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Working for Forest

Background and rationale

For several years government has been considering the development of an agency to carry out certain functions which government has been poorly capacitated to perform. Capacity in this sense does not only relate to having staff with the necessary skills and budget, but also the enabling institutional arrangements to be effective.

The idea originally developed around the rehabilitation of government’s long-deteriorating remaining plantations and involved establishing an agency to rehabilitate and manage these with a view to transferring them. The idea was not new as it followed the model which was used when SAFCOL was created in the early 1990s to manage and restructure the Category A plantations.

An opportunity has been identified to adopt a different approach for some of the key development and transformation activities in forestry. It should be noted that even once the Working for Forests programme is established, there is still a need for an agency or other appropriate institution to hold the State’s equity in the restructured packages.

Furthermore government is planning 100 000 ha of new aforestation in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. The aim of the aforestation is twofold, to address the critical shortages in forest products more specifically saw timber, and to improve livelihood options for deep rural communities. These forest resources include:

  • Fuel Woods
  • Building Material
  • Pulp & Paper
  • Poles
  • Non-Fibre Product
  • Bio-renewable energy e.g. Charcoal & Bio-fuels

Working for Forests would aim to quantify the shortfall in the supply of woodland and natural forest resources and take this into account in its overall development strategy/approach. The BBBEE Forestry charter acknowledges the fact that our timber resources is under pressure and make allowance and indicate that within one year of the charter being signed that the department will work together with the industry to implement a saw log growing strategy.

As part of the strategy the charter states that amongst others it will create incentives for emerging black growers to invest in long rotation saw timber crops. It further make allowance for the development of government conditions on lease of state forest land to ensure the continued production of saw timber while creating land dedication schemes for long term rotation crops linked to amongst others tax incentives.

These commitments in the charter create an ideal platform for the development of the Working for Forests programme in order to ensure that to economic empowerment objectives of the charter is fulfilled.

Vision and objectives

Programme vision

The sustainable development and management of new aforestation, transformed invading alien plant stands and degraded STATE forests into utilisable resources for the use of neighbouring communities in a manner that will maximize the socio-economic benefits, ensure the sustainable use and maintenance of natural areas and the minimize the risk of alien plant invasions.


  • Optimise both the subsistence and commercial benefits from plantations forests and woodlots to society.
  • Create exit opportunities for Working for Water contractors.
  • Improvement of the productive potential of rural plantation forests and the creation of sustainable livelihoods.
  • Rehabilitation and sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystem function inside and surrounding plantation forests (e.g. fire regimes).
  • Enhance economic empowerment of deep rural communities through the development of value added industries arising from plantation forests.


Key sub-components or projects

  1. Reinstate/Implement an optimal silviculture regime for in STATE plantations and woodlots. (E.g. (i) Clearing and follow up/maintenance of plantation weeds (invasive species currently present), (ii) optimum pruning regimes and (iii) appropriate thinning regimes)
  2. Identify and introduce suitable species for the transformation of STATE,s, invading alien plant stands and woodlots.
  3. Introduction of indigenous and non-invasive alien species to minimize the current dependence of the community on the invasive plants.
  4. Propagation of indigenous and non-invasive alien species for the transformation of alien plant invasions, STATE plantations and woodlots.
  5. Quantification of the demand for timber and non-timber forest products.
  6. Determine the productive potential of transformed alien plant invasions, STATE plantations and woodlots in its current state as well as in its transformed state.
  7. Identification and development of the optimum product profile (value added industries) from the new forest plantations.
  8. Development of best silvicultural and harvesting practices applicable to new forest plantations.
  9. The rehabilitation, management and sustainable use of watercourses and other untransformed landscapes surrounding woodlots.
  10. Develop and implement integrated veld and forest fire management programmes in all the Working for Forest programme areas.


Skills development and target groups

Location of projects

  • Eastern Cape and
  • KwaZulu Natal forest regions

Job creation and the use of contractors

The project will be run, using existing Working for Water emerging contractors. Employment will be generated through:

  1. The transformation of invasive alien plant stands,
  2. The rehabilitation of STATE plantations and woodlots,
  3. The establishment of new plantations,
  4. The maintenance of these plantations once rehabilitated and developed,
  5. The propagation of alternative species and
  6. The development of forest enterprises (value added industries).

Skills development

The following items represent the value chain with regards to the establishment, maintenance and harvesting of woodlots and the establishment of value added industries. The aim is to train and mentor project participants in order to empower them to manage/partly manage the full value chain from establishment to marketing and distribution. The value chain would look more or less as follows:

  1. Propagation of alternative species.
  2. Establishment of alternative species.
  3. Silvicultural maintenance of rehabilitated STATE’s and woodlot, transformed alien plant invasions and new plantation forests. – This would include thinning and pruning operations.
  4. Fire protection and suppression operations – This would include fuel load reduction fire breaks and support to the Working on Fire programmes with early detection and suppression operations.
  5. Clearing of invading alien plants/plantation weeds. - This would include the clearing of all invasive species, of all sizes in a stand. Mentoring in this field would include species identification, chainsaw & brush cutter operations, the application of chemicals and health and safety ((i) First Aid & (ii) COIDA) etc.
  6. Crosscutting and sizing of biomass. - Cutting the wood up in sizes that is practical for what it will be used for.
  7. Extraction/Harvesting. - Collecting the biomass and extracting it to roadside and stacking it.
  8. Short haul - Moving the biomass to a plant or site where primary processing can take place. Loading and unloading of biomass has a major impact on the cost of the raw material at the end of the day and could have major impacts on the viability of an operation.
  9. Primary processing. - This could mean the debarking of wood, making of charcoal etc.
  10. Secondary processing. - This could be furniture, crafts etc. This would include say the cutting of planks, the drying of the biomass/planks, the treatment of the wood and finally the production of the final product.
  11. Product development and quality control. - Especially in the craft market this is critically important. Trends in the market consistently change. The quality of the product also determines whether the client is going to by a second one, so the sustainability of the business is highly dependent on quality.
  12. Distribution (Long Haul) - This is getting the product to the market; issues such as packaging and distribution networks are of critical importance in this phase of the value chain.
  13. Marketing

Potential extent for plantation forest development from alien plant invasions

Both 5 and 10 year scenarios are being considered for the project. The scenario with the most sustainable socio-economic benefits and affordability should be considered for implementation.

Rehabilitation of state plantations

Category STATE forests lend itself perfectly to the production of saw timber is it can generally be assumed that the mean annual increment of these plantations are lower than that of the category A plantations. This means that denser strong saw timber can be produced. As it is a strategic resource for the country on could expect government to invest in these plantations in order to make the country less depend on timber imports. 


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