Flash mobs, drama and robust debate at WFC

Trevor Abrahams

Trevor Abrahams, DG of the WFC, presenting a Tree Talk on the Working on Fire programme.

Highlights of Day Three…

Delegates attending the 14th World Forestry Congress will seek tangible solutions over the next two days to the global challenge of feeding a growing human population – including a burgeoning, consumptive middle-class – while limiting the extent of climate change and environmental degradation.

So said WFC Secretary General, Trevor Abrahams, on day three of the global event being held at Durban’s International Convention Centre.

He said that one of the major trends that have emerged over the opening three days of the gathering has concerned the sustainable use of forest resources.

The notion of tree hugging, leaving forests to grow for their own good, is quite clearly being replaced by a notion of sustainable development and hence an engagement with our forestry sector that allows for sustainability – and certainly, use.

Forests and people photo contest award

Organisers received over 900 photos for the World Forestry Congress Forests and People photo contest showing how forests and trees are important to the well-being and livelihoods of people everywhere. Award-winning Magnum photographer Stuart Franklin chose six finalists and ten runners-up, and almost 4,000 people voted online through FAO’s Facebook page to choose the winning photo.

The winner was Sofia Alvarez Capunay from Peru with a self-portrait titled ‘you are a leaf’. She said the photo shows the inter-connectedness of people and the forest.

The award was presented by Prof Edith Vries, Director-General of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

photo winner

Photo competition winner Sofia Alvarez Capunay from Peru and Prof Edith Vries, Director-General of the SA Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

winning photo

The winning photo.

Wildlife forum

Delivering a Tree Talks presentation on day three of the WFC, Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), John Scanlon, said advances in technology and transport afforded people the potential today – through unregulated, unsustainable or illegal trade – to wipe out a species in no time at all.

“We’ve also seen a massive increase in the middle-class, a lot of prosperity generated… a lot of disposable income is available… We are confronting heavily armed organised criminals who are stealing wildlife at an industrial scale. The future of wildlife is going to be determined by the actions taken by each one of us, both as consumers and as citizens,” he said.

Wildlife Forum panelists discussed how strengthening communities' roles in wildlife management could help conservation. Drama students from the University of KZN put on a short play during one of the breaks which highlighted the issues around trophy hunting, conservation and poaching.

poaching drama

The drama depicts a trophy hunter with a dead lion.

Resilient landscapes

WWF presented a side event on the work they are doing in the Umgeni catchment in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, to promote ‘resilient landscapes’. This involves creating a platform for dialogue and collaboration between all of the water users in the catchment to share ideas and work together to improve water management. This includes timber, dairy, sugar and crop farmers, water authorities and communities, as well as stakeholders in the value chain such as food retailers, insurers and bankers.

WWF resilient landscapes

David Lindley of WWF discusses resilient landscapes with delegates at the side event.

Working on Fire

South Africa’s pioneering Working on Fire programme has enjoyed a high profile at WFC 2015. The WoF firefighters provided an impressive march at the opening ceremony of the Congress, were the focus of a side event and a Tree Talk by the Secretary General of the WFC, Trevor Abrahams.

WoF is a South African government programme that recruits young people from marginalized communities, trains them as firefighters and deploys them in fire-prone areas – including forests – to provide fire fighting services. The programme provides jobs for young people who are unemployed and/or unemployable, and most important of all, gives them a sense of dignity and hope that they can make a positive contribution.

Trevor said that WoF has the highest percentage of women firefighters compared to similar programmes anywhere in the world.

Flash Mob Youth

Young people are well represented at the WFC, and today held a ‘Flash Mob’ event to let the Congress delegates know that they want to have an input into the shaping of a global strategy on forests, which they say will profoundly affect their own lives and future.

The youngsters donned white teeshirts and danced on the lawn outside the ICC while a deejay played some heavy beats. They then formed themselves into the letters W F C and a tree.

Flash mob

Associate Secretary General of the WFC, Tina Vahanen, joins young dancers during the Flash Mob on Day 3.

Different viewpoints

Not everyone at WFC is in agreement about all aspects of forests and the way forward. Members of the Global Forest Coalition have voiced their opposition to the expansion of planted forests around the world. Miguel Lovera Rivas of the University of Asuncion in Paraguay says that WFC is dominated by commercial interests and that it is ‘business as usual’ while the world’s forests continue to disappear.

