Forests include plantations, natural/indigenous forests and woodlands/savannas. All activities linked to these fall under the umbrella of “forestry”. A look at the menu options of websites listed on this page will confirm the scope of forestry. The Center for International Forestry Research (, for example, has “Climate change”, “Gender”, “Livelihoods”, “Forest management”, “Food & biodiversity”, “Landscapes” and more.

In addition to timber and related products, forests offer non-timber products and activity. They play a big part in our fauna and flora. Fruits, plants, medicinal herbs, birds and animals are found here. Trees protect watersheds and conserve the soil. They purify water and moderate its flow. They produce oxygen and help the planet against global warming. Often tourist activity incorporates forests or woodland area (South Africa’s Kruger National Park is a woodland area).

This article focuses more on plantations. It is interested in forestry as “the science of planting, managing and caring for timber plantations”. Not that forestry, defined like this, lessens the undertaking. The landscape, the plant and animal species found within them, and the communities affected by them all still require attention. (See the notes by Forestry Explained on what goes with these enterprises at

Forestry gives us several sectors downstream, like sawmilling, furniture making, paper and pulp production. For more on this, see the “Wood, pulp and paper” page.

Agroforestry is when trees are incorporated among other activities on the farm with environmental and other benefits. Interested readers are referred to the following sources:


International business environment

Loss of forests leads to a loss of biodiversity and diminishes the planet’s ability to withstand global warming. The main threats to the world’s forests are conversion to agriculture, illegal logging, population growth and urbanisation, and poverty. Globally, what mainly causes concern for the management of forests, is deforestation through the illegal cutting down of trees, the expansion of logging into areas which are protected or of high conservation value (HCV), and timber supply from controversial sources.

Further reference:


South Africa: imports and exports

  • The forest products industry ranks among the top exporting industries in the country (GCIS, 2020), with the result that the industry is largely exposed to global trends.
  • In 2019, South Africa’s major export markets were Botswana (16%), Japan (15.6%), Lesotho (13%), Mozambique (12%), Namibia (7%) and Zambia (6%) (USDA, 2020).
  • The leading suppliers of timber and timber products were Eswatini (33%), Botswana (7%), China (7%), Namibia (7%) and Brazil (4%) (USDA, 2020).

Local business environment

Visit the Forestry South Africa websites for useful overview of forestry in the country: See also for statistics, news, information on training and legislation and more.

About half of the more than 1 700 indigenous tree and shrub species found in South Africa grow along the south and east coasts and on the southern and south-eastern slopes of inland mountains. The other half is spread over the interior plateaus. Indigenous forests are indispensable to the country’s heritage, beauty, wildlife and environment, while commercial forests provide jobs and economic opportunities for many people, especially in rural areas.

Plantations can be classified into two main categories: hardwood and softwood. Eucalyptus (mainly Eucalyptus grandis and its hybrids) and wattle (Acacia mearnsii) are the main hardwood species grown in South Africa. Pine (of which Pinus patula is the most common species) accounts for all South African softwood plantations.

As a tree poor country (where indigenous forests are protected), South Africa has had to rely almost exclusively on the development of exotic forest plantations to meet its demand for wood.

Plantations cover about 1,1 million ha of South Africa. Timber production areas are found in Mpumalanga (41%), KwaZulu-Natal (40%), Eastern Cape (12%), Limpopo (4%) and Western Cape (3%). Pine accounts for 49% of the total timber planted area, followed by eucalyptus (44%), and wattle (7%).

The forestry sector employs around 157 500 workers with the forest sub-sector providing about 59 800 direct jobs and 27 500 indirect jobs. Forestry provides livelihood support to 688 000 people of the country’s rural population. The pulp and paper industry provides about 13 200 direct and 10 800 indirect employment opportunities. Some 20 000 direct workers are employed and 8 000 indirect in sawmilling, and 6 000 in the timber-board and 2 200 in the mining timber industries, while a further 10 000 workers are employed in miscellaneous jobs in forestry (GCIS, 2020).

Sources: Forestry SA; USDA Foreign Agricultural Service report “Declining Area Planted May Present Opportunities for US Lumber Exports to South Africa”(July 2020);; the Forestry and Wood Products Market Value Chain Profile (see "Websites & publications" heading).


Forestry certification

“Certification encompasses an independent and ongoing assessment / audit of an organisation’s forest management practices, to measure compliance against a range of nationally and internationally recognised social, economic and environmental standards” (Forestry South Africa). Read the PDF “Forest Certification: What’s it all About?” at

Further reference:

  • Find the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) website at To find out more about forestry certification, contact SGS South Africa at 021 506 3280 and the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) at 012 428 7911.
  • Read about the Sustainable African Forest Assurance Scheme (Safas) at, website of the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).
  • Forestry South Africa,



National strategy and government contact

The Agricultural Policy Action Plan (APAP) credited the private sector for its “excellent management capacity” and for ushering in “efficiencies across the value chain” (APAP, 2015: p 15). “Forestry, timber, paper, pulp and furniture” has featured in the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition‘s Industrial Policy Action Plans (IPAPs).

Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE)

Forestry was transferred from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Environment, following the May 2019 general elections. Find the forestry pages on the DFFE website.

Find the Parliamentary Monitoring Group‘s account “Transformation in the forestry and fisheries sectors; Challenges faced by Forestry and Fisheries branch; with Minister and Deputy Minister” (25 February 2020).

Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic) Find the Amended Forest Sector Code (April 2017) on Forest Sector Charter Council website. “Forestry, timber, paper, pulp and furniture” has previously featured in the dtic’s Industrial Policy Action Plans (IPAPs) and the IPAP’s agricultural cousin, the Agricultural Policy Action Plan (APAP).

The instruments of policy relevant to the forestry sector are:


  • The National Forests Act, 1998 (Act No. 84 of 1998) – concerned with the sustainable management of forests and the protection of forests and trees as well as community participation
  • The National Veld and Forest Fires Act, 1998 (Act No. 101 of 1998) – concerned with the combating of veld and forest fires
  • National Water Act, 1998 (Act No 36 of 1998) – afforestation is a stream-flow reduction activity (SFRA). The introduction of this Act led to the forestry sector losing some 80 000ha (APAP, 2014:13).
  • The Wattle Bark Industry Act, 1960 (Act No. 23 of 1960) which provides for the control of the wattle bark industry
  • The Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act (CARA), 1983 (Act 43 of 1983) seeks to protect prime agricultural land and manage land use nationally.
  • The National Environmental Management Act (NEMA), 1998 (Act No 107 of 1998 means that afforestation requires an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
  • The Forest Sector Transformation Charter


Planting trees in a fairly regulated process. A water licence and an environmental impact assessment (EIA) are required.


Certain trees are protected by law and should anyone wish to cut or utilise these trees they need to apply for a licence from their local DALRRD office. In terms of Section 15(1) of the National Forests Act, no person may cut, disturb, damage or destroy any protected tree or possess, collect, remove, transport, export, purchase, sell or donate any protected tree or any forest product derived form such a tree without a license.

Associations involved

Forestry South Africa (FSA) Find details of the Head Office and Pietermaritzburg Regional Office on the FSA website, FSA represents the interests of 11 corporate forestry companies, about 1 100 commercial and some 20 000 emergent small-scale timber growers in the country. In total its membership owns or controls well over 93% of the Industry’s plantations. It is thus regarded by all stakeholders, both private and public as being the representative body of the South African Forestry Industry.

  • Paper Manufacturer’s Association of South Africa (PAMSA) represents the country’s pulp and paper producers
  • Sawmilling South Africa (SSA) represents the formal sawmills in the country –
  • South African Forestry Contractors Association (SAFCA) is an association of forestry contractors which assists contractors with technical information and represents them on national forums and bodies. See
  • South African Wood Preservers Association represents timber treaters and preservative manufacturers. Visit
  • The Wood Foundation (TWF) promotes the benefits of growing trees and the use of wood as a preferred material in the construction of homes and the manufacture of all manner of products. See
  • South African Institute of Forestry – see next heading
  • The Timber Industry Pesticide Working Group (TIPWG) to “promote responsible and effective use of pesticides in South African commercial timber plantations”. See

Other groups of relevance:

  • Dendrological Society and Foundation
  • Institute for Timber Construction South Africa
  • South African Utility Pole Association Tel: 033 330 3418 / 083 627 6897
  • The Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry of South Africa (TAPPSA)
  • The Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers Union (Ceppwawu) Tel: 011 712 0300
  • Some funds by the National Empowerment Fund (NEF) are specifically forestry, pulp and paper orientated e.g. the Rural and Community Development Fund and the Strategic Projects Fund. Details can be read at

Training and research

General role players
  • Forest Industries Training Providers’ Association (FITPA)
  • FP&M SETA (Fibre Processing and Manufacturing Education and Training Authority) The SETA responsible for training in the forestry sector
  • Contact the Forestry Industry Museum and Information Centre at 013 764 1058.

Numerous companies like Skills for Africa provide short courses and other training. The reader is referred to FITPA or FP&M SETA for a further list of training materials.

Tertiary and research
  • Council for Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) Find published research highlights and information about the CSIR’s involvement in forestry on the website.
  • Forestry and Forest Products Research Centre A joint venture between the CSIR and the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
  • Fort Cox College of Agriculture and Forestry
  • Institute for Commercial Forestry Research (ICFR) A research institute funded by the private sector timber industry and focused on applied research in many fields, including amongst others, tree breeding, silviculture and forest protection.
  • Merensky Research, Development & Environment
  • Nelson Mandela University School of Natural Resource Management Forestry National Diploma, B.Tech, M. Tech and D. Tech in forestry. Accredited short courses are also offered.
  • South African Institute of Forestry
  • Stellenbosch University Department of Forest and Wood Science Offers all levels of degrees in forestry and wood science
  • University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) (Pietermaritzburg) Farmer Support Group
  • University of Pretoria Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI)
  • University of Venda Department of Forestry

Rhodes University, the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Cape Town offer some training relevant to this forestry page e.g. Woodland Ecology, Forest Ecology, Ecophysiology of trees – Nutrition, Water & Carbon.


Companies involved

The reader is referred to the Forestry and Sawmilling Directory, the most comprehensive directory for all involved in this industry. Refer to the next heading.

Also find the extensive Business Directory on with some 40 different categories e.g. agrochemicals, anti-split plates for pole manufacturers, automation and information technology, chain saws etc.

Websites and publications

Visit the websites of role players listed earlier on this page.


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