A R113-million community-based forestry commercialisation drive has resulted in 2 700 ha of new afforestation across five projects in the OR Tambo district of the Eastern Cape.
Backed by a 2013 R83-million grant from the Development Bank of Southern Africa Jobs Fund, the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) and the Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency (ECRDA), providing funding of R15-million each, unlocked projects in Sinawo and Izinini in Mbizana, Mkambati in Flagstaff, Gqukunqa in Qumbu and Sixhotyeni in Maclear.
By the end of March, R56-million had been spent on the five projects, while, by the end of the 2016/17 financial year, an additional 1 000 ha would be planted, with a sixth project established in April.
The grant funding could currently cater for 5 966 ha.
“The forestry commercialisation drive has identified some 15 800 ha for new afforestation which will require an additional R225-million to establish.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for private and public sector investors to take advantage of the massive economic potential inherent in the sector,” said ECRDA CEO Thozi Gwanya.
The five projects created 819 jobs and generated millions of rands in revenue out of the old trees that were being felled in Sinawo and Mkambati, ECDC CEO Buhle Dlulane added.
Further, the initiative had attracted the attention and support of forestry majors, including KwaZulu-Natal-based Sappi Forests, which identified some 30 000 ha for new afforestation in the Eastern Cape by 2033.
Sappi Forests stakeholder relations manager Dr Blessing Karumbidza explained that the community projects sold 70% of their timber to Sappi Mills through Sappi Forests, with the remaining 30% of the timber providing flexibility for the community forestry projects to establish a mill in the Pondoland area.
“This model encourages the growth of small businesses such as those that can trade in the transport of timber to the mill and the establishment of contractors trading in silviiculture operations such as transporting seedlings and the planting of trees. These will be businesses owned by people from these communities,” Karumbidza concluded.