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Remarks by Ms. Makhotso Sotyu, Deputy Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries celebrated the International Day Of Forests, held virtually on the 25th of March 2021

29 March 2021

Chairperson of the Forest Sector Charter Council
Chairperson of the National Forests Advisory Council
Representatives of Labour
Representatives of industry
Distinguished guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

The International Day of Forests (IDF) was established on 21 March by a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly on 28 November 2012. Since then each year, various events are hosted to celebrate and raise awareness about the importance of all types of forests and trees outside forests, for the benefit of current and future generations. The state of our forests is important to all because of the following reasons:

  • About 80% of all terrestrial biodiversity lives in forests and each year many species go extinct as a result of them being destroyed
  • Forests also play a role in climate change and deforestation results in 12-18 % of the world ‘s carbon emissions and accelerated global warming
  • Forests and trees provide food, fibre and even medicines for approximately 1.6 billion of the world ‘s population, especially the poorest people

Forests have been at the forefront of international discussions, from the 2030 Agenda to the Paris Agreement. In order to capitalize on this interest, members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) proposed that a central theme for the annual celebration of the International Day would enhance coordinated communications from the forest community, while enabling countries and organisations to tailor the theme to their own priority areas.

The theme for 2021 as proposed by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests to celebrate the International Day of Forests is “Forest Restoration: A path to recovery and well-being”.

The 2021 theme aims to highlight key areas of forestry and tree planting in terms of their role in creating and sustaining healthy and resilient communities, through health benefits that are derived in forests that include nutritious foods, medicine, fresh air, clean water and place for recreation.

The notion of “every tree counts” is boldly implied in the 2021 IDF theme, as well as the importance of small-scale planting in local communities and restorative projects that can have a big impact in urban, peri-urban and rural greening in South Africa. In addition, engaging and empowering people through advocacy to use forests and trees in a sustainable manner is also a key step towards creating positive relationships between people and use of natural resources in general.

The IDF 2021 will also be promoting the South African Agroforestry strategy and its role in ensuring food security by aligning it with one of the significant messages under the 2021 theme, which states “Forest food provides healthy diets”. Food security and lack of nutrition are some of the challenges facing South Africa and the Agroforestry strategy aims to address this.

We are pleased that as a built up to the IDF tree-planting initiatives have been undertaken in the Gauteng, North West and Northern Cape Provinces. A total of 6 000 trees have been planted and 233 workers have been appointed through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).

Programme Director, as we celebrate the International Day of Forests we are still facing the Covid 19 Pandemic and the country is still under Level 1 of the lock down. The pandemic had an adverse effect through loss of valuable lives as well as on economic and employment opportunities. The various sectors in the country would have to devise means and plans for recovery so that our country can proper again through growth, creation of economic, and employment opportunities.

The figures released in December 2020 by Statistics South Africa, indicate that the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries sector continued its positive growth and contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) during the third quarter of 2020. With particular reference to Forestry, there has not been much activity in terms of expansion of the primary sector due to a number of factors, which include the slow pace of the licensing process for afforestation. 

Programme Director, sectors like forestry, which have potential for growth and creation of economic, and employment opportunities need to be given the attention they deserve.  For this reason, Cabinet has approved the Commercial Forestry Sector Masterplan for implementation. The Masterplan is essentially a growth, transformation and investment plan. We are pleased that there was agreement among the three major parties that have made commitments to the Masterplan i.e. government, industry and labour. This will enable the sector to grow and attract the necessary investment

As the implementation of the plan begins soon, it will  provides a platform for the collaboration of government departments, industry and labour working together to address impediments to the growth and development of the sector would be of benefit.

It is worth noting that  Industry made a commitment to invest   R24.9 billion being invested in the sector while government will facilitate and coordinate the recapitalisation of State-owned plantations (68820 ha) New afforestation with communities estimated to be 151 000ha and opportunities that exist for New Afforestation in partnership with communities

Labour has committed to support the initiatives to expand the resource. In relation to labour issues, the Masterplan covers issues such as training and reskilling where there is increased mechanisation and ensuring that there are opportunities for worker equity and enterprise development going forward.

The six key focus areas of the Masterplan are aimed at addressing the following key issues that will result in the growth of the sector: Expansion of the forestry resource, Transformation of the sector, Value addition and processing, Timber theft and illegal activities, Research, Development, Innovation and Skills Development, and Key inhibitors to the growth of the sector. The last area of focus deals with institutional arrangements for the implementation of the Masterplan. The Masterplan is aligned to the priorities of government in relation to creation of decent employment, rural development, skills development and the development of Small Micro and Medium Enterprises to grow the economy.

To prepare for implementation, the Department is busy with the finalisation of the new structure and reconfiguration of the Branch: Forestry Management in line with the governance structure that was adopted in the Masterplan. There are posts that have already been advertised and more will follow soon in an attempt to capacitate the Department, particularly the Branch, to deliver on its mandate and key programmes such as the Masterplan.

The Branch; Forestry Management has started to develop an action plan for the first year of operation for the Masterplan. This operational plan will lead to agreements on roles, responsibilities and targets. Once this process is finalised discussions will be held with all key role-players. The outcome will be the various structures governing the implementation of the Masterplan will being operational.

Programme Director, the forestry function is broader than just a focus on commercial forestry, which is very important to the economic development of our country. There are also environmental and social aspects of forestry, which are equally important to the wellbeing of our society in general. As part of the Government Greening Programme, the President of the country has directed that the Department coordinates and facilitates the planting of two million trees annually. This will result in 10 million trees being planted in the next five years. We refer to mainly ornamental shade, fruit and tree species that are used for greening in human settlements and in rehabilitation of degraded areas.

We are calling on Non-Government Organisations, the private sector and Municipalities to work with the department in realising this ideal .Officials of my Department will make contact with yourselves if they have not done so already, to discuss with you detailed plans in this regard. With reference to the issue of trees planted outside forests  I would like to appeal to the relevant research organisation to intensify their efforts to curb the current pest and diseases that are attacking our urban trees, This attack needs to be contained and eliminated as early as  possible as diseases and pests know no boundaries.

In the current year, our country received good rains that has boosted our Agricultural production. However, these rains have brought about an increased risk of forest fires, for the plantations. We call upon farm owners and forestland owners to start taking precautionary measures to ensure that fires do not destroy their properties during the up-coming fire season. We encourage you to work with your local Fire Protection Associations in this regard.

Thank You!


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