19 November, 2012
2012 TREE FARMER AWARDS
NCT Forestry's 2012 Tree Farmer awards went
to RF Gevers (Pty) Limited in the category of farms managed on privately-owned
land and NJ Madonsela in the category of a farm managed on communal land.
Both recipients were recognised for their
excellence in sustainable plantation management and have earned their place on
the exclusive list of achievers in tree farming.
The RF Gevers company is a family operation
that was established by Robert Gevers in Vryheid in 1949. The 250ha farm named Lekker Water was
predominantly grassland which was ploughed up and planted to black wattle. The
main market for wattle timber at that time was the Hlobane Coal Mine. From this
humble beginning, the operation has grown to include 19 farms and a modern saw
The company owns approximately 2 760ha of
pine plantations, 1 840ha of black wattle and 100ha eucalypts. Other productive
areas include pastures and camps for grazing a beef herd with 800ha of open
areas managed primarily for conservation and fire protection. These areas
include grasslands, riparian areas, rocky outcrops, firebreaks and patches of
A notable feature of the farms is the
exceptional standard of silviculture that is implemented. Brush is managed by
implementing a cool burn to reduce the fire risk. This is followed by land
preparation which involves a shallow rip line on flat sites and pit preparation
in steeper areas.
Fire protection on the farms is also worthy
of special mention. External firebreaks are well prepared and a network of
internal breaks means that any fire in a compartment can be contained to a
limited area. Wattle is planted strategically to form a network of green fire
protection belts. Open areas are managed to fit into their fire protection
The general management is extremely
compliant with all aspects of sustainable plantation management including
health and safety, decent work and living conditions, minimising impacts on the
environment and optimising productivity. The operation is a worthy recipient of
the 2012 award.
The same can be said of NJ Madonsela,
winner in the category of a farm managed on communal land.
He manages a stand of five hectares of
wattle in the Matimatolo traditional authority outside Greytown. The land
allocated to him by the traditional authority was infested with jungle wattle
which he has converted into a sustainable wattle plantation.
NJ carries out outstanding wattle
silviculture practices that are evident on his farm. He uses natural
regeneration methods to develop his wattle, but lines his rows neatly, thinned
to the recommended spacement for wattle.
He runs a neat harvesting operation where
the stumps are cut at ground level to make it easy to extract timber and to
work the next crop. The farm is well-protected by boundary firebreaks that
protect against runaway veld fires. To be on the safe side, he ploughs his
inter-rows in case of any fire that may jump a firebreak. The farm is also
fenced to safeguard his trees from stray animals that damage juvenile trees.
Although his farm is small in area, he has subdivided it into different age
classes to provide sustainable income for his needs.
NJ was brought up on a dairy farm in
Greytown in the 1920s starting out as a herd-boy and later promoted to kitchen
duties. When he left the farm for greener pastures as a young adult, he was
determined be the last Madonsela to be a farm worker.
Having only achieved Std 2 schooling, NJ
always wanted to give his children a better education and it was this true grit
that turned him into an entrepreneur with diverse business interests. He
started his own taxi business, opened the first black-owned bottle store in the
Umvoti area and then in 1989 began his relationship with timber farming and
NJ joined NCT as a shareholding member in
1999 and has never looked back. Despite his low level of education, he
managed a series of successful businesses. Today, he has sold off his
taxi business and bottle store to concentrate on tree farming. He has
sub-divided part of the farm to produce vegetables on a small-scale for his own
consumption and depending on the crop, sells to the community and supermarkets
NCT initiated the Tree Farmer of the
year awards in 2000.
Each winner received a Stihl chainsaw sponsored
by PMB Power Products & Stihl Pietermaritzburg.
Hagen Gevers & NJ Madonsela
receive their awards from NCT Chairman, Harald Niebuhr