Braecroft Timbers receives top forest management award

Celebrating the award of the Bushbuck Trophy are (left to right) Jaap Van den Berg, Logistics, Fibre and Resources Manager, Sappi; Sihle Ndlovu, Forester, Braecroft & CHEP SSA; Gordon McKenzie, Senior Manager, Forestry, Braecroft & CHEP SSA; Axel Jooste, Sappi FSC Group Scheme Manager.

Braecroft Timbers (a wholly owned subsidiary of CHEP South Africa) has received the top award for sustainable forestry management practices in their South African plantations from the Sappi FSC Group Scheme.

The Bushbuck Trophy was awarded to Braecroft Timbers recently in recognition for their exemplary sustainable forestry management practises. The company operates 18 plantations in South Africa with a total of 7 500 ha planted to pine species. The timber harvested on these plantations is used to manufacture and repair CHEP pallets that are widely used in the transport and logistics sector. The farms are located in the Bulwer / Underberg district and are within 90 kms of CHEP’s Weatherboard Sawmill. They are managed by Forestry Manager Gordon McKenzie and a team of experienced foresters.

CHEP plantation in the KZN midlands.

Braecroft Timbers has been a member of the Sappi FSC Group Scheme for the past 14 years, and has been the recipient of multiple awards acknowledging the organisation’s commitment to responsible forestry management practices.

The Sappi FSC Group scheme is part of the Forest Stewardship Council’s global network, which represents thousands of individual and member organisations committed to upholding forestry practices that safeguard and promote healthy, resilient forests worldwide. The Sappi FSC Group Scheme’s annual Member of the Year Award recipients are selected based on a yearly audit which measures compliance to FSC standards, and celebrates responsible forest management.

Braecroft Timbers first received the KwaZulu-Natal Award in 2014 and claimed the Overall Winner of the Bushbuck Trophy the following year. The organisation won the KZN Award again in 2017, and this year claimed the Overall Winners award for the second time.

CHEP pallets under construction at the Weatherboard Sawmill, KZN midlands.

"Winning this prestigious award from the Sappi Group Scheme reflects the effort our teams at Braecroft Timbers and CHEP put in to maintain the highest standards of forestry management," says Gordon McKenzie, Senior Manager, Braecroft Forestry. "This award demonstrates our commitment to help transform the timber supply chain in all markets we operate in by driving demand for sustainably sourced timber and responsible, regenerative forest management."

Forest certification compliance is an integral part of CHEP’s forest management strategy, and it’s no surprise that Braecroft Timbers farms have achieved dual certification by both FSC and PEFC.
CHEP’s unique pooling system epitomises the circular economy, with CHEP pallets being shared and reused (not sold) by clients in FMCG, Original Equipment Manufacturers and agricultural supply chains. Today, CHEP’s humble pine pallet underpins many of the world’s supply chains.
Ownership of its own sustainable pine timber farms in South Africa has provided the company with a reliable raw material supply and eliminated the need to import timber, which is time-consuming, expensive and environmentally unsustainable.

The familiar blue CHEP pallets used to store and move goods all over the world. These pallets are never sold, they are pooled and shared and repaired and used again and again.

CMO software used to tackle EUDR compliance

The CMO Group has announced a strategic partnership with AmSpec to facilitate the rollout of the European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) across Latin America using CMO’s state-of-the-art Empower and Tracer software applications.

The collaboration between CMO Group and AmSpec, a renowned provider of quality assurance, testing, and certification services, is set to revolutionize the implementation of EUDR across the Americas. EUDR, a vital regulation aimed at preventing deforestation and promoting sustainable land use, requires robust compliance mechanisms to ensure adherence. By leveraging CMO’s Empower and Tracer applications, AmSpec will be equipped to provide unparalleled compliance and monitoring services to businesses across the two continents.