He said we need ecological functionality from forests – not monocultures. He said plantations are not renewable resources, as is claimed, as they deplete soils, use up water, promote soil erosion and replace biodiversity.

He acknowledged that there is a role for tree planting, but said “not every tree is a good tree for the ecology”.

“The impacts are permanent – the line has been crossed,” he said

The contribution of this group and the indigenous community groups into the discussions taking place at the Congress are important as they highlight the complexity of the issues surrounding forests and promote lively debate.

Check out the short film below wrapping up Day Three of the 14th World Forestry Congress:

Countdown to the XIV World Forestry Congress

Wood For Livelihood Ethiopia: Dorze woman traveling through the mountains of Entoto carrying a load of 6 meters and 40 kg of eucalyptus branches and leaves to sell at the local market. XIVWFC 2015 Forests and People photo competition entry from Tsigie Befekadu. Image © Tsigie Befekadu

In less than a fortnight the XIV World Forestry Congress (XIV WFC) will be taking place for the first time on African soil since its inception in 1926. From 7-11 September 2015, Durban South Africa will be hosting game-changing dialogues critical for a sustainable future, bringing scientists, environmentalists, researchers, architects, photographers, economists, professors, engineers, ecologists and many more experts from around the globe together. The Congress is set to be 2015's most engaging and dynamic forestry event...

Next month Durban's International Convention Centre (ICC) will host a diverse XIV WFC programme based on the theme: 'Forests and People: Invest­ing in a Sustainable Future.' In an attempt to bring forestry into the mainstream and explore solutions to the global crisis, the Congress will bring the world’s foresters, forest supporters, youth leaders and the public together to share expertise and experiences in order to re-envision the future as we enter a new era in development.


South Africa's Secretary General to the XIV WFC, Trevor Abrahams speaking at the pre-XIV World Forestry Congress regional meeting in Bangkok, July 2015.

The opening of the XIV WFC kicks off on 7 September with cultural performances and addresses by esteemed leaders to welcome the world to South Africa and Durban, specifically. Opening the Congress will be South African President – Jacob Zuma, Mr Edward Senzo Mchunu – The Honourable Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, HRH Prince Laurent of Belgium – Special Ambassador to FAO for Forests and the Environment and the Prince Laurent Foundation, as well as HE Senzeni Zokwana – Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries South Africa; among many other local and international leaders.


Community forest members, indigenous peoples and smallholders from Asia gathered in Bangkok in July 2015 to ensure their views are heard in the upcoming XIV World Forestry Congress in Durban.

The main theme, 'Forests and People: Invest­ing in a Sustainable Future', aims to demonstrate that investment in forestry is an investment in people and, in turn, an investment in sustainable development. The programme is packed with activities and the week will host numerous technical sessions, special events, side events and discussions exploring six crucial sub-themes being:

Sub-theme 1: Forests for Socio-economic Development and Food Security
Sub-theme 2: Building Resilience with Forests
Sub-theme 3: Integrating Forests and Other Land Uses
Sub-theme 4: Encouraging Product Innovation and Sustainable Trade
Sub-theme 5: Monitoring Forests for Better Decision-Making
Sub-theme 6: Improving Governance by Building Capacity

South Africa's Secretary General to the XIV WFC, Trevor Abrahams (middle) at the pre-XIV World Forestry Congress (WFC) regional meeting in Bangkok, July 2015.

South Africa's Secretary General to the XIV WFC, Trevor Abrahams (middle) at the pre-XIV World Forestry Congress regional meeting in Bangkok, July 2015.

The Congress will bring the world to South Africa with over 200 visiting speakers from countries such as Indonesia, Nepal, Sweden, China, Ghana, Tanzania, Guatemala, Australia and many more. The week long Congress will host the likes of Mr Paulo Adario – Senior Forest Strategist at Green Peace International, Ms Tanya Abrahamse – Chief Executive Officer of the South African National Biodiversity Institute, Ms Elizabeth Backteman – State Secretary of the Ministry for Rural Affairs Government of Sweden, Ms Susan Braatz –Senior Forestry Officer of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, as well as youth speakers Charles Batte (Uganda), Sekar Ayu Woro Yunita (Indonesia), Jossio Guillén (Panama) and many more thought leaders from almost every curve of the planet!

