Showcasing women in forestry

In celebration of Women’s Day in South Africa, She Is Forestry SA has launched the first four videos in a series aimed at inspiring the next generation of girls to stay in school and consider forestry and the myriad of career avenues it offers.

She Is Forestry SA, a non-profit forestry organisation promoting and uplifting women across the forest and forest product sector, launched the videos at their annual Women in Forestry webinar on 3 August. Their aim is to produce a series of videos showcasing all the potential careers found within forestry and related industries, from growing trees in a nursery to ensuring they reach maturity in a plantation while safeguarding the environment on which forestry relies.

Commenting on the initiative, Jane Molony, executive director of the Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa (PAMSA) adds, “As our sector looks to build its talent pipeline, initiatives like this one expose youngsters to a world of opportunities using a green, renewable resource – farmed trees – to support the economy, deliver goods to society and build communities.”

Being a Forestry Researcher: Meet Noxolo Ndlovu, a forestry researcher at NCT Forestry. Noxolo explains what life as a forestry researcher is all about and discusses some of the challenges she has faced and how she has overcome them to get to where she is today. Noxolo is an incredible role model and advocate for the forestry sector.

“People still have a 1970s view of forestry, that it is a male-only career path. This simply is not true,” explains Makhosazana Mavimbela, executive director of the Forest Sector Charter Council. “We have women working in every single conceivable role within the sector, from operating heavy machinery to conducting world class research. Women populate our HR, communication, finance and marketing positions, they manage plantations and nurseries, mills and lumber yards. Women own forestry businesses, contractor operations and small forestry-related enterprises. In short, there is a wealth of forestry opportunities just waiting to be explored.”

Each video follows a single woman as she discusses her role and the career path she followed. The women also explain some of the challenges they have faced along the way and how they have circumvented them.

Being a Forestry Contractor: Meet Zinhle Mbuyazi, a forestry contractor and owner of WSB Transport. Zinhle explains what life as a forestry contractor is all about and discusses some of the challenges she has faced and how she has overcome them to get to where she is today. Zinhle is an incredible role model and advocate for the forestry sector.

“The beauty of the videos is that high school learners watching them will be able to relate to the women they see on the screen. They are women who have come from rural communities and had to work hard and overcome obstacles to get where they are today. They are testament to what belief, determination and discipline can deliver, making them powerful role models for future generations to aspire to,” explains Forestry South Africa’s communication consultant, Katy Johnson, who was involved in the commissioning and production of the videos.

The videos came from a request made by several of the principals from the schools that She Is Forestry SA supports, who were experiencing high dropout rates among female scholars. They felt careers advice about the potential avenues open to women and positive role models already living these careers might help the girls to see the array of potential paths open to them, and help to decrease the numbers dropping out.

Being a Nursery Manager: Meet Nonku Ntinga, a nursery manager at Mondi South Africa. Nonku explains what life as a nursery manager is all about and discusses some of the challenges she has faced and how she has overcome them to get to where she is today. Nonku is an incredible role model and advocate for the forestry sector.

While a career day at each school was an option, it would not have been sustainable and would therefore have a limited reach. Thus, it was decided to commission videos that will be hosted on She Is Forestry SA’s YouTube channel SheIsForestrySA, and made publicly available. That way, any school, organisation, individual or group could access them and be inspired by the exceptional women and abundant career avenues found within the forestry sector.

“While these first four videos focus on quite obvious forestry careers – forester, nursery manager, forestry researcher and forestry contractor – we plan on commissioning many more videos to cover all the potential forestry career avenues, from environmental auditing to accounts, pulp processing to wood science and beyond,” says Katy.

“While this is a forestry initiative, She Is Forestry SA directors include government officials who will be taking this to their colleagues in education and suggesting this could be an initiative rolled out across other sectors. We believe forestry should be a trailblazer for something bigger, a multi-sector initiative to promote science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects to women and girls across the country by using real and relatable female role models,” she adds.