“Providing EU Deforestation Regulation services is key in AmSpec’s dedication to sustainability. The integration of CMO’s Empower and Tracer software with our existing services will greatly enhance our ability to support businesses in complying with EUDR and ensuring traceability in our client’s supply chains. This partnership is a testament to AmSpec’s support of climate-positive services,” stated Matt Corr, CEO of AmSpec.

Michal Brink of CMO doing an FSC Group audit on small-scale growers in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.

“We are excited to partner with AmSpec to extend the reach of our cutting-edge compliance solutions across the Americas. This collaboration represents a significant step towards achieving our shared goal of promoting sustainability and regulatory adherence on a global scale,” said Michal Brink, CEO of the CMO Group.

CMO International, a diverse forestry company founded in South Africa, was in the news recently for successfully achieving FSC chain of custody certification for 56 smallholder rubber tree farmers in the Sabah district of Malaysia. This is the first time that smallholder rubber farmers in Malaysia have achieved FSC certification which ensures their products comply with the European Union Deforestation-free regulations as well as other similar policies and market requirements around the world.

CMO has also used its unique software solutions to good effect to achieve FSC certification through its Group Schemes for bush clearing operations in Namibia, as well as small-scale tree farmers and forestry contractors operating on tribal land in the Zululand area.

NCT beefs up Chain of Custody assurance

NCT’s Roger Poole and Eric Msomi inform the growers of the strict new chain-of-custody requirements. (Photo courtesy Mfundo Ngcobo/NCT).

Small-scale tree farming on tribal land in the KZN midlands is alive and well, as evidenced by an enthusiastic turnout at a recent NCT field day at the co-op’s Ahrens timber depot, near Greytown.

This was a combined field day hosted by NCT’s Greytown regional office for growers supplying their timber to the Glenside and Ahrens depots. Around 80 tree farmers from the surrounding areas attended the field day to hear presentations from the NCT forestry team.

The focus of the day was on the need for growers to comply with NCT’s chain-of-custody protocols which are designed to ensure that every stick of timber crossing the weighbridge at the depot is legitimate, can be traced directly back to the grower, and can be verified by NCT head office if required to do so.

The reason for the elevation of chain-of-custody assurance to ‘High Priority’ in this little corner of South Africa is the growing raft of regulations around the world that are designed to prevent any illegal or stolen timber from entering the global supply chain, and more specifically, to stop illegal logging and deforestation.

A well lined out small grower wattle compartment, Ahrens.

European Union Deforestation Regulation

Central to all of this is the European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) which came into effect in June 2023. This regulation requires that any product placed on the market or exported from the European Union did not result in deforestation anywhere along the supply chain, and that the products have been grown, harvested or obtained in accordance with the relevant laws of the country where the production took place.

The timber grown by NCT’s small grower members around the KZN midlands and in Zululand is sold as ‘controlled wood’ either directly as wood chips to markets in China and Japan, or to the Sappi-Saiccor mill on the south coast which exports the chemical pulp it produces to markets across the world. The wood chips and pulp are further processed abroad into paper and packaging materials or fabric, much of which inevitably ends up as finished products in the European Union.

The beginning of this global supply chain goes all the way back to every NCT member tree farmer who supplies timber to one of NCT’s depots – including the small-scale growers harvesting tiny one or two ha woodlots in Matimatolo.

The tree farmers took the news about the CoC requirements to heart. (Photo courtesy Mfundo Ngcobo/NCT).

Certified or controlled wood

In fact this regulation impacts upon every single farmer in South Africa that grows and sells timber that is used as raw material in the manufacture of products destined for mainstream global markets. This timber must either be certified by FSC or PEFC – or both – or at the very least must be sold as ‘controlled wood’ with full assurance of the legality of the whole supply chain.

Back to the Ahrens field day where the NCT team spelled out their requirements for purchasing members’ timber delivered to the depot. NCT is busy developing an app that runs on a mobile phone which will assist the growers to provide the essential info required to comply with their chain-of custody assurance. This includes taking and uploading a photo of the timber they have harvested before it leaves their plot on the short haul journey to the NCT depot. A marketer of clothing in Stockholm or Rome might request that photo to verify that the product he is selling has legitimate origins. Failure to be able to trace that timber all the way back to the grower would result in the mill gate being shut in the face of the timber supplier.

