Job opportunity for a young, vibrant Forester who is suitably qualified, experienced and meets the following requirements:
• Physically fit • At least 5 years of experience in a harvesting operation • 3-5 years of experience working with mechanical harvesting equipment • Be able to Plan, Lead, Organise and Control staff • Work with little to no supervision • Must be willing to adopt a "hands on" approach • Must be willing to travel to various rural areas and be willing to work longer than normal hours • Must be willing to work night shifts when required
Minimum Requirements • Completed Degree or Diploma in Forestry would be advantageous, but not critical if the candidate has relevant experience • 3-5 years of experience working with Microsoft Office • Ability to communicate in isiZulu or isiXhosa • Unendorsed Driver’s License, Minimum Code 08 / B • Clear criminal record • Traceable references
In return, the company offers a competitive package and a company vehicle.
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.”
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 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.
“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
Can Safcol save Pietermaritzburg’s plantations?
The forests that surround Pietermaritzburg should be – could be – one of the city’s finest assets. If well managed they can yield a sustainable annual harvest of some 25 000 tons of timber and bark, provide visitors and residents with endless recreational opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, trail running and bird watching, while providing free ecological services in the form of fresh, clean water from the numerous streams that run through it.
Instead, over the past five years or so under the ‘management’ of the Msunduzi Municipality, the forest has become a major fire risk, a major alien plant infestation, an illegal dumping ground, rife with timber theft, and rapidly becoming a liability that produces little or no revenue for the city coffers. It has also lost its FSC certification, a globally recognised standard for responsible and sustainable forest management.
This scenario has been repeated in other municipal owned plantations in KwaZulu-Natal – such as Richmond – where forest assets have become seriously degraded under the management of municipal officials who appear to have little interest in sustainable forest management.
However after years of indecision, some sanity has at last prevailed and there is hope that the Msunduzi plantation forests may be salvaged. The good news is that the City has signed a three-year plantation management contract with the state-owned forestry company, Safcol, which has considerable experience in plantation management.
Whether the Safcol team has the will, the budget - and the time - to turn this plantation around, remains to be seen. Forestry is a long term business. Eucalyptus trees take eight years to reach maturity after planting, wattle trees take 10 years, and pine trees grown for sawlogs more like 25 years. So there is not a lot anybody can do in three years, unless the aim is just to extract value over the short term by harvesting standing trees.
It would take years of work and significant capital investment to rehabilitate the plantation, fix the roads, put in fire breaks, clear the alien invasive plants encroaching on tree compartments, conservation areas and wetlands, while all the time carefully re-planting every hectare that is harvested with good quality material. This is a job for forestry professionals with a long term interest. Getting the plantation back onto a sustainable management footing would generate significant revenue for the city, boost its image and tourism potential, and create dozens of additional jobs both on-site and downstream.
It is understood that Safcol will have an option to renew the contract at the end of the three years, provided they can demonstrate an acceptable level of service. This is the rationale behind the current short-term contract, which hopefully will become a more realistic, longer term commitment after the three years is up.
According to a Safcol spokesperson, the Msunduzi plantations will be managed by Thabo Ndhlovu and his team from Safcol’s Ngome plantation in KZN.
Commenting at the signing of the service level agreement with Safcol, Msunduzi city manager Lulamile Mapholoba acknowledged the difficulties the city faced in their efforts to manage the plantations, and lauded the agreement with Safcol as a “very significant development in the history of the city”.
Established in 1910 Pietermaritzburg’s commercial plantations were established way back in 1910 by the municipality, and originally comprised almost exclusively of wattle. Over the years some of the wattle was phased out and replaced by Eucalyptus and pine as the timber markets changed. The trees were removed entirely in some areas, to create the suburbs of Northdale and Woodlands. It currently covers an area of some 2 000 ha, 1 500 ha of which is planted to Eucalyptus, wattle and pine.
The plantation was managed by NCT Tree Farming from 1988 up until 2017. Under NCT’s management the plantation achieved FSC certification, a globally recognised standard for sustainable forest management.
During this period the NCT team, working in conjunction with the city's Parks and Recreation Department, started clearing the riparian areas inside the plantation, and embarked on a programme of planting indigenous trees. A number of local schools participated in the tree planting efforts, and the Wildlands Trust donated over 20 000 trees to the initiative.
This served to create a beautiful, natural environment that attracts a variety of birds and animals, and also creates a canopy that discourages the growth of invasive alien vegetation, thus making future maintenance of these areas easier and cheaper.
Unfortunately these open areas inside the plantation are now choked with weeds after the years of neglect, but the good news is that many of the indigenous trees planted during NCT’s time have survived and are still visible in between the bugweed, lantana and American bramble.
