South Africa has developed one of the largest planted forests in the world.
Plantations cover about 1,3 million ha of South Africa’s land surface. Production from these plantations amounted to more than 22 million m3 of commercial roundwood, valued at almost R5,1 billion. Together with processed wood products, total turnover for the industry was about R15 billion in 2006, including R6,8 billion worth of wood-pulp.
The forestry sector employs close to 170 000 people and contributes more than R16 billion to the South African economy.
The impact of the sector is felt in rural areas and there is significant scope for forestry to expand and contribute towards uplifting those in the Second Economy.
There are about 530 000 ha of indigenous or natural forests in the country, which occur mainly along the southern and eastern escarpment, the coastal belt and in sheltered kloofs or ravines.
There has been an increase in the use of natural forests as sources of medicine, building material, fuel wood and food. It is estimated that around 80% of South Africa’s population still uses medicinal plants, most of which are sourced from natural habitats.
South Africa has a detailed inventory of all its natural forests, which is used to accurately monitor changes in forest areas. The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry has completed a classification of natural forests, represented by 24 broad forest types.
The Natural Forests Protected Areas System guides the setting aside and redemarcation of natural forests as protected areas.
Restructuring the forests
The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is pursuing a restructuring programme in the forestry sector, which will eventually see the department becoming a sector leader and regulator of forestry in South Africa.