Kwagga visits the Husky team

Husqvarna, a leading manufacturer of outdoor power products, continued its proud tradition of participation in Grain SA’s annual NAMPO agricultural exhibition in 2024. The event was held at Bothaville in the Free State, and provided the perfect opportunity for the company to engage directly with the farmers and landowners whose daily operations rely heavily on their products.

"NAMPO is a significant annual event for the agricultural sector and one that we never miss,” said Tim Isabirye, Marketing Manager for Husqvarna South Africa. “We have the privilege of meeting incredible people with extraordinary stories who use our products to improve productivity and maximise crop yields. For example, last year, we met Rahill Sodha, a 10-year-old budding farmer who visited our stand to buy his first brushcutter, and whose passion for farming at such a young age was an absolute inspiration.”

The theme for Husqvarna’s stand at NAMPO 2024 was: ‘Ons is aan jou kant’ – ‘We are by your side’, which underscores the company’s commitment to supporting farmers on their journey to success.
Husqvarna showcased their range of outdoor power tools tailored for small-scale farmers: from ergonomic tillers and sprayers to powerful generators, brushcutters and chainsaws.

A surprise visitor to the stand was Springbok rugby legend, Kwagga Smith, who credits his farming background for developing the mental and physical toughness he needs to perform at the highest level on the rugby field. Visitors were able to meet and greet Kwagga, who found time to pose for photo opportunities and sign a few rugby balls for fans.

For more information, visit www.husqvarna.com/za

Waratah unleashes new H216 head

Waratah Forestry Equipment has unveiled the H216 - a versatile new two-roller head added to its 200 series lineup. Built for hardwood, the H216 is strong enough to handle the toughest tree forms with accuracy and efficiency. Its simple design with excellent feed power, delimbing, and large cut capacity provide productive tree harvesting.

“The H216 is specially designed for hardwood,” said Brent Fisher, product marketing manager for Waratah. “This head not only provides our customers reliable performance in hardwood but is equally capable of handling softwood, debarking and everything in between.”

Weighing in at 1495 kg (3,296 lb.), this 200 Series head features a two-roller design ideal for hardwood harvesting, late or final thinnings. Floating roller arms allow for superior and easy tree horizontal movement and easy log transport through the head. High performance single or multi-speed options keep timber moving quickly.

The H216 features the efficient SuperCut 100S saw unit with improved auto tensioning and easier servicing. With large sawing capacity, this head can cut logs up to 750 mm (29.5 in.) in diameter, while an optional top saw tackles heavy branching. The delimb arms provide excellent delimbing power across all diameter ranges, while drive wheel options offer maximum traction for crooked wood. The H216 harvester head utilizes the TimberRite™ H-16 control system for optimum head performance, productivity and measuring accuracy.

Durable & versatile

The H216 is built to tackle the toughest, crooked timber to the straightest postwood and everything in between. While also naturally capable in softwood, debarking or multi-tree handling, this head is designed for efficiency and agility in thinning and harvesting applications with quick cycle times.

A heavy-duty main chassis saw box, as well as tilt frame and guarding, provide added protection and reliability. Maintenance is simplified through one position daily servicing and easy open/close hinges on the valve cover.

According to Jules Larsen, Waratah General Manager Distribution and Operations, the H216 will be available from the factory in November this year.

Jules says the head will be well suited for African conditions with its flexibility across many different applications.

Waratah heads are distributed and supported in Southern Africa by Mascor, Forestry Plant & Equipment and Afgri Equipmant.

For more info visit: www.waratah.com

New generation contractor makes his mark

Sabelo Sithole of New Age Forest Solutions.

At just 30-years-old, Sabelo Sithole is at the forefront of a new generation of forestry contractors servicing Mondi South Africa. Sabelo is the Managing Director of New Age Forest Solutions, a new harvesting business launched in 2021, which has secured a five-year harvesting contract for the Zululand area.

Sabelo’s journey in forestry has been deeply connected to Mondi from the start. During high school, he attended Protec, an extra-curricular maths and science programme that gives academic support to under-resourced rural schools. This programme has long been supported by Mondi, and Sabelo rose to the fore as one of his school’s top academic achievers. He was identified as a candidate for the Mondi Bursary Programme and made a successful application in 2012.