Another area of risk for the ‘controlled wood’ requirements of growers is the short haul transport from plantation to depot. Gone are the days when any old vehicle with wheels – licensed or unlicensed – can be used to haul the timber along dusty district roads from plantation to depot. If the vehicle and the driver and the load are not fully legal and legit, it’s game over. The chain of custody is broken and the timber cannot be sold as ‘controlled wood’. The mill gate will be shut once again.

Gone are the days of delivering timber to the depot with transport like this – Zululand circa 2008.

The growers attending the field day took the news about beefing up their chain of custody assurance pretty well. Some had questions around the difficulties they face in arranging suitable short haul transport, or navigating the technology required to use the app. But those are just some of the challenges that are going to have to be overcome if the timber supply chain is to remain intact.

Another state plantation handed over for community management

DFFE Deputy Minister Makhotso Sotyu (blue dress, centre) helps to plant a tree to commemorate the handover of the Mabama plantation to the traditional authority in Limpopo.

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries & the Environment (DFFE) is on a roll as another state-owned plantation is handed over to a local community to manage – this time in Limpopo province in the far north of the country. The 72 ha Mabama plantation – planted primarily to Eucalyptus species – is situated in the Vhembe district of Limpopo, and was handed over to the Mashamba Traditional Council recently.

The Community Forestry Agreement was approved in March this year by the Minister of Forestry Fisheries and the Environment, Ms Barbara Creecy, after numerous engagements between the Department and the Mashamba Traditional Council who had expressed interest in managing the plantation.

This is the 28th plantation to be handed over to communities since 2023, and the first in Limpopo province. These are small, Category B and C plantations many of which are not currently viable commercial enterprises as they have been poorly managed by under-resourced DFFE staff for years, and have been further damaged by timber theft and wildfires.

The handover of Category B and C state plantations is one of the commitments expressed in the Forest Sector Masterplan approved by government in 2022. The Masterplan maps out the growth, investment and transformation plan for the sector.

It presents the recipient communities with an opportunity to establish local businesses to operate and develop these plantations for the collective benefit of the community members. DFFE has undertaken to provide support to assist the communities to operate the plantations optimally and add value to the resource, and has opened the way for the involvement of the private sector to partner with the recipient communities.

Excited community members at the plantation handover.

“The Department takes cognisance of the fact that these plantations are not necessarily in a condition that is ideal for timber production purposes and require a lot of work and resources to turn them around,” commented DFFE Deputy Minister Makhotso Sotyu at the handover ceremony.

“I would like to make a commitment on behalf of the Department that we will provide the community with the necessary support that is required to make these plantations productive in future. It must be noted that these plantations are categorised as woodlots, and the Department will work with the affected communities to develop a plan that will ensure the management of these resources in a sustainable manner going forward.

“We commit to undertaking initiatives such as site species matching to determine the ideal species that can grow well in this area, provision of technical and advisory support services and training of beneficiaries to empower them with knowledge and skills of sustainable forest management. Furthermore, the Department can provide seedlings that will be needed to re-establish the plantations. These commitments are further outlined in the post settlement support package that is in the process of being finalised by the Department,” said the Deputy Minister.

“Where feasible, we will also try to link communities with strategic partners who will then assist with additional expertise and resources to recapitalise the plantations. The success of this project depends on the commitment of the communities in ensuring that the land is kept under forestry production,” she said.

FSA celebrates another successful year of business

Changing of the guard (L-R) Mike Peter (Executive Director FSA), outgoing FSA Chairperson Andrew Mason and incoming FSA Chairperson Buhle Msweli. Photo: Samora Chapman

FSA’s 22nd Annual General Meeting was held once again at the Fern Hill conference Centre in Tweedie in May, and was attended by a record number of members, forestry sector stakeholders and key office bearers from several government departments.

