We live in unprecedented times, emerging from a global pandemic, that has claimed more than 6.3 million lives globally, cost the global economy more than $80 trillion and wiped out 400 million full time jobs.
In South Africa, this was compounded by the economic fallout from the failed insurrection caused by the supporters of the convicted criminal and former President of our country, Jacob Zuma and by the legacy of corruption and economic sabotage, he left in his wake, as has been so clearly laid out in the 900 pages of reports from the Zondo Commission on State Capture.
The recent invasion of Ukraine by Russia, some 165 years after the last Crimean war in the 1850s and the known and as yet still be determined impacts of climate change, don’t offer much comfort that the future is guaranteed to be much brighter.
All that being said, there are still a number of reasons for optimism and all these crises, as is so often the case, also present opportunities. We currently stand at a crossroads, where there is the potential to change our course and rewrite our future.
A global economic recovery is on everybody’s lips, but as we get the world’s economies back up and running, there is a real opportunity to shift the focus to those economic activities that both bolster the global economy while offering environmental benefits. Growing political momentum and consumer pressure is now placing the emphasis on renewable natural resources that will stimulate a ‘Green Economic Recovery’.
This creates massive opportunities for a Sector like Forestry that uses a ‘green’, natural, renewable, recyclable raw material, that can be produced in perpetuity, if done so in a sustainable manner. As a Sector, we should therefore be championing an economic recovery that is aligned to ‘green goals’ and positioning our Sector to play an integral role in this space.
The Forestry Sector’s ability to grow a renewable feedstock, means it is not extracting minerals from the ground nor is it dependant on other finite resources. I read somewhere that the only things that really grow in an economy, are things that really grow, meaning biological assets. These factors, combined with the reusable, recyclable nature of Forest Products, aligns and embeds the Sector in both the green and circular economies.
The world is moving away from non-sustainable, non-renewable products like fossil-fuel based plastics and petroleum-based commodities. This creates a massive opportunity for the Sector to provide alternative and better products like paper packaging and plant-based plastics, which still meet society’s needs but can do so indefinitely.
Yet, to be truly sustainable we also need to consider the social impacts of our activities alongside the economic and environmental benefits. Once again, our Sector is uniquely positioned, being truly sustainable in all senses of the word. Socially, our industry is based in rural areas where some of the worst poverty and highest unemployment rates in the country exists. To have a Sector that is creating employment, contributing to local GDP and providing a myriad of other social returns through education, healthcare, business development and infrastructure is fantastic and something the Forestry Sector is very proud of and to which we remain fully-committed.
We are also highly aware of the environmental impacts which all forms of land-use have and our Sector was the first Sector in South Africa to develop and maintain internationally-certified and audited systems like the FSC and PEFC sustainability standards, to ensure our ecological, social and economic sustainability. This gives assurance to domestic consumers in South Africa and to our international markets, that our forest-based products are sustainably produced and do not add to the devastating impacts on ecosystems and climate change, which global deforestation causes in many parts of the world like in central Africa, south America and south east Asia.
In the Agricultural Sector, Forestry is also unique in that only 70% of landholdings are planted and the majority of what remains is set aside for natural ecosystems and the management of biodiversity and conservation. Indeed, independent assessments have been made on the state of indigenous forests and grasslands associated with other land uses and invariably our industry comes out on top.
In a country and world, looking for sustainable solutions to climate change, poverty alleviation and a green economic recovery, the Forestry Sector has a key role to play. Forestry South Africa is both proud and honoured to represent the thousands of South African forestry owners, who range from the small-scale growers, through the medium-scale family timber businesses to the large corporate forestry companies. Their scale of operation might be diverse, but their passion, dedication, and determination to sustain their businesses through growing a greener, more sustainable future for themselves, their children, their communities and South Africa, is a universal object for all timber growers.
FINANCIAL MAIL ARTICLE
During the last week of May, Michael Peter and FSA Directors Dr Ronald Heath and Messrs Norman Dlamini and Francois Oberholzer, spent two days as guests of Brendan and Ninette Raw at Tweefontein Plantation in KwaZulu-Natal, the location for several short videos promoting the Forestry Sector.
“At the beginning of this year, we were invited by the Financial Mail to write a thought leadership article for their Green Economy campaign and produce a video discussing the role the Forestry Sector could play in a ‘Green Economic Recovery’. Forestry and forest products align with fundamental principles of both a green and circular economy, the industry really is a case study in the sustainable use of a natural resource. As a Sector we need to better promote this to those outside our Industry, who often don’t make the connection between the planting and growing of forestry trees and the myriad of products our timber, pulp and chips support”, explains FSA Head of Communications, Dr Ronald Heath.
Over the two-day shoot numerous interviews were conducted with the whole team, while expert cameramen Samora Chapman and Kyle XXX took advantage of the great weather and breathtaking forestry landscape to capture some incredible drone footage.
“When you do a job you love, some days really do not feel like work and this shoot was one of those occasions. Being immersed in the forestry landscape, walking through planted compartments and across great swathes of open grassland, was such a privilege. As Executive Director of Forestry South Africa, I feel immensely proud to be representing a Sector that through its sustainable use of a natural, renewable and recyclable raw material is very well positioned to play an integral role in both a green economic recover and a circular economy”, explains FSA Executive Director, Michael Peter.
The video has been packaged for the Financial Mail who will use is as part of their discussions around a Green Economy. It can also be found on the FSA website www.forestrysouthafrica.co.za.
By: Michael Peter,
Forestry South Africa
Source: FSA Magazine – Forestry in Focus