“To be honest I didn’t know anything about forestry,” admits Sabelo with a shy smile as he walks through a shady plantation in Zululand. Sabelo stops at the harvesting operation to check in on one of his Hitachi machines, which is cutting through a Eucalyptus compartment with great speed and precision. Here he continues his story…

“The first thing you do after receiving the bursary is go to a Mondi operation for work experience. This lasts a whole year and it’s really tough!” he remembers. “You do everything from general labour to planting, establishment, tending and harvesting … that’s where I started to know about forestry, to experience every different kind of work.”

From there, Sabelo went to study forestry at Nelson Mandela University’s George campus, where he completed a three-year National Diploma in Forestry. After graduating, he joined SiyaQhubeka Forests, and worked as both a harvesting and silviculture forester. It was harvesting that stole his heart.

“I decided to leave SQF and join a harvesting contractor so that I could specialise,” explains Sabelo. “The machines really fascinated me. I spent four and a half years at the harvesting contractor. Then I started my own business.”

Excavator equipped with a Ponsse head busy harvesting for Mondi in Zululand.

Sabelo was always looking for opportunities to grow, and he kept an eye on the regular contracting opportunities being advertised by Mondi and SQF. He began working on a business plan and registered his company New Age Forest Solutions in 2021.

“Working with a contractor helped me understand the business side of forestry. I started my business as the only employee – I was doing everything myself. When I won the Mondi harvesting contract last year, I had to hit the ground running!”

Sabelo takes a look at a stack of freshly cut timber. He is happy with the neatly stripped and stacked logs. The soft-spoken young forester is brand new to business, but he has 10 years of operational experience, which puts him in a good position to guide the company.

“From the moment I made the successful bid on the contract, Mondi Zimele has assisted me every step of the way,” he goes on. “They believed in me and my vision for the business.”

Mondi Zimele, which is Mondi’s enterprise development unit, provided 60% of the start-up funding in the form of a soft loan and helped Sabelo consolidate his business plan so he could apply for further funding.

It took a few months to put a team together and acquire the assets needed to start the work.

In order to meet the contract of 140 000 tonnes per annum, Sabelo needed two harvesters, a forwarder and a loader. He went for Hitachi excavators fitted with Ponsse H7 harvesting heads, a forwarder with a Matriarch grapple and a Bell loader. Once his forestry equipment was in place and his team was mobilized, he commenced work in May last year. It was a dream come true.

The Bell loader, workhorse of the harvesting operation.

The Mondi perspective
Cindy Mji is the Mondi Zimele Business Development Manager responsible for the Zululand area. She has been engaging with Sabelo from the time he won the contract.

“Supporting Mondi contractors has many benefits,” she explains as she sits on the back of a bakkie with Sabelo, while the harvester hums in the distance. “Developing new contractors is important for job creation and economic development, which helps to build healthy communities in the forestry footprint. But it is also crucial that we empower up-and-coming contractors to ensure the sustainability of the supply chain for Mondi,” she explains.

“This is part of Mondi’s broader strategy to develop new contractors in the forestry space. The strategy prioritizes transformation and succession planning. Being a young black forester, Sabelo was the perfect candidate, and he has a bright future in the business,” she concludes.

Sabelo adds that the business development support encourages continuous improvement, growth and development. Cindy has helped him set out short, medium and long term goals that go beyond the scope of the Mondi contract.

Excavator equipped with a Ponsse head busy harvesting for Mondi in Zululand.

“MZ helps you to be a visionary,” Sabelo says with a smile.

“Although we are just beginning our journey, I am very excited and proud of our achievements. We have 20 employees, and four machines running 24/7. That’s 20 families that are benefitting from this work. We are looking to add more employees and grow the business even further.”

Story and photos by Samora Chapman

Bell Equipment appoints Ashley Bell as new CEO

Bell Equipment’s new CEO, Ashley Bell.

Bell Equipment has appointed Ashley Jon Bell (41), grandson of the company's founder Irvine Bell, as the new Group Chief Executive Officer effective from 1 January 2024.

This follows the resignation in July of the outgoing Group CEO, Leon Goosen, who leaves the company after 16 years of service, five and a half spent as Group CEO.

Ashley is well acquainted with the company having served as a non-executive director on the Board since 2015 and has provided valuable input as a member of the Board’s Risk and Sustainability and Social, Ethics, and Transformation committees.