Andrew Mason handed over the FSA chairmanship to Buhle Msweli of the Small Growers Group as per FSA’s rotation policy, which has served the organisation well over the years. Duane Roothman of Sappi will serve as Vice-Chair for the year ahead.

In his opening address, FSA Executive Director Mike Peter, shared the good news that the Forest Sector has improved its BBBEE rating and achieved Level 3 for the first time, and that gender transformation efforts are bearing fruit in that women entering forestry programmes at tertiary education institutions in 2024 outnumbered men – also for the first time.

He also lauded the fact that the forest Sector’s engagement with stakeholders through the Public Private Growth Initiative (PPGI) is bearing fruit as the barriers impeding the progress of the Sector have been removed. However he cautioned that the hard work is not done as the sector needs to build on the opportunities thus created.

There were two excellent keynote presentations that kept attendees interested and provided fascinating perspectives on the road ahead for South Africa in general and the forest sector in particular. The meeting was held just a few days before South Africa’s general elections on May 29, and there was plenty of speculation as to what lies ahead for the economy and the country as the election results will have a massive bearing on the trajectory of our future.

Dr John Endres, Chief Executive Director of the Institute for Race Relations, presented the keynote address. Photo: Samora Chapman

The keynote presentation by Dr John Endres, Chief Executive Director of the Institute for Race Relations, appropriately titled ‘On the Edge’, provided a snapshot of the decline that has occurred across all South Africa’s economic indicators since 2008. This has resulted in low economic growth, fewer jobs, declining investment and the average South African is poorer as a result.

He said that the level of investment in the South African economy is way below what is required to turn the economy around because investors do not trust the direction that government policy is taking. Moreover the fact that almost half the people in South Africa are now receiving Social Grants coupled with an extremely narrow tax base, means that the South African economy is vulnerable and confidence is at an all-time low.

Katy Johnson (FSA), Khosi Mavimbela (Executive Director Forest Sector Charter Council) and Julia Rees (Dargle Poles). Photo: Samora Chapman

However our democratic processes still work and the looming General Election provides a glimmer of opportunity for political change. We may be entering a period of coalition politics which will be marked by volatility and an increasingly ineffective government, he said. The positive side of this coin is that it gives more space to the private sector to step in with solutions.

“The most successful political parties of the future will be the ones that manage coalitions the best,” he concluded.

Steven Ngubane of the Industrial Development Corporation provided info on the state development finance institution’s commitment to provide development finance for SMMEs engaged in the Agriculture and Agribusiness value chain, which includes forestry. He said the IDC plans to invest R1.4 billion in this sector over the next four years through their blended finance model. This model can be tailored to suite forestry which is a primary, low value and long term business.

Incoming FSA chairperson Buhle Msweli (right) thanks the IDC’s Steven Ngubane for his presentation. Photo: Samora Chapman

This model employs a 60:40 equity to credit ratio. This translates to an effective interest rate of 9% on finance packages up to R100 million, or 12% on packages up to R200 million.

Steven said that recipients of IDC finance packages are also required to invest their own funds in the enterprise, to ensure that they are fully committed to making it work.

After the business of adoption of the minutes from the 2023 AGM and the audited financial statements for the year ended 2023, attendees and guests were able to socialise and network at a vibrant cocktail after-party.

L-R: Vusi Dladla of NCT, Norman Dlamini (FSA), Tebogo Mathiane (Department Forestry, Fisheries & Environment), Freddie Humphreys (Land Bank) and Steven Ngubane (IDC). Photo: Samora Chapman

FSA Executive Committee 2024/25
Ex Large Growers Group
Duane Roothman (SAPPI) (FSA Vice-Chairperson)
Themba Vilane (Mondi)
Sean Brown (Merensky)
Itumeleng Langeni (MTO)
Sibalo Dlamini (SAFCOL)
Ferdie Brauckmann (TWK)
Penwell Lunga (PG Bison)
Gerald Stoltz (York Timbers)
Mark Armour (co-opted)

