Forestry in South Africa
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November : South African Forest Industry Indaba “Small-scale Grower Support”

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28 November, 2013

South African Forest Industry Indaba “Small-scale Grower Support” 

In order to become sustainable, productive timber growers, new entrants and small growers in the forestry industry require support in capacity building, skills development and increased technical knowledge. Industry support towards this process is aligned with national Government objectives, and needs to be co-ordinated and cohesive so as to gain maximum value.

Forestry South Africa (FSA) together with the Institute for Commercial Forestry Research (ICFR) and others recognised the range of valuable and effective initiatives currently being offered by a number of role players in the industry towards supporting and uplifting small growers. However, many of these are working in isolation from each other, potentially resulting in duplication of effort, some inefficiency, and possibly even added cost. 

Link to the FSA Business Development Committee

Following a workshop held as part of the Industry Business Development Committee meeting on 29 August 2013, it was agreed to hold an Indaba aimed at bringing together key role players to co-ordinate efforts across the sector aimed at empowering small timber growers and new entrants into the tree growing business. 
Specifically the aims of the Indaba were to:

  • Consolidate current initiatives being undertaken by the different companies and role players, and develop an overview and summary of these
  • Identifying any gaps and developing a strategic implementation plan to address these.
  • Identify appropriate and relevant synergy opportunities
  • Focus and prioritise new initiatives 

Overall, the aim was to strive to be more effective in contributing towards the upliftment and transformation of small / new entrants in the industry, as key stakeholders in the future of South African forestry. 

The Indaba process

The Indaba was held on 19 November at Ascot Inn in Pietermaritzburg. It was attended by around 65 delegates representing small grower initiatives from the larger forestry corporate companies,   forestry co-operatives as well as community projects. Small growers were represented through regional   co-ordinators. In addition, government delegates from DAFF, DRDLR and DEDT and a number of service providers were in attendance (see attached list).

The Indaba was divided into three sessions (programme attached); the first session provided excellent overview and set the scene regarding the issues and challenges facing small growers as well as some of the success factors. The second session provide valuable insight into a range of small grower support initiatives from forestry companies,   co-operatives, private entities and research (ICFR and FESA). The third session was in the form of breakaway groups and provided valuable input around challenges and opportunities in working with small growers, as well as highlighting opportunities for synergy and gaps where new work is needed. 

Summary of Outcomes

The full proceedings of the Indaba are being compiled, which will include summaries of the presentation given. This will be distributed widely. The following is a list of key highlights and outcomes:

  • “It’s not about trees, it’s about people” – the focus needs to be around people, in this case small scale growers, and ensuring that these stakeholders in the sector have a voice and are heard.  This can better be achieved through the growers coming together, forming co-operatives and working through communities where there is strong leadership.
  • Linked to people, is the need to form and exploit partnerships, which provide much needed skills and capacity development, through training and mentorships. It is clear that there is a significant pool of knowledge and expertise as well as generic tools in the private sector, supporting agencies and research organisations, that needs to be better utilised. There is a great need to harness and create synergy of effort in the many existing initiatives.
  • Critical to the success of sustainable tree growing, is financial support from the public sector e.g. through the implementation of the SMME forestry development fund. Government is a key role player and partner in ensuring the success of SMME forestry development.
  • One of the root causes of many of the issues raised at the Indaba was a lack of political will to implement and act on initiatives which have been proposed. In particular, it was emphasised that a Working Group needs to be set up to drive this process, and should start with looking at the 2010 Strategic Plan that highlights many of the same issues and concerns, with possible mechanisms to resolve these. 
  • We need to recognise that forestry is one land use in supporting integrated rural development in South Africa, and while it may be the “anchor member”, it needs to work closely with and align its objectives to other aspects such as business entrepreneurship and agriculture in order to succeed.  

Download the Word document: Programme and List of Delegates

Sally Upfold
FSA Indaba 2013 Knowledge Manager,

Contact: ICFR