A qualified commercial helicopter pilot, Ashley holds a degree in business management and has previously worked for Bell Equipment after graduating in 2007 assisting with product marketing management of the Bell Articulated Dump Truck and Backhoe Loader ranges. Since then, he has jointly established and managed several successful businesses in various industries.

He co-founded Matriarch Equipment with his brother, Justin Bell in 2009. The company focused on developing innovative equipment - including the Matriarch Fastfell and Skogger - for a wide spectrum of industries and enjoyed notable success in agriculture and forestry due to its ‘customer-centric’ approach and quick turnaround of niche solutions. Bell acquired Matriarch in 2019 as part of its strategy to revitalise its presence in the agriculture and forestry industries and Matriarch products now fall under the Bell brand.

Ashley Bell introduces the Matriarch Skogger to foresters at a Focus on Forestry field day in 2017. It was developed under the Matriarch banner by Ashley and his brother Justin Bell, and is now manufactured and distributed by Bell Equipment.

Gary Bell, non-executive chairman of Bell Equipment, congratulated Ashley on his appointment. “Ashley joins a sizeable team representing the third generation of the Bell family actively engaged in the business and it’s heartening to see the next generation stepping up to play an integral role in the future of the company. Having worked closely with Ashley for several years he has all the personality traits and credentials we need, is well aligned with the Board’s strategy, and is a good fit to lead our experienced management team. I have every confidence that he will build on our family legacy with dedication and a passion for the business. On behalf of the rest of the Board, we congratulate Ashley on his appointment and look forward to working with him in his new role and contributing significantly to our continued success and growth."

Ashley Bell said: “I am fortunate to have grown up in an environment where Bell Equipment has been a central theme, and I am both honoured and excited to step up as Group CEO. I look forward to working with the entire Bell team, supported by our customers and suppliers, to ensure we execute our group strategy and make a positive impact for all stakeholders. I would like to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to the Board for the trust and confidence they have shown in me taking on this role.”

More support for emerging contractors required

Silviculture contractors at work …. It’s a challenging environment for running a business!

Emerging forestry contractors in South Africa are in urgent need of support in order for them to make a go of their businesses. This theme became the centre of lively discussion at the SA Forestry Contractors’ Association AGM that was held at the Hilton Hotel in the KZN midlands recently.

Most of the members who attended the AGM were of the opinion that forestry contracting is an extremely tough business that requires a seasoned and experienced hand at the tiller in order to be successful. With the increasing mechanisation of forestry operations, contractors are more often than not required to borrow heavily from financial institutions in order to purchase the equipment required to fulfil their contractual obligations. This leaves them with little room for trial and error, and in the forestry environment there are so many variables at play that errors are going to be made.

Compounding the challenges that contractors face, many of the foresters appointed to ‘manage’ the contractors are themselves short on experience, and as a consequence they are unable to contribute to the solving of problems and are prone to make unreasonable demands on contractors at times.

By way of example – a contractor provides the costing for a weeding operation, based on a low level of weed infestation in a compartment. But the managing forester only gives the contractor the green light to commence the weeding operation several weeks or months later by which time the weeds are above waist high, and the original costing model is no longer adequate.

“Contractors are being set up to fail,” was a frequently heard refrain during the discussions at the AGM.

SAFCA’s new incoming CEO, Roger Johnston, himself an experienced forestry contractor, urged experienced contractors to reach out and provide emerging contractors with help, advice and support at every opportunity.

Contractor mentorship programme

A presentation at the AGM by Brad Shuttleworth of Forestry Solutions which focused on a contractor mentorship and support programme offered by his company, sparked the discussions that ensued.

Brad Shuttleworth of Forestry Solutions … offering a comprehensive contractor mentorship support programme.

“As part of the South African forestry companies’ Enterprise and Supplier Development programmes, their objective is to enhance supplier and beneficiary productivity and efficiencies in their operations. In many instances the companies identify and appoint contractors based on their own selection criteria,” said Brad.

“Once appointed the forestry contractors are expected to hit the ground running and frequently do not receive the support from the company foresters as, firstly, they are seen as independent contractors, or the company foresters do not have the time or in many instances the knowledge and expertise to mentor and assist their contractors in managing or developing their businesses.”

Brad said that experienced forestry consultants and contractors need to be mobilised as technical service providers to conduct business assessments and to provide management and operational mentorship to the identified forestry contractors.

Forestry Solutions offers a comprehensive and practical three-phase approach that covers a broad range of issues including general and legal compliance, safety, costing, risk assessments and operational planning, financial management, supervisor training, operational best practices, market linkages and expansion, continuous improvement and sustainability.