Ex Medium Growers Group
Andrew Mason - KZN MGG Chair
Murray Mason - KZN / S Cape
Heiner Hinze - Mpumalanga / Limpopo
Graeme Freese - Past MGG Chairperson
Danny Knoesen - Ordinary Member

Ex Small Growers Group
Buhle Msweli - KZN Provincial Chairperson (FSA Chairperson)
Musa Mcwensa - KZN Deputy Chairperson
Fhatuwani Netsianda - Limpopo Provincial Chairperson

Small-scale growers attended the FSA AGM in numbers. Photo: Samora Chapman
Dave Everard (forestry consultant and former Sappi Forests Environmental Manager), Hlengiwe Ndlovu (Sappi Forests Environmental Manager) and John Scotcher (environmental consultant for FSA). Photo: Samora Chapman
Linda Vilakazi (Mondi) and Sandile Nkosi (Sappi Khulisa). Photo: Chris Chapman
FSA’s Stefan Links and Ronald Heath. Photo: Samora Chapman
L-R: Katy Johnson (FSA), Roger Poole (NCT) and Jacqui Meyer (Timber Pesticide Working Group). Photo: Samora Chapman

HOT NEWS BYTES: Innovations and inventions for next level forestry

Enpower CEO James Beatty and Sappi SA CEO Alex Thiel celebrate the solar energy deal that will reduce Sappi’s carbon footprint in South Africa.

Sappi Southern Africa has concluded a milestone 175GWh per annum renewable energy Power Purchase Agreement with Enpower Trading, a NERSA-licensed private electricity trading company, in a move to reduce its carbon footprint.

Sappi’s decision to partner with Enpower Trading aligns with its broader sustainability goals and is a significant move towards attaining its Science Based Target objectives. By implementing this renewable energy solution at its multiple South African operations, it is expected that Sappi SA and Sappi Limited’s Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions will be reduced by 6% and 4% respectively.

The power supplied to Sappi will be sourced from SolarAfrica Energy’s 1GW Sun Central PV project which is located southeast of De Aar in the Northern Cape.

Power will be supplied as from the end of December 2025. The agreement initiates a first-of-its-kind PPA in which Enpower Trading will supply Sappi with a utility-scale renewable power solution over a five-year period, paving the way for an evolving strategic partnership between Sappi and the trading company.

Trees extract air-borne micro-plastic
Japanese researchers have discovered that trees can extract microplastic particles that drift around in the air we breathe. Professor Miyazaki Akane of Japan Women’s University has found that microplastic particles drifting in the air adhere to the surface of leaves of konara oak trees in Tokyo. More research is needed to gauge the full potential of how trees can serve as terrestrial sinks for airborn microplastics, but it just goes to show that we should never under-estimate the benefits that forests have on our world.
Wooden wind turbine blades

German company Voodin Blade Technology has unveiled the world's first wooden wind turbine blades, which could revolutionise renewable energy technology. These innovative blades, made from sustainable laminated veneer lumber, signal a shift away from traditional fibreglass and carbon fibre blades that are notoriously difficult to recycle.

Voodin Blade Technology CEO Tom Siekmann says that most old turbine blades end up buried or burned. "That's 50 million tonnes of waste by 2050 if we don't act. Our wooden blades make green energy truly green," he said. (Source: Energy Source & Distribution)

Hot, hotter, hottest
February 2024 was apparently the hottest February ever recorded globally. The EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service showed that February 2024 was 1.77°C warmer than the pre-industrial average (1850 to 1900) for the month, and 0.81°C above the 1991-2020 average for February.

February temperatures in South Africa were also above normal in the central and eastern parts of the country, about 1°C above the 1991-2020 average and about 2°C above the 1981-2010 average.

Hot February 2024 was the culmination of the hottest 12 months ever recorded — between March 2023 and February 2024 the average temperature was 1.56°C above the pre-industrial average.

