E. Cape communities excited about forestry opportunities

October 31, 2010

Community representatives, traditional leaders and councillors from the Elundini area in the Eastern Cape attended field days at the Mabandla and Zintwala community forestry projects in southern KZN recently. Their area has been identified as being suitable for forestry, and so the visit to Mabandla and Zintwala was all about showing them working examples of successful community forestry projects.

Mabandla members James Ballantyne
A number of influential traditional leaders, who are showing a keen interest in forestry, attended the community forestry field day at Mabandla. Community members listening to discussions led by (left to right) James Ballantyne of Rural Forestry Development, Mayford Jaca, Chairman of the Mabandla Community Trust, and Ntsiki Ndlaku, the Local Economic Development Officer from the Elundini Local Municipality, which falls under Joe Gqabi District Municipality.

 

The Mabandla field day started with a lengthy discussion with the local chief, Nkosi Baleni who spoke about the forestry development and how it works. Nkosi Baleni explained how the community Trust functions and how the Trust and forestry development company are related. Profits from the company flow to the Trust to the benefit of the whole community.

The Mabandla field day started with a lengthy discussion with the local chief, Nkosi Baleni who spoke about the forestry development and how it works. Nkosi Baleni explained how the community Trust functions and how the Trust and forestry development company are related. Profits from the company flow to the Trust to the benefit of the whole community.Other speakers included Zeff Mazibuko from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, who talked about the Umgano Project at Mabandla which has achieved Biodiversity Stewardship status and was initiated because of the community Trust. Also discussed was responsible management of the environment.

The whole group then visited the Mabandla plantation, which is situated in the hills above the village. Mabandla plantation is the biggest of three community forestry projects supported by Rural Forest Management (RFM). It incorporates an area under forestry of roughly 850 ha of gum (mostly E. nitens) and 450 ha pine. There they heard presentations from people involved in the project, and watched a harvesting team felling, stripping and cross-cutting a eucalyptus compartment. They saw a tractor-trailer hauling five-ton loads of harvested timber from in-field to the loading depot at regular intervals throughout the morning.

The members of the group were clearly impressed, and lengthy discussions about the pros and cons of such a project ensued. They also heard a presentation on a cattle project that the Mabandla community is embarking on.

The visit was organised by James Ballantyne of Rural Forest Development, who is working closely with Peter Nixon and Themba Radebe of RFM who provide support to the Mabandla, Zintwala and Ngevu community forestry projects. These three projects were established from scratch some ten years ago and are now in rotation. All the silviculture and harvesting work on these plantations is performed by the community's own forestry businesses which employ community members. Most of the eucalyptus timber is sold to the Sappi-Saiccor mill at Umkomaas. Other customers include two pole treating plants in lower KZN (Harding Treated Timbers and R&E Timbers) for gum poles, and Khulanathi Sawmill near Singisi who are taking Mabandla's pine thinnings at the moment. 

"Our role is to facilitate the development of new forestry projects on communal land in the same way as we have done at Mabandla, Ngevu and Zintwala," explained James.

He said that the Eastern Cape group is excited about the possibility of establishing commercial plantations in their areas.

"The guys are keen to get going since the field day. I think they now have the concept from seeing Zintwala and Mabandla," said James.

He says he has subsequently visited the Eastern Cape communities and handed out paint and axes so that they can mark out their areas. They will soon be starting to do soil surveys to test the suitability of the soil for forestry.

The project is funded by the Thina Sinako Local Economic Development Support Programme that aims to create sustainable employment in the Eastern Cape. The project is implemented by TEBA Development, an NGO that aims to improve living conditions and livelihoods of communities that have provided labour to the mining industry for decades.

Other active members in the project include the local Elundini Municipality who are driving the process and the Joe Gqabi District Municipality. Various other NGOs, government departments and industry representatives (PG Bison) are also involved in the steering committee, and have had input into this exciting project, which will hopefully see the Eastern Cape develop economically through forestry as has happened in Umzimkhulu.

Published in October 2010

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