Jacqui Meyer – TIPWG Secretariat
Forestry South Africa’s (FSA) Timber Industry Pesticide Working Group (TIPWG) was initiated in 1998, in response to the first Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) Pesticide Policy. It was a time before ESRA’s, IGIs and HHP’s, yet even then – as an industry – we realised the impact the unchecked use of chemical pesticides could have, and the need to internally regulate ourselves.
Fast forward 23 years and a lot has changed.
We now live in a world where society is becoming increasingly opposed to the use of chemical pesticides. Where international laws and treaties, as well as national pesticide legislation, are increasingly regulating the types of chemical products that can be used and the levels at which they can be applied. Perhaps, and most importantly of all, the demand for environmentally sustainable products has seen the exponential rise in certification bodies that actively seek to reduce pesticide reliance to zero, if possible.
Yet we also live in a world where climate change is increasing the risk of fires. Where the rise in global transport has seen a boom in exotic pest invasions and where constant increases in productivity are required to ensure our industry remains globally competitive.
It is fair to say when it comes to pesticides, the forestry industry is in a catch 22, and finding the fine line between reducing our pesticide reliance and ensuring productivity is maintained and other regulatory commitments like managing firebreaks, are upheld, is a balancing act of Cirque du Sole proportions.
In South Africa, this balancing act is navigated by TIPWG. Over our 23 year existence, TIPWG’s fundamental objective – ‘to promote responsible and effective use of pesticides in South African commercial timber plantations’ – has remained the same. What has changed dramatically is the definition of responsible use and how this is contextualized. International forestry certification bodies now have a far greater impact on the products available to a certified forester than ever before. This is obvious when looking at the number of chemical pesticide products registered for use in South Africa by the South African Government, and therefore available to the agricultural sector versus those available to a certified forester. Products deemed acceptable for use in a South African setting for any other industry, cannot be used by a certified forester.
With a greatly reduced pesticide toolbox at our disposal, the risk of pesticide resistance to the limited products available to us increases, the ability to quell new and existing pest outbreaks diminishes and the need to use approved pesticides that can be more detrimental in certain cases, leaves South African foresters scratching their heads. Again, this is where TIPWG steps in.
TIPWG’s team of experts provide technical support and recommendations to Forestry South Africa (FSA) who represents over 94% of the SA forestry industry. This includes advising on the adoption of new pesticides and the removal of older, less effective formulations and active ingredients. TIPWG is also responsible for coordinating industry registration applications and pesticide research. TIPWG also plays a central role in assessing, prioritizing and making recommendations regarding the FSA funding of pesticide research. An example of this is a trial currently underway looking at the effectiveness of pelargonic acid formulations for the preparation of fire break tracer belts, which is in response to the loss of paraquat from our pesticide toolbox.
TIPWG also plays an instrumental role in developing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices and is currently putting together guidelines on implementing the IPM requirements laid out in the updated FSC Pesticide Policy (FSC-POL-30-001 V3-0 EN ).`
Beyond technical advice, TIPWG is a conduit for Industry-wide collaboration. Collaboration is essential to preventing duplication and ensuring the industry’s voice is heard and their stance on key issues is united. The TIPWG Approved Pesticide List, or APL, is a successful example of industry-wide collaboration. Regularly updated, the APL provides a comprehensive list of all registered pesticides available to the Forestry Sector. Part of this role includes conducting needs analysis for new pesticides and facilitating research regarding these, or for label extensions. TIPWG is currently undertaking a review of pest outbreaks in forestry nurseries as well as the pesticide toolbox available to certified nurseries.
Another important aspect of TIPWG’s mandate is to communicate the Industry’s voice to external bodies. This can be at local, national, or even at international level. Most commonly, it is during stakeholder consultations, where TIPWG coordinates the Industry’s response in the form of comments and submissions of documents, policies and standards which are related to pesticide usage. TIPWG also actively lobbies FSA members to register their response, thereby strengthening the industry position.
Compliance is another aspect of TIPWG’s role, ensuring industry’s compliance with national legislation and international conventions and standards is maintained. Pesticide legislation is constantly evolving, as are the requirements of certification bodies, TIPWG helps the industry decipher these changes and enact them. Often this is done through the provision of guidelines, often in the format of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) that provide quick guides to everything from pesticide disposal to implementing an IPM framework.
TIPWG achieves all this through a network of dedicated experts, most of whom offer their time voluntarily. The TIPWG website, and associated members-only database, offers a one-stop shop for those seeking pesticide-related information, guidance, procedures and advice. Although it should be noted only FSA members have access to the TIPWG APL, with ESRA mitigations and a host of other useful documents found within the TIPWG members’ page.
Through regular meetings, TIPWG provides a platform for FSA members to share and discuss pesticide issues and stay informed regarding pesticide-related risks facing the industry. It also coordinates FSA partnership work on pesticide issues and has, in the past, partnered with FSC and Working for Water to address important pesticide-related issues.
By providing guidance on ‘all things pesticide’, to coin a phrase TIPWG Chairman Roger Poole likes to use, and ensuring it is accessible to all FSA members – be they multinational corporations or small-scale growers – TIPWG’s collaborative approach provides benefits to everyone. For our smaller members, TIPWG offers expert guidance, insights, knowledge and toolkits that they otherwise would not be able to afford. For our large grower members, with in-house teams that often outnumber TIPWGs, it is a chance to save money on the broad-spectrum issues TIPWG addresses because they impact the industry as a whole and allows them to refocus their efforts on specific company focused issues.