Even though the 1.5 degrees C average temperature has been exceeded for the past 12 month period and there is no denying that the climate on earth is getting hotter, it has to continue for 20 years to be regarded as permanent. Earth is expected to officially cross this 1.5 degrees C threshold by the early to mid-2030s. (Source: Daily Maverick)

Tracking logs
Researchers at Fraunhofer IPM are busy developing a camera-based system that makes it possible to reliably trace cut logs back to their source. It uses the unique structures on cut surfaces like a fingerprint, matched with a unique ID stored in a Cloud-based database. This allows the tamper-proof identification of individual logs and trunk sections, even if the timber is mixed up during harvest and processing. This system will provide a fool proof method of tracking timber from forest to sawmill to secondary processing facility, thus meeting EU timber regulations and certification supply chain requirements. (Source: / WoodTech)

Re-cycling CCA treated timber
Scientists at Scion are hard at work figuring out how to remove CCA from treated timber at the end of its life, separating it into individual elements which can then be recycled. This is essential for the realisation of a circular economy, as CCA treated timber that has reached the end of its useful life is an environmental hazard unless disposed of in specialist facilities. The elements removed from the timber could be reused in electronics or compound metals. (Source: Scion / Friday Offcuts)

Wood into batteries
New Zealand-based CarbonScape is converting woody biomass like woodchips and sawdust into biographite which is used to manufacture batteries. The R&D behind this innovation is supported by Stora Enso, a leading provider of renewable products in packaging, biomaterials and wood construction. (Source: RNZ/Friday Offcuts)

The ‘cockroach’ drone
Swiss researchers have developed a new drone, inspired by cockroaches, which can push away obstacles – like the leaves and branches of trees - and move past them while in flight. The drone will be used to measure biodiversity in remote areas, including beneath the canopy of forests. The problem the developers encountered was that the drones start vibrating when they brush past flexible branches and vegetation. They found a solution in the body structure of cockroaches, which is streamlined and consists of low-friction material, which gave the drones the ability to navigate inside the forest. The developers also equipped the drone with spatial intelligence throughout its body to help it navigate through dense vegetation. (Source:

The drone is streamlined and made up of low-friction material, like a cockroach. (Photo courtesy

Robotic micro-factories
ABB Robotics is collaborating with UK-based AUAR to develop robotic micro-factories to build affordable, low energy timber homes. A robot cuts the timber into components and assembles them into units that are transported to site, enabling complete customised homes to be built in a matter of weeks. (Source: ABB Robotics)

Helicopter powered saw
A specially designed tree-trimming saw powered by a helicopter has undertaken its first successful trial in New Zealand. The heli-saw, owned by Lakeview Helicopters in Taupō, was trialled by The Lines Company (TLC) in a forestry block in Kuratau.

In just over an hour the heli-saw successfully trimmed 950 metres of radiata pine along a corridor housing a 33kV network line. Trimmed material was left at the base of the trees, leaving two blocks of trees undamaged from the trimming operation.

Keeping trees clear of powerlines is a big challenge all over the world - including in South Africa - where they can pose a major fire risk. Trimming tall trees by hand is a slow and painstaking business – especially in steep terrain - and the trial showed that the heli-saw technology has great potential to boost productivity.

Trimming edge trees next to powerlines is preferable to felling them, which opens up forestry blocks to wind. (Source: The Lines Company)

The heli-saw is hitched to the helicopter in preparation for the trial. (Photo courtesy of The Lines Company)
The heli-saw in action in New Zealand. (Photo courtesy of The Lines Company)
Trees trimmed by the heli-saw to ensure the safety of the powerline. (Photo courtesy of The Lines Company)

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:


In Jan 2024 a new pest was discovered to be attacking Acacia mearnsii trees in KZN. It has been identified as a weevil, Melanterius species...

Communities taking over management of state plantations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inkosi Mkhatshane signs the CFA for the Ngqamakwe plantation.

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

Inkosi Silinga signs the CFA for the Mngomanzi plantation.