There followed some discussion among SAFCA members as to the best way to approach these challenges, and it was concluded that the association should engage with Forestry South Africa in an effort to get the forestry growers behind a contractor mentorship and support initiative.

Digitalisation of forestry operations

Muedanyi Ramantswana of Nelson Mandela University provided an overview of the forestry programmes offered at the university’s George campus. He also gave a presentation on the ‘digitilisation’ taking place in the forestry space, and demonstrated a software programme currently under development, called ForestTabs, that provides a digital platform for managing, monitoring and measuring silviculture operations.

Muedanyi Ramantswana is a Senior Lecturer and Forestry Programme Co-ordinator at Nelson Mandela University.

Finally, a presentation by Rikus Smith of Forestry & General Insurance Brokers provided useful insights into the nuts and bolts of ‘public liability’ and ‘spread of fire’ insurance required by forestry contractors.

FOCUS ON FORESTRY 2023

Simon Shackleton (left) of John Deere provides insight into the impressive JD eight-wheeled harvester that was on show at the field day. Operating the harvester for the demo was CMO’s mechanised harvesting instructor Gilbert Khumalo.

New forestry equipment, strategies & insights

The big international forestry brands plus local equipment manufacturers and service providers as well as mulchers, chippers and grinders made their presence felt at the Focus on Forestry 2023 event held in the picturesque KZN midlands in early November. Against the backdrop of the magnificent Karkloof mountains and surrounded by Sappi’s well kept gum and pine plantations, forestry stakeholders gathered from far and wide to see the latest equipment up close and gain some keen insights from dozens of presentations that covered just about every aspect of the forestry business.

There was also a lot of networking, socialising and catching up with old friends on the fringes of the conference, as there has been a long gap since the last Focus event that was held before COVID hit.

The overall message from the conference was that forestry businesses have and will continue to encounter hard times in the form of international trade disruptions, weak economic cycles, logistics bottlenecks, rising input costs, fires and extreme weather events, but at the end of the day forestry is part of the solution for many of the world’s biggest challenges and is on an upwards trajectory.

In his keynote address, Dr Ole Sand, Managing Partner of Criterion Africa Partners (CAP), which has invested millions of dollars in forestry businesses in sub-Saharan Africa, says forestry assets have been and are still undervalued. But the positive impacts forestry makes on the global climate balance, the protection of biodiversity, employment and infrastructure are in the early stages of being recognised, valued and monetized.

(Left to right) Mark Barnado, manager of Sappi’s KZN plantations, Dr Ole Sand of Criterion Africa Partners, who delivered the keynote address, and Michal Brink of CMO.

He said plantations constitute just 3% of global forest area, but account for 47% of global industrial roundwood supply, while natural forestry is already beyond capacity. The demand for industrial roundwood is expected to increase by 600 – 900 million m3 per year by 2050.

Africa is a continent where forestry plays a massive role in providing people with goods and services, but there is a critical need for more efficient and more sustainable management practices.

Population growth in Africa is driving wood demand and unsustainable forest use. The continent accounts for 20% of total global wood consumption and 36% of global fuelwood consumption. However much of Africa’s fuelwood production is unsustainable, said Dr Sand.

He said subsistence agriculture is the biggest driver of global deforestation. In Africa natural forests are harvested beyond capacity, and as a result deforestation and degradation is continuing.

“Fuelwood consumption with charcoal the driver will continue, while new plantation development that is taking place is insignificant.”

In this regard, he says that the private sector is doing a better job managing plantations than the state.

Dr Sand said that the CAP team believes there are only two solutions: scale up smallholder plantation development, and improve efficiencies in charcoal production.

He says the scarce resource in African forestry is knowhow and management capacity – not capital.

“When given the market opportunity, smallholders will respond,” he concluded.

Wayne le Roux of Hintech, proudly South African manufacturers of a range of grabs as well as the Urus cable yarding systems, loaders, loggers and shovel yarders.

Wood replacing fossil fuels

“Everything made from fossil fuels today can be made from a tree tomorrow,” said Brazilian forest engineer Marcos Wichert of Stora Enso.

Intensification of forest management is happening, producing more from less is the objective, while making forests more resilient by:-

• Reducing use of agro-chemicals
• Improving soil health
• Reducing CO2 emissions.