Forests are vital to millions of livelihoods around the world, food-security, clean-water, our entire eco-system and our very existence.This Congress is the most important forestry-related dialogue to take place this year. Let the countdown to a sustainable future begin...

"Our forests play a significant role in terms of poverty eradication through job creation, economic growth and supply of basic needs... The theme for the Congress puts the peoples of the world at the heart of forests and I sincerely trust that the meeting will yield the desired objectives including that of ensuring a sus­tainable future for the forests..." – Senzeni Zokwana, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries South Africa.

WFC banner FINAL

Check out the XIV WFP 2015 Programme here, download the timetable here, view the list of speakers here. Follow the XIV WFC on Facebook and search or post the hashtag #‎Forests2015‬. All the info you need can be found on the XIV WFC website at: webapps.daff.gov.za. Start scheduling your itinerary!

*Images © supplied by WFC and RECOFT

Pests & Diseases in South African Forestry 2015/16

pests and diseases

The SA Forestry team has produced a large format, full colour poster with details of all the major Pests and Diseases threatening commercial plantations in South Africa.

The Poster has been compiled and produced in collaboration with the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute of the University of Pretoria (Fabi). It includes info about the biology, geographic distribution, symptoms and management strategy of 11 pests and 10 pathogens currently threatening commercial plantations in South Africa.

Pitch canker

Pitch canker

Trees affected include the main Eucalyptus, Pine and Wattle species that are widely planted in South Africa.

The poster includes photos of all the pests and pathogens – as well as the symptoms that can be seen on the trees - to help foresters identify problems in their plantations.

wattle rust

Wattle rust

The information in this poster is current, and includes recent arrivals in South Africa, including the wattle rust (Uromycladium acaciae), the shell lerp psyllid (Spondyliaspis c.f. plicatuloides) and the eucalyptus gall wasp (Ophelimus maskelli).

The poster is ideal for sticking up on the wall of forestry offices to help foresters keep their trees healthy.

To obtain a copy of the poster, contact Debbie on email: Debbie@saforestrymagazine.co.za. The cost is R50 plus cost of mailing the poster to you.

Cossid moth

Cossid moth

Forests, people and sustainable development


The central theme of the XIV World Forestry Congress is Forests and People: Investing in a Sustainable Future. The aim is to show that investment in forestry is an investment in people and, in turn, an investment in sustainable development.

The programme of activities will encompass a week of technical sessions and special events, side events and round-table discussions on six thematic areas covering all key aspects of forests and sustainable development.

The Congress will be a key occasion to gather, share expertise and experience, and highlight the many benefits that forests provide.

Sessions on six sub-themes will highlight the role of forests in sustaining life, acting as buffers against environmental change and inspiring new technologies and products, as well as the need to integrate forests and other land uses and to improve forest monitoring and governance.

A dynamic Congress

The Congress will feature an impressive line-up of key speakers including ministers and high-level representation from the African Union Commission and the Collaborative Partnership on Forests as well as from the private sector.

The technical programme boasts over 800 technical papers, posters and videos on a wide range of forestry topics, which have been submitted by people around the globe, and some 180 side events.

Paving the way to a new climate change agreement

The Congress will issue a series of key outcome messages geared towards strengthening the role of forests and forestry in sustainable development. These messages will underscore forestry’s contribution to the implementation of the new post-2015 agenda, and help pave the road to a new climate change agreement at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Paris in December.

Focus on special events

A series of pre-Congress and special events will take place throughout the Congress and in the days immediately before the event. Here are just a few:

Pre-Congress event: Research Symposium on Underpinning sustainable tree plantations in Southern Africa (4 September 2015)

Come early for this one-day pre-Congress symposium, which will showcase the depth and breadth of forestry research across South Africa and highlight how research provides innovation, knowledge and technology to influence policy and strategic decision-making.