Being a Forester: Meet Yoliswa Phiri, a managing forester at Sappi Southern Africa. Yoliswa explains what life as a silviculture forester is all about and discusses some of the challenges she has faced and how she has overcome them to get to where she is today. Yoliswa is an incredible role model and advocate for the forestry sector.

*All video shot and edited by Green Forest Films / SA Forestry Magazine

Key forestry skills programmes & qualifications approved

Keren Biggs from LESH, conducting pre-assessments for entry into the current Forestry Supervisor Development Programme in Melmoth. These assessments may be extended to the newly registered Foreman qualification.

The approval of six new skills programmes and two qualifications is great news for workers and employers in the forestry industry as they provide a sound framework for upgrading key skills and competencies that will bring significant benefits for the industry. They also provide valuable opportunities for forestry workers to upgrade their skills and qualifications in a structured, relevant system, providing stepping stones for further studies that will take their careers to a higher level.

The following skills programmes were evaluated and approved by the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) in September:-

Chainsaw Operator323
Aerial Chainsaw Operator336
Specialised Chainsaw Operator315
Forestry Hazard & Risk Assessor435
Forestry Incident Investigator432
Forestry SHE Representative339

The SA Qualifications Authority NQF Committee has approved the registration of the following qualifications on the NQF framework:- 

Occupational Certificate: Forestry Production Foreman496119462
Occupational Certificate: Forestry Production & Operations Foreman4240119447
Brian Windt, one of the Qualifications Development Facilitators that were instrumental in developing the Chainsaw Operator Skills programmes, conducting critical chainsaw training with Sappi management and contractor supervisors in Bulwer.

“We look forward to implementing these skills programmes and qualifications together with our registered Skills Development Providers together with our contractors and industry role players,” commented Pam Naidoo of the SA Forestry Contractors’ Association. “We continue to champion skills development in the forestry industry for the upskilling of all our contractor and stakeholder employees,” she said.

Pam said that industry representatives had made good progress in the development of three new skills programmes that would be ready for registration by the QCTO in the near future, namely:-
• Silviculture Machine Operator
• Logging Plant Operator
• Small Power Tool Operator

The experts involved in the development of Forestry Skills Programmes include representatives from the following stakeholder organisations: Sappi, Mondi, SAFCOL, FITPA, SAFCA, FSA, Husqvarna, Stihl, FPMSETA, QCTO and Nelson Mandela University.

A chainsaw operator trainee demonstrating the correct way to fell a tree (Photo courtesy KwaMahlati Training).

NMU students representing Africa at international conference

(Left to right): Ronewa Sathuma and Avelile Cishe (NMU), and Irene Mathabela (DFFE Representative) at the International Forestry Students’ Symposium in Chile.

Two Forestry and Wood Technology students from Nelson Mandela University (George Campus) recently attended the 50th International Forestry Student's Symposium in Chile. This is one of the world's most prestigious forestry student events. The main aim of the event was to learn about forestry and the management of natural resources of Chile, with specific focus on the sustainability of the forest sector. Furthermore, the event was aimed at networking and exchanging ideas among different delegates from all over the world.

Delegates from over 30 countries including Germany, Czech Republic, Romania, Estonia, United Kingdom, Canada, Finland and Slovakia attended the event. NMU forestry students Avelile Cishe and Ronewa Sathuma represented South African and African students at the conference. This was made possible by funding assistance from the Nelson Mandela University, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environmental (DFFE), South African Forestry Contractors Association (SAFCA), Hans Merensky, and Forestry South Africa (FSA).

Some of the topics that were discussed in the congress included the future of forestry in the world, climate adaptation strategies, forest certification systems, wood science and wood products in support of the green economy, climate-smart forest technologies, forest trade and governance, water quality, and higher education policy and development. These topics are of significant value to the South African forestry industry.

"The South African forestry industry plays a positive role in the climate debate and other global environmental concerns like that of water quality and soil degradation," said Avelile, President of the NMU Forestry Students Association, who gave a presentation at the conference about the role of forestry in solving major environmental threats.

Participating in a tree planting event at the IFSA symposium.
IFSA Symposium delegates got together for a group photo.
Avelile Cishe with the full Symposium programme.