South Africa – the rainbow nation, the country with 11 official languages, a republic proclaimed in 1961 with a deeply marked image of apartheid and an international controversial position.
Multi-ethnic state with the most developed economy among African states and three capitals: Pretoria (executive), Cape Town (legislative) and Bloemfontein (judicial), Nelson Mandela’s homeland and one of 17 states „megadiverse” (CI).
I’d arrived in South Africa in January. Basically, I fled from the Romanian freezing weather on one of the vast South African forest plantations on the occasion of an professional experience exchange organized by a multinational company.
FAO statistics say that only 7% of forested areas are plantations and only 2% are accelerated industrial plantations.
South Africa does not have the right climate for this type of production, and yet, due to hybrids – the two companies – Sappi and Mondi – South African cellulose and paper market leaders have managed to expand their plantations on previously unusable surfaces. The predominant species are Pinus patula and Pinus elliotti (soft species) and Eucalyptus grandisis.
The declared area of forest plantations in South Africa is 1.5 million hectares, of which 24% is private property. Thus, Mondi Forests Owns and manages over 307.000 hectares of forestry plantations. The organisation employs more than 1 600 people; and has a contractor base of around 15 000 people, most of whom are employed in the forestry sector.
All Mondi SA plantations are certified by the FSC and Sappi Forests supplies over 70% of the wood requirements of Sappi Southern Africa, from its own
and managed commercial timber plantations of 479.000 hectares. This equates to more than 27,4 million tons of standing timber. All Sappi plantations are certified by the FSC.
The forest sector is relatively new to South Africa and contributes approx. 1% of GDP with uneven regional distribution: KwaZulu-Natal – 4.4%, Mpumalanga – 3.7%, Eastern Cape – 0.6% and about 0.6% – Limpopo. It provides 165,900 jobs and generates livelihoods for 652,000 inhabitants of rural areas.
Silvicultural management system
The specific south african silviculture regimes to be employed have also been backed up by financial modeling, and are in line with maximisation of financial return. Age is no longer used as the determining factor in scheduling silviculture operations such as pruning, thinning and clear felling, and is only used as a guideline for managing the regime.
- A minimum of 4 m of live crown is required after pruning and the over-bark diameter at the top of the pruned section should be between 9 and 11cm
- Thinning will be done at a Relative Density (RD) of 6.
- Longmore sawlog stands (small saw log working circle) will be clear felled when trees reach a diameter at breast height (DBH) of 19cm.
- Medium-large saw log working circle trees will be felled when they reach a DBH of 31cm.
Rate of Harvest
Yield regulation also has to take the following into account.
- A shift in the market in the increased demand for smaller log dimensions.
- The need to provide more equal volume levels post 2020 when volumes from exit plantations dry up.
- The need to achieve a normal age class distribution in the long term.
- Improved tree growth due to better genetic material and more intensive silviculture. The net result of this is that:
- Yield regulation for medium size saw logs was done with a set minimum age of 24 years until 2020
- From 2021 onwards a minimum age of 20 years is used for the medium size logs.
- Felling for Longmore sawmill combines reduced levels of felling at Longmore in the short term and then felling later at an increased level. A lot of volume for Longmore will come from Tsitsikamma in the short term.
Harvesting techniques and equipment used
The harvesting system to be used is determined by the complexity of the specification of the product, the raw material to be processed and the terrain.
Mechanised systems are preferred due to a safer work environment being established, optimization of the growing stock and even supply to clients. For level areas with uniform tree form stands, a fully mechanised system is used where saw logs production is the main product being processed.
Harvesting systems are specified, matched to compartments and compartments scheduled to have minimal environmental impact. Felling is done by means of a Harvester and processing is done at stump. Primary transport to a roadside landing is then completed with a Forwarder where products are sorted and stacked using a three-wheeler Bell.
For more complex product specification products, such as poles, or where terrain or product does not allow mechanized systems, processing is done manually.
Felling is done either with a feller buncher or motor manually. Primary transport is done by means of a skidder, skogger or a high lead system. Mop-up activities including felling of trees that were incorrectly planted in Special Management Zones (SMZ) are only acceptable if minimal site disturbance can be achieved. To clear any SMZ, special permission must be obtained from the Plantation Manager.
If permission is not granted, trees are left standing or ring-barked. All the thinning operations and operations in exit areas on small diameter timber include motor manual felling, extraction by skidder or agricultural tractor, and stacking by Bell or manually.
From plantations to elephants!
Kruger National Park – one of the largest reserves in Africa. It has an area of 19,485 square kilometers, 360 km from north to south and 65 km from east to west.
Kruger is the first national park, protected by the Government of the Republic of South Africa since 1898 and is part of the Limpopo Great Cross-border Park, which is made up of Kruger National Park, Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe and Limpopo National Park in Mozambique. Also, Kruger National Park was included by UNESCO in the Man and Biosphere Reserve.
Photo source : http://www.rachellewrattenphotography.com
Home for an impressive number of species – Kruger Park is one of the main tourist attractions in the area and a walking safari is a unique experience!
Because #neverstoplearning is what we believe in at ForstPan!