The symposium will also provide an excellent opportunity for South African and international participants to engage in dialogue, heighten collaboration and grow partnerships. Keynote and invited speakers will highlight research initiatives from across the country’s forest research community and the critical role of research in supporting decision-making at all levels across both public and private sectors.

Special event: International Forests and Water Dialogue (8-9 September 2015)

Forests use water, but they also provide water. As global demand for fresh water rises and water grows scarcer, we need to balance trade-offs between the ecosystem services provided by forests and trees and forest-induced changes in water availability.

Why forests and water?

Join this special event to see the finalization and launch of a Five-year Forests and Water Action Plan, which calls for action in the areas of science, policy, economics and forest practices.

3 August 2013, Cartago, Costa Rica - A waterfall in a  wildlife natural park.

Special event: Wildlife Forum (9 September 2015)

Sign up for the Wildlife Forum to address challenges and opportunities in sustainable wildlife management! This special event will showcase the experiences of countries, organizations, indigenous peoples, local communities and the private sector in addressing poverty alleviation and livelihood security issues while safeguarding the world’s rich and diverse wildlife.

Organized by the Collaborative Partnership on Sustainable Wildlife Management, the Wildlife Forum will focus on:

Everyone attending the Congress is welcome.

Young people - get involved!

Giving young people a voice is one of the highest priorities of the XIV World Forestry Congress. There is no sustainable future without investing in the new generation. The Congress provides an opportunity for young people to build bridges between sectors, regions, cultures and generations, and to brainstorm ways to improve the management of natural resources. It is also an opportunity to remind all stakeholders that investing in education and meaningful engagement furthers the common good: sustainable development and peaceful co-existence. Young people are encouraged to attend and contribute to all Congress sessions as well as three dedicated youth sessions:

Post a picture in the We love forests photo gallery

Young people around the world are showing their love for forests by posting pictures of themselves hugging trees, posing with trees or kissing a tree. All you have to do is post a picture on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and tag it #Forests2015 #Y4Forests2015. Photos from around the world are featuring on an online gallery and will also be shown at the Congress!

YOUTH TREE web pic

Showcase your forestry projects on the #Forests2015 blog

The #Forests2015 blog provides a platform to showcase forestry projects, visions and ideas ahead of the Congress. Anyone can submit a blogpost: students can describe their work and field experiences, researchers can illustrate their findings, farmers can submit stories on how they converted research into practice, and policymakers and advocacy groups can showcase the projects they have implemented. Blog posts received before 31 July 2015 will also be automatically entered into the #Forests2015 blog competition, with some great prizes up for grabs.

For more information on how young people are getting involved – and how you can sponsor youth presence at the Congress as well as a global mentoring legacy programme – visit www.fao.org/about/meetings/world-forestry-congress/get-involved/youth

Calling all architects – enter the TREEHOUSING International Wood Design Competition

The TREEHOUSING International Wood Design Competition challenges architecture students, professional architects and designers to develop innovative and sustainable wood housing and urban building solutions for a growing world population. A grand prize of $6,000 USD as well as second and student prizes will be awarded in each of two categories:


TREEHOUSING GLOBAL: Affordable Wood Housing

Canadian architect Michael Green, author of The Case for Tall Wood Buildings, will lead the jury, and winners will be announced at the XIV World Forestry Congress.

Visit www.treehousing-competition.com for more information.

Innovative designer grows furniture


Eco-furniture designer Gavin Munro on his farm north of Derby, England. Image sourced © Fabio De Paola

UK eco-designer, Gavin Munro, has a unique way of making furniture... He specializes in training trees to grow into surreal pieces of furniture without any joins.

On his 2.5 acre farm north of Derby, England, Gavin grows oak, willow, ash, and sycamore trees and uses plastic moulds to guide them into specific shapes. From there, they are carefully ‘sculpted’ into artistic chairs, lighting, mirror frames, and tables under his company Full Grown.


Image sourced © Full Grown

Munro's trade is one of perseverance and patience. It can take between four and eight years for a single piece to reach its full form and after nine years of getting his company off the ground – his first harvest is expected this October.

Although 'growing' furniture can be seen throughout history with the ancient Greeks, Egyptians and the Chinese growing stools and chairs; the ancient art may be even more relevant today with innovators across the board seeking more eco-friendly alternatives in all spheres of life...

