Another state plantation handed over for community management

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.

Communities taking over management of state plantations

DFFE Minister Barbara Creecy (centre) and Deputy Minister Makhotso Sotyu (left) hand over the signed Community Forestry Agreement to Inkosi Silinga.

The Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, and Deputy Minister Makhotso Sotyu, handed over the management of three plantations to Eastern Cape communities at a function held at Butterworth in April.

The plantations – Mission (79 ha Eucalyptus), Nqamakwe (160 ha Eucalyptus, 35 ha wattle) and Mgomanzi (105 ha Eucalyptus) – were handed over to the Tobotshane, Amahlubi and Amazizi traditional councils following the signing of Community Forestry Agreements with the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE).

In the past three years, the department has facilitated the transfer of 27 plantations, totalling 6 210 hectares, in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal, as part of the implementation of the Forest Sector Masterplan.

“This is a milestone that requires commitment not only by government, but by industry and the communities taking over these plantations,” said Deputy Minister Sotyu at the handover function.

Deputy Minister of Forestry, Fisheries & the Environment Makhotso Sotyu addresses the gathering at the plantation handover function.

“Government, through the DFFE is expected to provide post settlement support to the communities, ranging from technical to financial support where possible. The industry is expected to support these communities through investments that will ensure that the plantations are managed sustainably.

“The communities on the other hand are expected to ensure that they protect these plantations and manage them for the benefit of all, which is why we have the Traditional Councils taking centre stage in the process,” she said.

The Deputy Minister encouraged the communities to take responsibility for managing these plantations seriously as they represent “a legacy for them and their generations to come”.

Inkosi Nyhila signs the CFA for the Mission and Toboshane plantations.

Role of traditional leaders
In her address Minister Creecy thanked the Traditional Councils for their support in facilitating the handover of the plantations, and outlined the broader strategy for transforming the forest sector.

“I would like to begin by thanking the traditional leaders present here today for their support and collaboration during this process. Inkosi Bikitsha, Inkosi Nhyila and Inkosi Silinga and their respective traditional councils were a key part of the establishment and finalisation of the community forestry agreements. Numerous engagements and consultation sessions were held with the traditional councils to tailor agreements best suited to the conditions of the relevant communities, which will maximise benefits and ensure the sustainability and continued prosperity of the plantations.”

She said that the support given by the royal houses demonstrates the vital role traditional leadership plays in facilitating government initiatives, making collaboration and project success more attainable.

Minister of Forestry, Fisheries & the Environment, Barbara Creecy, delivered the keynote address at the handover.

“DFFE has been actively pursuing community forestry agreements with various communities nationwide. These legally binding agreements are designed to ensure the sustainable management of community forests for the economic, social and environmental benefit of the communities involved.”

Minister Creecy said that the Forestry Sector Masterplan is also focussed on investment in the sector, with a target of R24,9 billion to be invested, of which R8.4 billion had already been invested at the time of finalising the masterplan.

With regards to employment, the masterplan has set a target of 100,549 additional jobs in the forestry sector, the bulk of which will come from new afforestation schemes.

To ensure that previously disadvantaged communities are included in the forestry value chain, the Masterplan aims to increase share of SME procurement in the sector.

“The Masterplan will also attract investment through issuing a call for proposals for the industry to support owner-growers, and encourage commercial players to partner with communities by providing opportunities throughout the value chain,” she said.

Inkosi Mkhatshane signs the CFA for the Ngqamakwe plantation.

Minister Creecy noted a number of requirements that communities entering into Community Forestry Agreements need to adhere to in order to ensure that the forestry resources are sustainably managed, and communities can reap the benefits:
• Traditional councils, on behalf of the communities are expected to manage the community forests sustainably so that they can yield economic, social and environmental benefits.
• An operating company owned by the community must be established to manage and operate the plantations. This will enable transparent procurement processes for strategic partners, adherence to land use regulations and the development of comprehensive management plans.
• The revenue from the plantations should be adequately invested and surplus be distributed equitably for the benefit of the community.
• Changes of land use are not permitted unless approved by the minister responsible for forestry.
Minister Creecy said that more CFAs are set to be concluded in the current financial year, with ongoing assessments of investment proposals from potential partners.