Forestry operations are developing fast with GPS devices on planting tubes and even spades to map each tree, AI thinning selectors on harvesters, remote machine operation and unmanned autonomous timber trucks.

And the new frontier, he suggests, is about gaining a better understanding of the role of beneficial microbes and fungi in the soil. At the end of the day growing anything - including trees – is all about soil health.

Empowering smallholders

Michal Brink of CMO endorsed Dr Sand’s opinion on the role of smallholder tree farmers.

“Future forestry expansion will be driven by smallholders, because the land belongs to communities,” said Michal.

The role of corporates is to serve as anchors to support and empower smallholders.

He says CMO is providing simple, affordable and scaleable solutions to enable smallholders to get their operations certified.

“Empowered smallholders are the vehicle to expansion of sustainable plantation forestry into the future,” he concluded.

ProMac is another proudly SA made logger manufactured in Richards Bay.

Resilient forestry

Independent forester Michael Henson talked about resilient forestry and the fact that reducing the risk of failure is much more than just about site and climate.

He said clones are “impressive when they work, and equally impressive when they fail”, and are a “roll of the dice” as they have a very restricted genetic base and carry a higher biosecurity risk than seeds which are genetically more diverse.

Nelly Ndlovu of Mondi Zimele spoke of the need to do more research into agro-forestry to help small-scale growers to improve their cashflow.

Bongiwe Mafuya of Emabhaceni Development and Nature Solutions described how clearing of alien vegetation in the Eastern Cape has created jobs and improved rangelands and agricultural fields. Further good news for the community is that since the alien plant removal, the local river is flowing freely again.

Philip Hall of Mbombela-based Forestry Plant & Equipment shows off the Summit grapple carriage for high productivity yarding. It even comes with a camera attached so the operator can follow the load safely to the landing.

FPA’s on the edge

Addressing the perennial topic of fires in forestry, Ian Henderson lamented the lack of support for FPAs from the Forestry Department and the fact that only 46% of state owned landholders are members of FPAs, while private sector membership is keeping many FPAs afloat. He suggested small FPAs should join forces to establish bigger, more viable FPAs.

Gideon van Lill of Amathole Forestry explained how they reduced fire damage in their Eastern Cape plantations from 5 894 ha burnt between 1999 to 2004 while it was under Safcol management– to 340 ha burnt between 2005 to 2023 while under Amathole Forests management. The key, he said, was meticulous, detailed risk assessment and a very focused and structured approach to risk reduction. Also improved, co-ordinated involvement of external role players.

Andre Scheepers from Anco Manufacturing displays the new bakkie-sakkie made in SA and equipped with a Husqvarna pump for powerful fast-action firefighting.
Andre Scheepers of Anco Manufacturing talks up the advantages of their 4000 litre high tech firefighting unit which comes complete with all the bells and whistles.
Side-view of the Anco firefighting unit.

PBS trucks

The sudden termination of the highly successful PBS truck pilot project by the Department of Transport in September 2023 - without giving any reasons - has put forestry logistics at the crossroads. The benefits of the PBS timber trucks to growers, to the economy, to the environment and to the safety of road users has been plain to see.

“With freight rail in South Africa failing us, the PBS trucks have saved our lives,” said Francois Oberholzer of Forestry South Africa.

He acknowledged that the ‘Pilot Project’ status of the PBS trucks had to end at some point, and is hopeful that the programme’s termination signalled that the PBS trucks would be absorbed into the legislation so that they can continue to improve the efficiency of road transport.

Francois said that 56% of conventional trucks currently operating on SA’s roads would not pass the PBS safety tests.

Loggers and loaders from Zululand-based Bell Equipment.

Rail

David Taylor of Tailor Rail company expressed his optimism that private sector participation in freight rail in South Africa is coming, but that the stakeholders need to move forward with extreme caution as there are multiple infrastructure and operational challenges.

By the way, 170 metres of cable theft takes place in SA every hour of every day. That is just one of the challenges that freight rail operators will face. Will we see the return of the green uniforms of the Railway Police?

One-pass harvesting

Andrew Cooper of Mondi explained their journey to single-pass harvesting. This has largely been achieved with extensive trial and error and working closely with the manufacturers of harvesting heads.

The aim is to reduce stem processing time, wear and tear on equipment, and stem damage. He reckons that two to four tons of fibre per hectare is lost from excessive stem damage during multiple-pass processing.