Read more about the process and intricacies of this innovative art form here.

*Information and images sourced: www.theguardian.com

CMO Training


John Deere wheeled harvester. Image sourced.

Mechanised harvesting training:

Africa's largest forestry training and consulting company, CMO, is running a three-day course for supervision of mechanised harvesting operations in 3 different venues:

Tutor: Janie Brooks - the courses will be held primarily in Zulu

Cost: R3500 per person

A 3-day course for contractors and foresters on managing mechanised operations in two different venues:

Tutors: Janie Brooks and Michal Brink.

Total cost remains the same as the last two years: R4900 per student.

For more info contact Nikita at CMO. Email: nikita@cmo.co.za

Sappi sells Enstra Mill business


Sappi Enstra Mill, Springs, Johannesburg. Image © Sappi

Sappi has sold its Enstra Mill recycled containerboard and kraft papers business to the Corruseal Group, situated in Springs near Johannesburg.

The mill will continue to manufacture recycled and lightweight packaging paper. The existing Security Paper, Office, Speciality and Folio businesses also conducted at the mill will remain with Sappi.

A transfer plan is being arranged with current staff and customers.

Commenting on the transaction, Sappi Southern Africa CEO Alex Thiel said: “The sale of the mill is in line with Sappi Southern Africa’s strategy to unlock value and is in line with the Sappi Limited strategy which aims to reduce debt, strengthen its balance sheet and direct resources to high-growth opportunities.

“Over the past four years Sappi Southern Africa has undertaken a comprehensive review of its business and implemented a number of changes to help the business turn around and to put the business firmly on the path to profitability and growth - in particular in its paper and paper packaging business. These actions have delivered significant positive impacts with Sappi Southern Africa returning exceptional results during Sappi’s 2014 financial year and strong results during this financial year.”

“The Enstra Mill fits perfectly with our strategy to backward integrate and grow our business,” said Corruseal Group Joint CEOs Mehul Mehta and Rajiv Mehta. “Our commitment is to provide better packaging for a better world.”

Nutrition intervention improves health, productivity and morale of forestry workers 

Extra nutrition for web

Cape Pine workers prepare to eat their daily nutritional supplement. Researchers found that the daily supplement improved the general health and productivity of the workforce.

Study shows that a daily food supplement boosts the health, wellbeing and morale of Cape Pine forestry workers - and improves productivity...

By Karen Kirkman (Environmental and Social Governance Consultant to Global Environment Fund) and Dr. Elizabeth Gummerson (Research Fellow, Center for Social Science Research, University of Cape Town).

It has been argued over the last 20 years that fatigue and injuries in forestry are predominantly caused by the tremendous physiological load associated with the job requirements. The extensive energy output required for tasks such as felling, cross cutting, de-branching, pitting and planting are at odds with the nutritionally poor diet of typical rural South African harvesting and silviculture workers. This nutritional shortfall can contribute to fatigue related injury and under-performance among the workers and affect production.

Recognising this constraint, Cape Pine Investment Holdings (Cape Pine), a Global Environment Fund (GEF) portfolio company, based in the Western and Eastern Cape Province, explored the idea of developing a long-term nutritional intervention program for workers at Cape Pine. Nutritional supplementation has been used effectively in several other industries and by some forestry companies in South Africa, to increase worker health and productivity and to reduce time lost to illness and absenteeism. However Cape Pine wanted to find ways to implement a program that was based on a scientific study of the results of this intervention. The program also needed to be cost effective and easy to implement, with minimum disruption to staff.

In order to objectively verify the benefits of a nutritional supplementation program, GEF and Cape Pine designed and conducted a five-month study, partly funded by DEG and led by Dr. Elizabeth Gummerson, a Research Fellow of the Centre for Social Science Research at the University of Cape Town, to objectively evaluate the impact of providing a daily nutritionally fortified breakfast to harvesting workers. Twenty-four harvesting teams (own operations as well as contractor operations) took part in the study and researchers collected interview data from 386 respondents. Of the 386 respondents, 165 were active participants for the entire length of the study.