Inkosi Silinga signs the CFA for the Mngomanzi plantation.

New Chairperson leads revamped FSCC board

Leading the drive for transformation of the Forest Sector, Nelly Ndlovu (FSCC chairperson) and Makhosazana Mavimbela (FSCC Executive Director).

The Minister of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, has appointed a new Forest Sector Charter Council board, that will serve for a three-year term. The board is chaired by Ms Nelly Ndlovu, Executive Director of Mondi Zimele, and includes representatives from government, industry, labour and communities.

This is the third Council board to be appointed since the amalgamation of the Forest Sector Code, now Amended. The Council’s mandate is to encourage, facilitate and support the achievement of B-BBEE targets as set out in the Forest Sector codes, and to monitor and report on the Sector’s transformation progress.

Forest Sector Charter Council Board Members:-

Nelly Ndlovu, Chairperson (Executive Director, Mondi Zimele - Mondi’s enterprise development unit)
Makhosazana Mavimbela - Executive Director, FSCC
Michael Peter (Executive Director, Forestry South Africa)
Dwayne Marx (CEO SA Forestry Contractors’ Association)
Tanucia Coopasamy (Transformation Manager, Mpact Ltd)
Roy Southey (Executive Director, Sawmilling SA)
Lulamile Xate (Chairperson, Cape Pine and MTO Forestry)
Tshepo Makhene (Head of Projects, Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers Union)
Pierre Tullis (Operations Manager, SA Utility Pole Association)
Thandi Mokwena (Executive Director, Matsino Business Enterprise – small-scale forestry & processing business)
Kwena Komape, (DDG, Department Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development)
Lindiwe Mavundla (Director BBBEE & Policy Unit, Department of Trade & Industry)
Tyrone Hawkes (Vice-president Strategy & Business Development, Sappi)
Pumeza Nodada (DDG, Department Forestry, Fisheries & Environment)
Bruce Breedt (Executive Director, SA Wood Preservers Association)
Penwell Lunga (Executive Director Corporate Affairs, KAP Industrial Holdings Ltd)
Darryll Sauer (community representative)
Mlungisi Bushula (community representative)

Note: The appointment of the two community representatives to the Council has still to be confirmed.

Addressing the first new FSCC board meeting recently, Nelly Ndlovu had this to say: “Today marks for me, and I certainly hope for you all - a new dawn, an opportunity to help drive, facilitate and support the change we want to see within our sector. Whether it be building resilience within our communities, facilitating the development of skills for our sector, promoting diversity and inclusion - in particular women - across all spheres of our sector, or supporting enterprise development and the creation of economic pathways - all of which will ultimately contribute positively not only to our Sector but also to our country.

“The work of the FSCC is important, as it is through our work of driving transformation and facilitating the implementation of B-BBEE, that the purpose and character of our entire Forest Sector is magnified. So, as we begin our journey, let us always keep in mind the critical importance of our mandate.”

Commenting on Nelly’s appointment as Chairperson, FSCC Executive Director Makhosazana Mavimbela said: “I have not only known Nelly as a CEO of Mondi Zimele but have interacted with her on some of the FSCC initiatives such as CEO visits, She is Forestry SA webinars etc. I am personally excited to work with Nelly as she is vibrant, very knowledgeable, courageous, confident, and very influential, and more so a strong supporter of women empowerment. I am confident that I will be the main beneficiary of her exceptional leadership skills, her positive attitude and deep knowledge base about the South African Forest Sector.”

Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) is a legal imperative for all businesses operating in the Republic of South Africa. In the Forest Sector context, the B-BBEE imperative is given legal force through the Amended Forest Sector Code, 40803.