The trick is variable pressure control on the rollers which need to be finely tuned to the tree characteristics and conditions at the time of harvesting, coupled with fewer rollers and more knives.

The heads endorsed for one-pass harvesting are:-
• SP 661E
• Waratah H225E
• Log Max E6
• Ponsse H7 Euca

Andrew said that the system balance is critical, and edge trees are a problem for one-pass harvesting.

“The journey to one-pass harvesting is very complicated and difficult to manage, but very worth it in the end,” he said.

Major learning: one size DOES NOT fit all.

Waratah head, mounted on a purpose-built John Deere harvester, is one of the iconic global brands.
New Ponsse head capable of rotating through 360 degrees with members of the local and international Ponsse support team (extreme right) Janne Tarvainen of Ponsse Finland, and second right Chris Odendaal of MTS Parts, principle Ponsse dealer in South Africa, based in Mbombela, Mpumalanga.
The Log Max 10000 XT head for extreme heavy duty logging, attached to a Tigercat tracked harvester, distributed and supported in South Africa by AfrEquip.

Biomass processing

Willem van der Merwe of Africa Biomass Company is a pioneer of chipping, mulching, grinding, shredding and billeting everything from post-harvest forestry slash to prunings, bush clearing and alien vegetation reduction in forestry and agriculture.

He says three hectares of cleared alien vegetation gains enough water savings to irrigate one ha of farmland.

Furthermore, 1.7 tons of good quality woodchips has the same energy value as one ton of coal, and reduces the carbon footprint by 95%.

He says markets for processed biomass material need to be found close by, on farms, in factories and in local small towns where more and more opportunities are opening up.

The big Bandit chipper, dubbed the ‘Beast’, reduced medium-sized pine logs to a neat pile of woodchips with effortless ease. It is operated by Africa Biomass Company.
This is the business end of the Bandit chipper …
SA manufactured Wuhlf 960-2 mulcher put through its paces at the field day by Grant Moodley.

Community-focused carbon project

Candice Taylor of the New Forests Company provided insights into a community-focused carbon project in Uganda which will provide small-scale growers with additional income from carbon credits earned in their operations. One of the objectives of the project is to encourage the small growers not to harvest their trees too early before they reach maturity, which is what they tend to do in an effort to boost their cashflow.

She said the project has taken three years to monetize, and will take five years to break even.

“Carbon shouldn’t be your side business – it should be a part of your core business,” she said.

And finally a word of advice: beware of the ‘carbon cowboys’ … so-called expert consultants who charge a fortune when you can do it yourself with a bit of effort. It’s complex, but it’s not rocket science.

Fanie Viljoen (left) and Jacques van der Watt of George-based Novelquip Forestry with one of their pitting attachments.
Jody Ivins of KZN midlands-based LP Engineering with one of their grabs … they also support Ponsse harvesting equipment in the Midlands.

SA Forestry 2024 Desktop Calendar NOW AVAILABLE

To order your copy of the iconic SA Forestry 2024 desktop calendar, send a request by email to:-
chris@saforestryonline.co.za

Please state your name, contact number and delivery details.

We can arrange for delivery by door-to-door courier, PostNet to PostNet, or SA Post Office – please indicate your preference.

COST: R 75 PLUS cost of delivery

The calendar includes:-

• 12 months: January – December 2024
• Stats about forestry in South Africa
• Fire Danger Index
• FPA contact details
• Forestry Directory
• Useful forestry info, including:-
Conversion tables
Moisture loss calculator
Slope & gradient
Planting spacement
Thinning regimes

Wattle field day in Eswatini

Wattle growers at the field day networking and watching demo’s of forestry tools.

A successful wattle field day jointly organised by Eswatini-based Montigny Investments and South African-based NTE was held at Mhlambanyatsi in Eswatini recently, attended by around 60 enthusiastic tree farmers and stakeholders.

The aim of the field day was to promote co-operation and networking between stakeholders involved in forestry business across the border, and to share ideas about how to grow and market wattle timber and bark effectively.

Eza Mapipa of NTE said that Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) has good growing conditions for wattle, and that co-operation and collaboration between wattle growers, processors and marketers across the border was important in order to expand the resource into the future. Montigny has vast areas planted to wattle in Eswatini, and there are many small scale wattle growers active there as well, said Eza.