Plantation audit A report compiled by the Sustainable African Forest Assurance Scheme (SAFAS) team in 2020 following an audit highlighted the poor state of the plantations. The audit yielded 13 major non-conformances with the SAFAS standard. “This represents a drastic failure in plantation management,” stated the Report’s author, Steve Germishuizen.
The audit highlighted irregularities in the contractual arrangements regarding the silviculture operations and timber harvesting that was taking place at the time; dangerously high risk for severe fires due to poor plantation management; roads in very poor condition and getting worse; inadequate control of timber theft and the management of illegal dumping; lack of a programme to control and eradicate listed invasive plant species in conservation corridors, wetlands and buffer zones; and harvested areas not being re-established.
“It is clear from the findings that the Msunduzi plantations are in a severely degraded state and urgent action is required before the costs of restoring them become prohibitive and the plantations become a threat rather than an asset to the city,” concluded the report.
Despite the fact that the city officials had requested the audit by SAFAS in the first place in the hopes of achieving PEFC certification, they failed to respond to the Report and the SAFAS team never heard from them again.
The fact that Safcol is now managing the plantation provides a glimmer of hope that it can be rehabilitated to the point where it can once again become a productive asset and a jewel in the crown that serves the city of Pietermaritzburg and its residents.
More support for emerging contractors required
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.
“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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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:- firstname.lastname@example.org
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
Bell, AFGRI, Husqvarna equipment round-up
A mid-range spare parts option from Bell with 1 000 hour warranty; a 61 stump/hour Dipperfox stump crusher from AFGRI Equipment; and specialised, super protective new chainsaw trousers from Husqvarna, proudly made in SA …
Bell introduces mid-range BETA Parts Bell Equipment has launched Bell Equipment Trusted Alternative (BETA) Parts to give its customers a convenient and competitive alternative, endorsed by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), for their older Bell machines or when faced with budget constraints.
Bell Equipment Director of Aftermarket and Logistics, Aldo Mayer, explains: “BETA Parts has been designed to bridge the gap between new Bell Parts, being our premium quality parts designed to OEM specifications and used in production, and Bell ReMan, which are major components that have been remanufactured to meet OEM specification. New Bell Parts and Bell ReMan carry a one-year/unlimited hours warranty while BETA Parts has a six-month/1000-hour warranty.”
At the other end of the scale, Bell Used Parts are also available but do not carry a warranty.
BETA Parts was piloted with starter motors and alternators that were offered to a sample group of customers. They responded positively to the opportunity to be able to buy cheaper parts from Bell, and BETA Parts has now been officially launched and will be expanded to other parts and rolled out throughout South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, followed by the rest of the global dealer network.
“It’s all about giving our customers choices and being able to fully support their needs throughout their Bell ownership experience,” says Aldo.
“BETA Parts is the next best alternative to our premium new Bell Parts, our ‘alpha’ or leading parts brand, and we’re confident that our customers will benefit from being able to buy more cost-effective parts from Bell, especially since they are approved by Bell and carry less risk than other cheaper parts due to their Bell warranty cover.
“Choosing BETA Parts simplifies the purchasing process, offering a one-stop-shop experience that eliminates the need for customers to search and compare prices from multiple suppliers in their quest for savings."
Dipperfox stump crusher logs 61 stumps/hour The AFGRI focus this month is on the Dipperfox SC600 stump crusher mounted on a Wacker Neuson RT75 excavator. It’s an efficient combination that foresters can use to eliminate stumps in a compartment that needs to be cleared and re-planted. Removing old stumps makes it easier for subsequent mechanised operations to function efficiently, and also improves compartment access for fire-fighting units in case of a wildfire.
The original equipment manufacturers rate the Dipperfox at 60 stumps per hour. The AFGRI team that recently tested the Dipperfox mounted on the Wacker Neuson RT75 in a Eucalyptus compartment, achieved 61 stumps in an hour.
This equipment is supplied and supported by AFGRI Equipment, which has recently established a new branch in Tzaneen servicing the forestry industry. Premium forestry equipment supplied and supported by AFGRI includes John Deere, Waratah heads and ProMac three-wheel loaders.
Husqvarna opts for SA-made Chainsaw Trousers for maximum protection The Husqvarna South Africa team has introduced specialised safety pants for chainsaw operators that provide all round protection from chainsaw-related hazards. The trousers, which are made in South Africa to international standards, are also water resistant, flame retardant and acid repellent.