The core intervention as part of this nutritional supplementation program was the introduction of a regular and nutritious meal into the harvesting workers diet. Harvesting workers were provided with a free 50g serving of nutritionally fortified breakfast porridge at the field site every morning. The porridge was selected based on its nutritional value and ease of preparation at the harvesting sites. It was simply provided in a 50g sachet that was mixed with water to make either a porridge or shake, which was consumed during the first work break of the morning or before work commenced for the day.

A longitudinal field survey was then conducted to collect comparable measures of employees’ health, wellbeing and job satisfaction at two points in time, once before the supplement was introduced and once after the nutritional supplementation program had been provided for a five month period. This data was then combined with Cape Pine’s own data on productivity and absenteeism for the 24 teams and the measures were compared to see if the nutritional intervention resulted in any improvements in the harvesting workers health, productivity or job satisfaction.

The study found that there was a measureable and statistically significant improvement in the harvesting workers health status after the implementation of the program. The percentage of harvesting workers reporting recent (non-chronic) illness fell by nine percentage points from 54% to 45%. A non chronic, or symptomatic illness is when the symptoms of a disease or illness are present. Sometimes a patient can be symptomatic but not have a disease, and sometimes this can point to the start of an illness (e.g. headache, cough diarrhea, runny nose). The percentage of harvesting workers reporting chronic illness fell by 5.5 percentage points, from 13.6% to 8.1%. Chronic illness is a health condition or disease that is persistent or otherwise long lasting in its effects. The term is usually applied when the course of the disease lasts for more than three month (e.g. diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma). In addition to these illness benefits, the study also found that there was a 25-percentage point increase in the number of harvesting workers reporting good health.  Workers felt healthier.

When productivity and absenteeism were compared before, during and after the nutritional intervention, the study found that productivity increased, but no statistical improvement in absenteeism was found. When productivity was compared to the prior year, there was an overall 13% increase in productivity during the months of the nutrition program. During the months following the 5-month intervention period, there was a 2% decrease in productivity compared to the prior year.

Other important and measurable results of the study found significant morale improvements as a result of the nutritional intervention. The number of harvesting workers who felt that the employer was “fair and reasonable” in its dealing with them increased 11 percentage points from 60.8% to 71.8%. The number of harvesting workers who were scored as “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” on the employee satisfaction scale decreased by 20 percentage points among Cape Pine employees and nine percentage points among contractor employees over the period of the intervention.

Looking at the diet of harvesting workers, the study found that harvesting workers are currently performing demanding physical work while consuming approximately 1 500 fewer calories per day than is recommended for men of their age group. A simple 200 calorie nutritionally fortified supplement, as provided during the study, resulted in a measurable improvement in employee health, wellbeing, productivity and morale. Nutritional supplementation proved to be highly effective. Given the size of the average nutritional deficit, the positive effect of a relatively small daily increase was remarkable.

With such positive results, Cape Pine has looked at ways to expand the project beyond harvesting staff. The company has now also included silviculture, road management and infrastructure workers into the nutritional intervention scheme. A nutritionally fortified breakfast is currently provided free to approximately 400 Cape Pine workers on a daily basis.   It was also realized that increasing the calorie and nutrient intake of the scheme would yield even better results and therefore the amount of supplement has been increased from 50g to 75g per day per person.

The company has also tried to encourage contractors to take part in this very beneficial program, and to date at least half of the harvesting contractors, as well as the company’s contracted nursery has started to provide the fortified breakfasts to their workers. Cape Pine buys the product in bulk, and provides it to contractors at the same price, ensuring that the contractors obtain maximum value. It is hoped that more of the contractors will also start to take part in this program, as they realize the benefits.

As forestry continually looks at ways to improve production and to decrease health and safety risks, the adoption of a nutritional supplementation system is seen as a cost effective way to move towards improvement. All forestry companies should consider the benefits of such a program not only to workers, but to forestry operations.

table 1

table 2

For enquiries email: kkirkman@globalenvironmentfund.com

NMMU George Campus Science Faculty graduates excel

graduates copy

Master’s students (from left) Willem Matthee, Aneri Vlok, Tatenda Mapeto, Taniia Strauss, Kate Southey, Albert Ackhurst, Hannes van Zyl and Barry Muller celebrate their success after graduating with MSc and MTech research degrees from NMMU George Campus.