Presentations from invited guests from forestry businesses were followed by a field visit to a Montigny wattle plantation with live demonstrations of latest equipment and methods.

NCT Forestry’s Craig Norris discussed the importance of good land preparation for planting wattle with quality pits and good planting techniques. He also touched on the need for effective after-care and weed control to ensure productive, uniform stands.

Erich Jacobs of Sunshine Seedlings shared info about sourcing good quality planting stock and how to look after the seedlings on their journey from nursery to field. It is crucial to transport them carefully so that seedlings are not damaged in transit. He said they should be kept in a shaded area and watered regularly so they don’t dry out before they are planted.

The Stihl hand-operated earth auger makes good quality, uniform pits for planting trees.

The Stihl team demonstrated the use of a Stihl earth auger for creating uniform pits for planting, and also the effectiveness of the Stihl MS 260 chainsaw that is light but powerful and well suited to forestry work.

Callum McKenzie of Pietermaritzburg-based Silvix Forestry demonstrated the use of various forestry tools including the Faka-Plenty hand-operated planting tube that enables a field worker to put a seedling in the ground and add gel to the pit without having to stoop down, as well as some highly effective spraying tools for effective weed control.

Callum McKenzie of Silvix Forestry demonstrates a hand-held sprayer connected to a specially designed backpack for effective weed control.

Cliff Walton of NCT shared info about Project Wattle Regen, a joint NCT and NTE programme that provides support to small-scale wattle growers in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands. These growers supply their timber to NCT and the wattle bark to the NTE factory at Hermannsburg.

William Aherin, Industrial Manager at NTE, provided some info on the wattle bark market, while Eza Mapipa shared insights on corrective pruning of young wattle trees to maximise growth and tree form. He also demonstrated the correct way to bundle wattle bark for transporting to the NTE bark factory at Iswepe just outside Piet Retief in South Africa.

Eza Mapipa of NTE demonstrates the correct way to bundle wattle bark for transporting to the bark factory.

Eza explained that the bark should be delivered as fresh as possible, preferably within 24 hours of harvesting. The bark should also be securely bundled with the white inner bark facing inwards so it is protected from exposure to the sun and weather. This will ensure top quality fresh bark that fetches a premium price.

ABC pioneering processors of biomass

Africa Biomass Company (ABC) has been a pioneer in the development of biomass processing such as wood chips, biofuel, and mulch in both the agriculture and forestry industries in South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa over the past two decades.

In 2004 Willem van der Merwe, founder, and CEO of Africa Biomass Company, bought a small, specialised tree felling company and used wood chippers to enhance productivity. Over time these services and equipment were used in agriculture, river rehabilitation projects, and lately also forestry, with a focus on biomass to energy and under canopy mulching.

ABC has grown to meet increasing demand for these services and now has nine production teams using the latest biomass processing equipment and techniques to process plantation residue, alien invasive trees, and encroacher bushes.

ABC specialises in providing contracting services in the following core operations: -

Land Preparation
Serrat mulchers have demonstrated their effectiveness as a comprehensive solution for land preparation before replanting. Plantation managers see this as the future of single-step preparation, replacing the previously used herbicides, burning, and manual labour, which were both labour-intensive and had a detrimental impact on the soil conditions.

Under Canopy Mulching and Fire Management
In South Africa, the practice of under canopy mulching is gaining traction as part of an integrated fire management strategy to reduce fuel loads, such as prunings. ABC is excited about the results obtained through multiple trials in various regions using the rugged Serrat mulchers to process fuel load in an efficient, cost-effective, and ecologically beneficial way to the environment. The Serrat forestry mulchers, available as part of ABC’s contracting fleet or to purchase, come in several widths and can process several diameters of material according to the client’s need.

Biomass to Energy
Correctly sourced biomass is environmentally friendly, renewable, abundantly available, and cost-effective fuel that can be combusted as a source of fuel to generate heat for a variety of applications. Typical sustainable sources of biomass are offcuts from sustainably managed commercial plantations, recycled orchard and vineyard residues, and most importantly invasive alien vegetation that is cleared as part of river rehabilitation projects. Harvesting unwanted alien vegetation increases water runoff, decreases the risk of bush fires, and contributes to the restoration of natural vegetation.

ABC is an authorised dealer for Bandit wood chippers, Serrat mulchers, Badger biomass equipment and Dezzi equipment. They are based in Worcester in the Western Cape and have branches in George (W. Cape), Kirkwood (Eastern Cape), Upington (Northern Cape), Parys (Free State), Tzaneen (Limpopo) and Nelspruit (Mpumalanga).