Studies reveal that just under half of all chainsaw-related injuries target the legs. This is why Husqvarna SA has introduced the chainsaw trousers as an essential addition to their arsenal of protective gear. Pieter Smuts, Husqvarna South Africa's Managing Director says that the chainsaw pants were a ‘passion project’ for him, and they purposely chose to use local manufacturers. “South Africans are talented, resourceful, innovative and our new chainsaw pants epitomise our faith in the synergy between innovation and local ingenuity," he said.
The Husqvarna chainsaw pants are designed to achieve a perfect balance between providing protection and comfort. Certified Class 1 – 20M/S, they face chainsaw speeds of up to 20 meters per second. Meeting the ISO 11393-2 international standard, Husqvarna Chainsaw Pants assures an unmatched safeguard, catering to both homeowners and professionals in forestry, arboriculture, farming, and the realms of green space management. Tailored sizing, ranging from waist size 77 to 132, weaves a tapestry of custom fit, fusing flexibility and comfort into a seamless union.
Husqvarna Chainsaw Pants are available through certified Husqvarna dealers or can be purchased directly from the official Husqvarna eCommerce site.
NCT’s small scale tree farmer of the year
Sydney Qedumona Hlanguza from the Umvoti tribal area has been nominated by the NCT Forestry team as their Small Scale Tree Farmer of the Year for 2023.
This is a prestigious award presented annually to tree farmers who display excellence in the management of their plantations grown on tribal land.
After spending 20 years working in the formal sector, first as a teacher and then with Old Mutual’s sales division, Sydney returned to his traditional home in Ntembisweni in the Umvoto tribal area where he bought a plot situated adjacent to his family’s ancestral land.
Initially he managed a small rural trading store but was eventually persuaded to try his hand at forestry, initially planting wattle on his land from seed acquired from NTE.
By the time those first trees reached maturity, Sydney had made contact with NCT’s Greytown District Manager, Cliff Walton, who helped him find a market for the timber.
This was the start of a long-standing relationship between Sydney and NCT, with Sydney becoming a member of the co-op in 2010.
Sydney continued to plant wattle on his land, and now also manages the wattle plantations on the adjoining land owned by his two brothers. He has a total of three hectares of wattle under his management.
Sydney has been instrumental in assisting the foresters from NCT and NTE to roll out Project Wattle Regen in the Umvoti tribal areas, which aims to support the small-scale growers to improve their productivity, and expand the areas planted to wattle.
Black wattle (Acacia mearnsii) is an ideal tree crop well suited to local conditions, and with ready markets nearby.
Most of the wattle timber grown in this area is marketed through NCT which has chipping and export facilities at the nearby port of Richards Bay. The wattle bark is marketed through NTE which has a factory near Greytown that turns freshly harvested wattle bark into tannin and adhesives, destined mainly for the export market. Wattle timber not marketed through NCT is also widely used by locals in many applications such as fencing posts and building material.
Sydney shared some of the many challenges he faces daily. Goats, cattle, and duiker breaking through his fences and seedlings being removed shortly after planting. Fire also is a constant threat and part of his management plan is making sure that he has good firebreaks during the winter months. He deals with challenges faced proactively and responds tactfully. He allows neighbours to collect firewood on his property in a controlled manner, this way he gains allies rather than enemies.
In addition to his forestry business, Sydney also runs a small side-business selling gas refills, lectures in Theology at a local Bible college, and is a speed-walking champion for good measure.
Sydney is a proud father of seven children. His older children are all in successful careers while he is still responsible for his last two who are both training to be teachers. Sydney’s wife works for the University of KwaZulu-Natal as an admin clerk.
He is a humble person who is always open to learning and improving. He considers himself a “student of life” and is always ready to take advice from people who know more about something than himself.
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.”
“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.
“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.
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.
AFGRI gets into forestry equipment AFGRI Equipment Construction and Forestry has opened a new branch in Tzaneen, Limpopo province, South Africa. The new branch is equipped to offer a wide range of forestry and agriculture equipment including John Deere harvesters and skidders, Waratah heads, ProMac three-wheel loaders, Dipperfox stump crushers, PALMS trailers as well as big brand construction and agriculture equipment.
AFGRI Equipment has appointed Pieter Bosch as the dedicated forestry marketer for South Africa. Pieter will be based in Tzaneen, overseeing the company's forestry portfolio. His extensive knowledge and expertise will be of great benefit to customers, as well as the AFGRI Equipment team.
Beyond forestry, the branch in Tzaneen also caters to the residential and commercial services sector, construction and agriculture industries by providing the comprehensive John Deere equipment range and AFGRI Equipment services.
