Forestry in South Africa
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March : Forestry protecting forests: part of the sustainable roots of South African Forestry

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19 March, 2021

Forestry protecting forests: part of the sustainable roots of South African Forestry

FSCPhoto credit: Kehly Ann Jansen, Sappi Forests

Johannesburg, 18 March: In celebration of the International Day of Forests, 21 March 2021, Forestry South Africa (FSA) has released a new infographic outlining how commercial forestry in South Africa is helping to protect the country's indigenous forests. Over 100 years after commercial forestry was introduced into the country to meet the increasing demand for wood and in the process helping to ensure the remaining pockets of indigenous forest were not lost.
 
"Few people realise commercial forestry was started in an attempt to conserve South Africa's indigenous forests and that the forestry landscape is a patchwork mix of planted compartments and natural ecosystems. The infographic has been produced to address this, using the data from a recent survey of 1.2 million hectares of forestry-owned and managed land, which revealed over 61 000 hectares of indigenous forest can be found within the forestry landscape. When you consider South Africa has around 530 000 hectares of indigenous forests in total, forestry's contribution to its conservation is considerable." - Dr Ronald Heath, FSA Director: Research and Protection 
 
Forestry protecting Forests

The Forestry Industry in South Africa has evolved considerably since its inception over 100 years ago and is now firmly rooted in sustainable management practices. These enable it to remain globally competitive in the 21st Century, abide by regulatory and industry body obligations, be responsible land users and meet the demands of an increasingly socially and environmentally conscious consumer base. 

"Consumers, policymakers, regulatory bodies and the Sector itself demands forestry is conducted responsibly. Responsible forestry requires attention to sustainable, efficient and effective practices that have the least environmental impact and yield the greatest social and economic benefits," Dr Heath continues.
 
The Sector's approach to sustainability is based on three pillars.


1. Environmental sustainability: reducing environmental impact

The forestry landscape is a patchwork mosaic of planted compartments and natural areas. A recent survey of 1.2 million hectares of forestry land revealed 66% was under production, leaving 415 536 hectares unplanted. This includes 159 198 hectares of natural grasslands, 47 416 hectares of water bodies and 61 197 hectares of indigenous forests which are all managed, monitored and maintained by the Industry. These natural spaces play an important role within the forestry landscape, harbouring a wealth of biodiversity, recreational opportunities and natural attractions. The Industry's commitment to environmental sustainability is further illustrated by the investment the sector makes, in research and development, to reduce the environmental footprint of its management practices with over 80% of South African plantations being Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) certified and the recent launch of the Southern African Forest Assurance Scheme (SAFAS).  

2. Social sustainability: looking beyond the trees
Forestry's reach extends into the rural communities that neighbour its plantations. The Industry is a major employer in rural settings - from Limpopo, through Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal, to the Eastern and Western Cape. It also invests millions of rand annually on a variety of rural community-based initiatives, spanning health and welfare, food security, education, community infrastructure, community engagement and upliftment, enterprise and supplier development, the environment and recreation.

3. Economic sustainability: aiding a ‘Green Recovery'
The Forestry Sector invests on average 1.6% of the Sector's GDP on research and development, more than double the national average. This keeps the Sector competitive in the global market, as well as ensuring productivity and profitability keep increasing despite a slight decline in the area under production. The Sector has contributed R 62 billion annually to the South African economy, employing just under 150 000 people along its value chain, most from rural communities. Wood-based products provide a diverse array of ‘green alternatives' - including bioplastics, green chemicals and green fuels, as well as the everyday essentials like toilet paper, roof trusses and packaging and not forgetting the products most would never guess are, in part, sourced from trees such as cosmetics, washing powder, sweetener and cell phone screens. While diverse in their applications these forest-based products share several important characteristics, including their renewability, sustainable production and employment potential. As a result, the Forestry Sector is likely to have a significant role in the green economic response to the COVID-19 economic crisis and beyond.

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Forestry protecting forests - Case Studies from Forestry South Africa members

Here are just a few examples of how patches of indigenous forests found within the forestry landscape are being managed, monitored and maintained by FSA members. 

Forests in the mist - protecting life on the edge

Celebrating International Day of Forests with NCT Forestry Agricultural Co-Operative

South Africa's Mistbelt forests are relatively species-rich and would once have been found in the fire shadow habitats of higher altitude slopes from Limpopo and Mpumalanga, through KwaZulu-Natal and into the Eastern Cape. Many of these Mistbelt forests were decimated by early settlers to meet the country's increasing demand for wood before commercial forestry was introduced into South Africa. Read on 

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Keeping up-to-date with the classifications: knowing your Eastern Mistbelts from your Eastern Scarps

Celebrating International Day of Forests with Sappi Forests

Sappi Forests is in the process of updating and verifying all their forest classifications, no small feat when you consider their landholdings are home to approximately 9 500 hectares of protected indigenous forests.

"Sappi's landholdings across Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal include pockets of Eastern Mistbelt Forests, Eastern Scarp forests, Barberton Montane Forests and Eastern Dry Afrotemperate forests, among others", explains Peta Hardy, Sappi Forests Environmental Analyst, "approximately 98% of the forest types originally identified on Sappi land still exist in their original form." Read on

Source: Forestry South Africa