately the forestry sector seems to have weathered the storm and is slowly picking up the pace again, despite the fact that markets are still disrupted and depressed.

So where to from here? Well, almost every entrepreneur on the planet has been forced to re-configure their business model to adapt to the new normal, and it is amazing how quickly this was achieved. The ability to adapt to changing circumstances is nothing new – successful businesses have been doing it since way back.

SA Forestry editor Chris Chapman with Mayford Jaca, Chairman of the Mabandla Community Trust, who are engaged in forestry and sawmilling businesses.

Look at NTE! They started off a century ago processing wattle bark to cater for the leather industry which was booming back then when almost everything that wasn’t made of wood was made of leather. Today it’s a different world, yet NTE has adapted, survived and thrived, with new markets and new opportunities opening up. It is a remarkable story of resilience and flexibility and all credit to the wattle growers who stepped up to the plate when the chips were down and took back ownership of their business.

Another remarkable story comes on the forest certification front. After years of stalemate, the innovative Michal Brink of CMO has set up an FSC group scheme that has managed to certify nine small-scale tree farmers from Zululand and two community projects in Eastern Cape ... and counting.

Meanwhile the Sustainable African Forest Assurance Scheme (SAFAS) has established a platform that is helping large and small-scale growers address the key risks to sustainable forest management – and get certified by PEFC in the process.

So now we have two initiatives that will help to level the playing field regarding market access that has been anything but level until now. Perhaps this signals the dawn of a new era in the forest sector. Exciting times indeed!

Anyway, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Covid is still with us. Where and how far it goes from here we do not know for sure, but the fallout is bound to have a massive impact on social, economic and political fronts, and probably the environmental front as well.

Which brings me to my final point: whatever else you do, protect the natural systems that sustain us on this planet and we will be OK! This is why I have peppered every edition of SA Forestry that I have produced since 2006 with a few tips on how to nurture and protect the environment – and always will. It’s the cornerstone of sustainability. Enjoy!

Chris Chapman, Editor

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