Responsible forestry - the antidote to plastic

While life without plastic might be hard to imagine, there is a renewable, recyclable and sustainable alternative to single-use plastics and many other fossil fuel derivatives: wood from responsibly managed plantations and forests. This is the message from Forestry South Africa (FSA) ahead of the 54th annual Earth Day (22 April 2024).

“Since inception in 1970, Earth Day has grown into one of the largest civic events. Against the theme Planet vs Plastic, the need for solutions to ensure the health of the planet could not be more urgent, especially when it comes to dealing with the proliferation of plastic,” says FSA’s Dr Ronald Heath, adding that farmed trees have the unique potential as the starting block for countless materials.

A host of fossil-fuel derived, energy-heavy materials can be substituted with wood-based derivatives such as timber in place of steel and concrete, and specialised cellulose for textiles like viscose and rayon. Paper packaging is finding its way back onto supermarket shelves as brand owners make the switch from plastic. Cellulose and nanocellulose can be used as food additives, functioning as thickening agents, stabilisers or emulsifiers, providing a natural alternative to synthetic additives. Lignin, a by-product of papermaking, can be used as in agriculture, construction and for dust suppression.

“Our sector can even make polymers and chemicals out of wood. And, of course, wood and pulp provide the ingredients for everyday essentials like furniture and toilet paper,” notes Heath.

While wood holds promise in various industries due to its renewable nature, biodegradability and versatile properties, the key to a wood-based revolution is its sustainable, responsible production, the theme of FSA’s new video “What is responsible forestry?”

Across South Africa, from Limpopo and Mpumalanga, through KwaZulu-Natal, to the Eastern and Western Cape, there are 1.2 million hectares of commercial forestry plantations, more than 85% of which are certified as meeting the stringent environmental and social standards set by the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®). In addition, 40% of these plantations have international PEFC certification through the recently established Sustainable African Forest Assurance Scheme (SAFAS).

From these plantations, more than 15 million tonnes of wood and fibre are harvested annually and for every tree removed, another is planted in its place. This wood, grown using carbon dioxide (CO2), keeps carbon stored long after harvesting and transformation into timber for beautiful buildings, cellulose for high-end fashion, additives for food and pharmaceuticals, and bio-chemicals. One cubic metre of Eucalyptus wood removes around 880kg of CO2 from the air, storing around 240kg of carbon.

“South African forestry should be recognised as part of the solution for climate change, plastic pollution and rural unemployment. Wood is a renewable, low-carbon alternative to many of the drivers of climate change. Globally, forestry is considered an integral role player in a green economic recovery: certainly, this is the case in South Africa. It is time we promoted it as such, explaining what responsible forestry looks like and how it can be part of the solution to the environmental crises we currently face,” says Heath.

In an article by the Food and Agricultural Organisation, titled Time to realise the potential of sustainable wood for the planet, the authors make a strong argument for wood as a solution to climate change, believing wood can play a key role by substituting single use plastics such as drinking straws and food packaging as part of the global movement to end plastic pollution.

Responsible forestry goes way beyond the trees. As a rural industry in South Africa, forestry creates employment and entrepreneurial opportunities in some of the country’s most impoverished communities. Through social initiatives, it delivers education, health care, infrastructure and hunger eradication programmes.

Amid the forestry landscape, countless wetland, grassland and biodiversity conservation projects are underway in the 305 000 hectares of unplanted, natural areas within forestry landholdings. seeks to end plastics for the sake of human and planetary health, demanding a 60% reduction in the production of ALL plastics by 2040. According to a recent study in the journal Science Advances, around eight billion tonnes of plastic have been produced over the past six decades, 90.5% of which has not been recycled, explains Aidan Charron from

“Our reliance on plastics could be the biggest gamble in the story of human health in history. We are all ingesting and inhaling microplastics. They are everywhere. Are we just hoping they are safe, or is even the remotest possibility they might be toxic so terrifying that we can’t contemplate it?” asks Kathleen Rogers, president of