The Premier of KwaZulu-Natal Mr Senzo Mchunu
MEC for Agriculture, and Environment Affairs: Dr Meshack Hadebe
The first lady; uMama Makhumalo Zuma
Executive Mayor of eThekwini Municipality Cllr James Nxumalo
Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee, Mr Mlungisi Johnson
Chairpersons of the National Forestry Advisory Council and the Charter Council
Chairperson of TOTAL South Africa
Officials from Government Departments
Ladies and gentlemen
Arbor Week will be celebrated under the theme “Our Forests – Our Future:” with special focus on greening of the country for environmental conservation and development. While Arbor Week is more on tree planting, the emphasis will be more on the role of trees and forests in food security.
During the same period as we celebrate Arbor Week, it will be just two days after the end of the celebrations for women’s month. About 20 trees would have been planted at the Botanical Gardens to commemorate and honour women leaders in the country and in particular our women leaders serving in cabinet.
September is also heritage month. As we celebrate Arbor week we would like to highlight our champion trees which include some of the oldest, largest and culturally significant trees. These include the Sophia Town Oak Tree and the Sagole Baobab Tree in Limpopo. These trees are part of our heritage.
This year’s Arbor Week will also be used to highlight the upcoming World Forestry Congress in 2015. This congress will be hosted in KwaZulu-Natal at the International Convention Centre in The eThekwini Municipality. It is expected that more than 7 000 participants including scientist, policy makers, Community Based Organisations, Non-Government Organisations, Civil Society Organisations and Government officials around the globe will attend this event to discuss issues affecting forests.
It is expected that among issues to be discussed will be the role of forests in food security, climate change, agroforestry, and the economic value of trees.
The Economic Value of Trees
Forestry has been identified as one of the high impact sectors in the economy with the potential to contribute positively to economic growth, foreign exchange, job creation, rural development and the development of Small Micro and Medium Enterprises (SMMEs).
The South African Forestry sector in the country is recognised as a high potential growth sector of the economy and an important development vehicle. One of its developmental attractions is that it is a rural-based activity offering opportunities to many of the poorest of the country’s citizens living in rural areas. According to the South Africa’s Yearbook of 2010/11, the industry is an essential contributor to national employment levels, directly employing an estimated 166 000 people. Nearly two-thirds of those employed are in commercial forestry, including about 30,000 small-scale growers most of whom are women. The commercial plantation resource of some 1.273 million hectares covers only 1.1% of the total land area of the country but contributes 27.4% to the country’s agricultural GDP.
Its contribution to down-stream processing industries is significant and in 2011 the value of sales from primary processing plants was estimated at R21.4 billion. At the same time exports of these products contributed 15.6% to the country’s trade balance.
The existing plantation resource is, however, insufficient to supply the growing local market for timber products, and the shortage that is expected to become more acute with time will be exacerbated by the declining trend in the area planted. To keep up with the rising demand and to avoid a situation where the country is dependent on imports, new areas need to be identified for expansion. However the expansion should be done in a sustainable way which balances development and environmental conservation.
Since government has identified Forestry as one of the key sectors that can contribute towards the creation of job opportunities it has consequently included Forestry in several development policies, including the National Industrial Policy Framework (NIPF) and the Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP). To achieve these ideal, government conducted an assessment of the potential for afforestation in the country. The result of the study was that there is potential for 39 000 ha in KwaZulu-Natal and 100 000 ha in the Eastern Cape, much of which will be on community-owned land.
These results are based on studies that took the following factors to consideration biophysical, climatic, competing forms of land use, environmental and hydrological issues into consideration.
The vehicle that has been established to facilitate the achievement of these targets in KwaZulu-Natal is the KwaZulu-Natal Forestry Sector Initiative Forum (KZNFSIF). Its key objective is to provide leadership and coordination to effectively facilitate the sector’s economic development. Key role players include the DAFF, Forestry South Africa, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), KwaZulu-Natal DEDT and the Industrial Development Cooperation (IDC). It meets at least once a quarter to discuss challenges and review progress in reaching the afforestation target and other sector development initiatives.
Progress with the implementation of the afforestation target has been steady, albeit slow owing to the cautious approach adopted by the forum. On the one hand the forum has to balance socio-economic and developmental objectives with very real and appreciated environmental and hydrological issues on the other, while also being wary not to create unrealistic expectations among the interested and affected parties.