A 10% growth in graduates at both postgraduate and undergraduate level, and a 44% increase (compared to 2014) in the number of qualifications gained with distinction, was cause for celebration at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s recent graduation ceremony in George.

Master of Technology degrees awarded in the Faculty of Science (George Campus) focused on research in the areas of agriculture, forestry and nature conservation, while Master of Science degrees were awarded for research in the areas of botany and zoology.

“NMMU George is poised for significant growth at postgraduate level. While the number of postgraduate degrees awarded from George Campus this year had doubled since 2014, the quality of academic mentorship/leadership is evident in the excellent graduate outcomes, with half of the postgraduate degrees being attained Cum Laude” says Prof Jos Louw, Director of the School of Natural Resource Management.

“Furthermore, we take pride in the fact that the School of Natural Resource Management continues to contribute competent graduates at National Diploma level. This year the Science Faculty programmes offered at NMMU George rendered a record number of BTech graduates for various niche sectors such as agricultural management, game ranch management, nature conservation, wood technology and forestry”, said Prof Louw.

Excellence in Forestry

The prestigious industry accolade for excellence in forestry – the Schlich Medal, Gold - was again awarded to a graduate from the NMMU George Campus, Ms Noxolo Ndlovu, who completed her National Diploma in Forestry Cum Laude, with an average of more than 80% annually for the duration of the three year qualification. Noxolo is currently registered for the BTech Forestry degree at NMMU.


Prof Quinton Johnson, NMMU George Campus Principal, Noxolo Ndlovu (recipient of the Schlich medal, Gold) and Prof Jos Louw, Director of the School of Natural Resource Management.

Recent Masters research at NMMU

Eco-coffins create jobs in KZN

eco coffins 1

The Eco-Coffins pilot-project was started in 2005 at the Cedara Agricultural College in Howick, Pietermaritzburg, to creatively address the three issues of water scarcity, unemployment and the exorbitant funeral costs in South Africa.

The project took off in 2005 with funding from the The Invasive Alien Species Programme (IASP) of the KZN Dept of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs (DAEA) and the World Bank. Since its start, the project has created over 60 jobs for previously unemployed residents in the area by training them in the manufacturing process to transform them into coffins with low environmental impact.


The Eco-Coffins Project is managed with the assistance of various government and civil society agencies such as the Working for Water Programme (WfW) and the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) in the UK. Since the start of manufacturing in 2007, they have produced over 12 000 coffins (currently +- 35 coffins per day at the Cedara workshop), cleared approximately 113 400 category two alien invader species (mainly pine, wattle and gum trees) in the Howick / Pietermaritzburg area and created jobs in clearing, carpentry and health and safety in the work place.

Although the production of coffins may appear to be a melancholic business, in South Africa where funeral costs can have a devastating effect on the poor; eco-coffins can dramatically assist by providing an affordable alternative. Not only do the coffins create employment for locals and assist with water security but they are also sold at just R300–R450 each as apposed to the average coffin, which can cost anywhere between R2000–R5000 alone.

Prominent South African politician, the late Professor Kader Asmal, was the first South African to commit to using a Cedara Eco-coffin in the event of his death (in 2011), and others have followed his example since. But despite the lower cost and support from influential figures, the biggest challenge for the project has been breaking into the competitive coffin market.

However, the project is gradually expanding and in 2012 an Eco-coffins workshop was opened up in New Germany in Durban. The skilled workers at Eco-coffins are also expanding their range of wood products to church benches, school desks and household and office furniture.

Actively addressing significant environmental and social issues specific to an African context, the Eco-Coffins Project is hoping to be replicated throughout South Africa in the near future. Perhaps with enough support, we'll see more of these projects coming to life and being sustained.


Examples of products by Eco-Coffins, Cedara, Kwa-Zulu Natal

Church pew made out of gum species

Above: Church pew made out of gum

Double combination school desk made out of gum species

Above: Double combination school desk made out of gum

Eco-Coffin made out of pine species – R300
Above: Eco-Coffin made out of pine – R300

Pulpit made out of gum species

Above: Pulpit made out of gum

*For more information visit www.impumelelo.org.za

**Images supplied © Impumelelo