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.