According to AFGRI’s marketing manager, Etienne Meyer, it made perfect sense for AFGRI to take on the supply and backup for John Deere’s forestry equipment in South Africa as there is a 60% parts overlap between John Deere’s agriculture and forestry equipment.
“We know machines, and we know how to keep them running,” commented Etienne.
AFGRI has a big footprint in South Africa with 25 equipment supply and maintenance branches around the country plus 42 retail outlets. Specialised AFGRI forestry equipment hubs are located at Middelburg, Piet Retief and now also Tzaneen.
Contact the AFGRI Tzaneen branch on 071 647 6384 to schedule an appointment or discuss your equipment needs.
Ponsse goes electric Ponsse has unveiled its new technology concept Ponsse EV1 forwarder. Its fully electric platform is one important step on Ponsse’s journey towards zero-emissions harvesting.
The next step on Ponsse’s radar is to switch to fossil-free steel for the manufacture of their forestry machines.
To this end Ponsse has joined forces with SSAB, a Nordic and US-based steel company, who will deliver fossil-free steel to the Ponsse factory in Finland, starting in 2026.
This partnership will further solidify Ponsse’s position as a provider of sustainable forest machines and bring SSAB closer to its goal of establishing a fossil-free value chain.
“It’s great to have a reliable partner like Ponsse now joining our fossil-free journey,” said Lotta Ruottinen, Sales Director at SSAB Europe. “Joint efforts are needed to meet the challenging CO2 reduction targets in forest machines. Both companies prioritize sustainable solutions and will strive to make a positive impact on forest machines using SSAB Fossil-free™ steel, fostering innovation while respecting nature.
SSAB plans to revolutionize the entire steelmaking process, and aims to start delivering fossil-free steel to the market at a commercial scale in 2026 and to largely eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from their operations in around 2030. SSAB works with iron ore producer LKAB and energy company Vattenfall as part of the HYBRIT initiative to develop a value chain for fossil-free iron and steelmaking, replacing the coking coal traditionally used for iron ore-based steelmaking with fossil-free electricity and hydrogen. This process virtually eliminates carbon dioxide-emissions in steel production.
Ponsse has also unveiled their latest models of the PONSSE Scorpion Giant harvester, the PONSSE Mammoth forwarder and the PONSSE H8 harvester head.
Ponsse forestry equipment is distributed and supported in South Africa by MTS Parts, Piet Retief.
Mechanical tree pruner Green Projects, based in Lions River in the heart of KZN midlands forestry country, supplies and supports an interesting array of forestry equipment including Logset heads, Stihl saw chains and bars, ProMac cane and forestry loaders, Nokian tyres and Advaligno Patas tree pruners, manufactured in Germany.
The ProMac loaders, designed and manufactured in Richards Bay, are popping up all over the place providing stiff competition to the well known Bell loggers. Frank Uzzell of Green Projects reckons they are powerful and efficient machines, and as an experienced forestry equipment fundi he should know.
Green Projects also supplies and supports Logset equipment, manufactured in Finland. The Logset heads are versatile and efficient, and are highly effective tools attached to an excavator or purpose-built harvester.
The Advaligno Patas is a mechanical tree pruner operated by two people and powered by a tractor. It is attached to the base of a tree, and delimbs it cleanly in seconds. Very useful tool for delimbing pine or Eucalyptus. It can prune up to 15 meters, and in an ideal plantation site can do up to 100 trees in an hour, or so the manufacturers claim.
Frank also supplies an innovative anti-theft device that prevents fuel theft from any vehicle or piece of equipment.
See the tree pruner in action here:
Contact Frank for more info: 082 820 5701.
Chop-em tree fellers goes green Green is the colour of choice for Chop-em Tree Fellers of Benoni who recently purchased a brand new Sumitomo excavator from ELB Equipment, and promptly had it painted bright green.
Rather than the ordinary yellow finish on most excavators, Chop-em Tree Fellers owner, David Kretzschmar wants his equipment to be easily recognisable in the field as belonging to the specialist arborist business.
Having grown up in a tree felling and bush clearing family, David’s first recollections are of riding and sleeping in various types of plant equipment and trucks while his father went about his business. As a result, there is little that he does not know about plant equipment and along with his brothers Malcolm and Karl, can operate any type of machine.
And contrary to popular belief, arborists like David usually do their utmost to save valuable trees through careful pruning, tying, root containment and supporting trees with cables and other techniques, rather than chopping them down. They usually discuss options with customers and try to preserve them - especially indigenous trees. Only as a last resort or if trees are invader species will the axe – or rather the excavator - be brought out.
The Kretzschmar brothers are now planning to ‘green’ their entire fleet of excavators, stump grinders, trucks and saws.