In the Eastern Cape the department was very proactive in facilitating the afforestation process. About 13 000 ha of licence applications that were awaiting costly Environmental Impact Assessments were assisted with funding to the tune of R4.2 million. This has resulted in the issuing of positive Records of Decision for an area of approximately 8 000 ha. The Department of Water Affairs is busy with the licensing process for these areas. When planted these areas will create 160 direct jobs and a further 640 jobs when the trees are mature and processed.
As food prices go high because of the global economic instability many South Africans cannot afford to buy healthy food because the basic staples become scarce and expensive. Hence, the department has joined the nation in embarking on greening the nation initiative. A healthy, diverse and productive environment treasured by the whole community. Through greening and Climate Smart Agriculture food insecure households will have access to environmentally-friendly agricultural technologies, resources and training, and capacity to reduce hunger.
Forestry through jobs in rural areas creates an environment where households derive an income to buy food and other items in the household. However, where small growers are involved, small plantations could be integrated with food gardens or cash crops to ensure household food security while awaiting the trees to grow. Such an Agroforestry system could be one of the key pillars for the “Fetsa Tlala” Concept.
In addition, Forestry can contribute to food security through the following:
Fruit trees and orchards integrated into food gardens
Timber in small plantations used for household consumption, such as fire wood and building material. Money that would have between used for energy can now be available for buying food and other household items, especially in rural areas where there is a high prevalence of poverty
Job creation. Most forestry plantations occur in rural areas where there is a high prevalence of poverty. Currently forests account for an estimated 170 000 jobs through primary and secondary processing industries
Forestry industries help with rural development, especially by bringing infrastructure where there are new developments.
Forests provide suitable vegetation and conducive conditions for Non-Timber Forest Products enterprises such as honey production and mushrooms
We would like to acknowledge the role of women in all spheres of life including the role they play in leadership and development of the country. We acknowledge the presence of the first lady UMama Makhumalo, and the role she plays in rural areas by empowering women in rural development. Her presence here today is acknowledged and highly appreciated. Today we still planted 20 trees at the botanical gardens to honour and commemorate women in leadership in our country.
Veld and Forest Fires
During the dry and windy season in the country, we experience a lot of uncontrolled veld and forest fires. Last year during the same time the country experienced incidents of devastating veld and forest fires. This campaign gives us a platform to become increasingly aware of the impact of fires on our precious Natural Resources and on the Commercial Forestry Sector.
It is known that “fire is a good servant but a bad master”. We therefore today once again want to make everyone aware of the impact of uncontrolled wildfires. The risk of the spread of wildfires needs to be reduced by restricting the free spread of wildfires. This is in contradiction with burning for ecological purposes and fire protection need to be established.
Fire Protection Associations established in terms of the National Veld and Forest Fires Act is seen to be the correct vehicle for the development of Integrated Veld Fire Management Strategies.
The National Veld and Forest Fires Act also provides for the development and maintenance of the National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS) which is in its final stages of completion and will be launched soon. The NFDRS is an early warning system for predicting conditions conducive to occurrences of veld and forest fires. It is information technology for the support of veld and forest fire management. It does this by calculating the fire danger index, which is an indicator of the rate of difficulty of suppressing veld and forest fires. The system gives out the fire danger index by taking into account variables such as the weather and fuel factors, and this information should be communicated regularly to Fire Protection Associations and Disaster Management Centres. These agencies should then convey the information to their constituencies on the ground.
Youth involvement in the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries sector
To ensure a thriving sector, the department is investing in bursaries, learnerships and other incentive schemes to attract the youth to these sector which at times is perceived as not attractive. The youth is the future in this country and should take their rightful space in obtaining skills and knowledge on how to drive the economy successfully, with specific reference to this sector.
Through this initiative the department hopes to inculcate a sense of appreciation of the dynamics in this competitive and exciting sector. The unit that deals with the various incentives for learners and students at tertiary institutions have been invited to share information during the event.
The Arbor Week Campaign and the Arbor City Awards competition would not be a success without our partners and sponsors. TOTAL South Africa has been sponsoring the three programmes namely: Arbor Week, Million Trees Programme and the Arbor City Awards. The department would like to thank other partners and role players who through their efforts we are able to make our country green and a better place for all people to live in.
The general community and other sectors such as business and Non-Government Organisations are invited to join hands join hands with government so that we can achieve our goal of greening the country. Government cannot do it alone and we need your support. Working together we can achieve greening of our country.
The success with the implementation of the Million trees Programme and other greening interventions have been realised through a partnership between the three spheres of Government, Non-Government Organisations, Community Based Organisations and the Corporate Sector. This shows that working together we can green this country.