ABC places a high value on customer well-being and after-sales support, and each customer's operations are treated as unique, with custom-tailored solutions.

ABC are Gold Sponsors at this year’s Focus on Forestry Conference taking place at Karkloof in the KZN midlands from 7-9 November, and conference delegates are invited to visit their stand. ABC CEO Willem van der Merwe will address the following topic on Wednesday, 8th November at 11:55: “The latest biomass processing equipment and techniques available to process plantation residue, alien invasive trees, and encroacher bush.”

For more info visit ABC’s website at www.abc.co.za, their YouTube channel at “Africa Biomass Company” or contact the ABC head office at 023 342 1212.

For a full list of new and used equipment for sale, send an email to: info@abc.co.za

Big boost for the bakkie-sakkie

Compact and powerful … the new bakkie sakkie is a result of collaboration between Anco Manufacturing and Husqvarna.

Every land manager knows that early detection and rapid response is the best method for keeping your property safe from wildfires. Often the first person to arrive at a wildfire is a forester or farmer with a ‘bakkie sakkie’ which is able to get close enough to the fire to extinguish it before it gets big, dangerous and out of control.

Those precious few minutes provide a window of opportunity that can make the difference between a minor fire statistic and a major wildfire disaster. It’s at times like this that the forester/farmer wants to know that the bakkie sakkie on the back of his vehicle is armed and loaded and ready to deploy a jet of water with enough velocity to kill the fire quickly and efficiently.

Now two heavy-weight equipment suppliers - Husqvarna and ANCO Manufacturing - have collaborated in an exciting partnership to develop a highly effective, robust and reliable 'Bakkie Sakkie' mobile firefighting unit that is well adapted to combating veld and forest fires.

Ruan van Schalkwyk, Husqvarna's Area Business Manager for Limpopo and Mpumalanga, and the project's pointsman, explains: "The concept is simple yet remarkably ingenious. ANCO designed a water tank engineered to be mounted at the rear of a bakkie (pickup truck). Powered by a robust Husqvarna multi-purpose engine (MPE) and a high-capacity water pump, the result is a mobile firefighting unit that can be rapidly deployed to combat fires, even in the most remote and challenging terrains.”

The key component of this firefighting innovation is the Husqvarna HH 163 MP multi-purpose engine, known for its reliability and robustness. It features a powerful 163cc petrol engine that is durable, water, and rust-resistant, making it ideal for the 'Bakkie Sakkie' unit.

“This engine is built to withstand the harsh conditions often encountered during firefighting,” says Ruan.
One of the standout features of the HH 163 MP is its optimised combustion chamber and air vent, resulting in lower fuel consumption and reduced emissions during operation.

Casper Pieterse, the Operations Manager at ANCO Manufacturing, says that the decision to partner with Husqvarna was an easy one. “The idea for the collaboration originated with Husqvarna South Africa’s Managing Director, Pieter Smuts. When it was presented to us, we recognised the potential of their product powering the ‘Bakkie Sakkie’, offering farmers a game-changing, reliable solution to the very real and ongoing threat of veld fires.”

Anco Manufacturing is a proudly South African company that specialises in the manufacture of a variety of fire fighting units and equipment as well as silviculture equipment used in forestry, such as mechanised boom planters.

By combining the ‘Bakkie Sakkie’ with the HH 163 MP multi-purpose engine that fits snugly on the back of a bakkie, farmers and foresters can respond swiftly and effectively to fires, making all the difference in containing a blaze before it escalates.

“Husqvarna has an impressive reputation for reliability, and we are confident that by combining our manufacturing expertise with Husqvarna’s powerful MPE, we have a dependable resource that will deliver optimal performance when it’s needed most,” adds Casper.

The partnership between Husqvarna and ANCO Manufacturing has positioned both companies as innovators in firefighting technology. Their commitment to creating an effective product that will assist professionals, as well as farmers in their firefighting efforts, showcases their ongoing dedication to finding creative solutions that also maximise safety. The ‘Bakkie Sakkie’ represents a new standard in innovation and another step forward in ensuring that first responders have the tools they need to access and attack fires before they get away.

For more information on the HH 163 MP or to view Husqvarna’s range of products, visit https://www.husqvarna.com/za/