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

Find the “International News” section at

Find the UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) page on Forest products statistics (2019): Major consumers of forest products and Major producers of forest products, and Global production and trade of forest products in 2017.

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.


South Africa: imports and exports

  • The Agricultural Policy Action Plan (APAP) identified this sector as ranking amongst the top exporting industries in the country (APAP, 2015: 12).
  • Roughly 70% of all timber products are exported, with the result that the industry is largely exposed to global trends (ABSA, 2018).
  • The South African timber market follows world price trends.
Further reference
  • Find the forestry pages on the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) website,
  • The Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)’s publications pages include titles on forest management, forest research, forest degradation, and many more resourceful tools for scientists and those concerned about the future of the world’s forests. Visit
  • – the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF), the successor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF)
  • www.foresters.orgGlobal Association of Online Foresters
  • Read about New Generation Plantations (NGP) at

Local business environment

Visit the Forestry South Africa websites for useful overview of forestry in the country: and 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 cover about 1,3 million ha of South Africa. Over 80% of these are found in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal, with the rest largely located in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Limpopo.

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.

Private sector ownership in forestry accounts for 83% of the total area planted to timber. This includes corporates such as Sappi, Mondi, NCT, and other corporate landowners. 56% of the plantation area is managed mainly for pulpwood production, 36% for sawlog purposes and 4% for mining timber. The remaining 4% is used for other purposes.

Primary roundwood is processed by 184 plants, of which 90 are sawmills (including veneer and plywood plants), 33 poletreating plants, 18 pulp and board mills and chipping plants and 13 mining timber mills.

Sources: Forestry SA; ABSA Agricultural Outlook 2017;; the Forestry and Wood Products Market Value Chain Profile (see "Websites & publications" heading).


Forestry certification

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.

  • The certification of forests and forest products emerged during the previous decade as an environmental initiative to halt the destruction of the world’s natural forests.
  • 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.
  • South Africa has the highest percentage of certified forests worldwide.
  • South Africa is developing a South African National Forestry Certification standard as part of the South African Forestry Assurance Scheme (SAFAS). The Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) is expected to be implemented during 2018. See

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 Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic) Find the Amended Forest Sector Code (April 2017) in terms of the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Amendment Act on the website. Read about the Industrial Policy Action Plans (IPAPs) and the South African Furniture Initiative on the “Wood, pulp and paper” page.

Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF)

Forestry was transferred from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Environment, following the May 2019 general elections. Contact details for relevant forestry operations are listed below but will probably be changing:

  • Directorate: Forestry Operations Tel: 012 309 5708 Eastern Cape – 043 604 5523 Mpumalanga & Limpopo – 015 516 1062 Other regions – 012 309 5708
  • Directorate: Commercial Forestry Tel: 012 309 5706
  • Directorate: Forestry Regulations and Oversight Tel: 012 309 5710
  • Directorate: Small Scale Forestry Tel: 012 309 5712
  • Directorate: Woodlands and Indigenous Forest Management Tel: 012 309 5716
  • Directorate: International Trade Tel: 012 319 8185

Extension contacts:

  • Eastern Cape Regional Office: Tel: 043 604 5523 / 082 805 5984 NkosipenduleQ [at]
  • KwaZulu-Natal Regional Director Tel: 033 342 8101 / 082 887 2098 KimW [at]
  • Limpopo and Mpumalanga Regional Office Tel: 015 519 3300 / 083 631 0781 AndrewT [at]

Further details of extension personnel can be found in the Directory: Extension, Advisory and Forest Management Services on the Directorate National Extension Reform web pages at

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).

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) Tel: 011 268 1104/1 – Head Office, Tel: 033 346 0344 – Pietermaritzburg Regional Office Forestry South Africa (FSA) represents the interests of 11 corporate forestry companies, about 1 300 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. Call 082 377 7998.
  • 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

Training and research



  • Forest Industries Training Providers’ Association (FITPA)
  • FP&M SETA (Fibre Processing and Manufacturing Education and Training Authority) Tel: 011 403 1700 The SETA responsible for training in the forestry sector.
  • 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

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


Tertiary and research

  • Council for Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) Natural Resources and the Environment Tel: 012 841 2911  Find published research highlights and information about the CSIR’s involvement in forestry on the website.See also
  • Forestry and Forest Products Research Centre Tel: 031 242 2300 / 31 A joint venture between the CSIR and the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
  • Fort Cox College of Agriculture and Forestry Tel: 040 653 8033/4
  • Institute for Commercial Forestry Research (ICFR) Tel: 033 386 2314  A research institute funded by the private sector timber industry and focussed on applied research in many fields, including amongst others, tree breeding, silviculture and forest protection. See also
  • Merensky Research, Development & Environment Tel: 011 381 5750
  • Nelson Mandela University School of Natural Resource Management Tel: 044 801 5019 / 111 Josua.louw [at] 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 Tel: 021 808 3323 Offers all levels of degrees in forestry and wood science
  • University of KwaZulu-Natal (Pietermaritzburg) Farmer Support Group Tel: 033 260 6275
  • University of Pretoria Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) Tel: 012 420 3938/9 A world-class Institute working in the field of combating pests and diseases in the forestry and agricultural sectors
  • University of Venda Department of Forestry Tel: 015 962 8310 / 110

Rhodes University, the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Cape Town offer some training relevant to the forestry chapter 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 in the chapter.

  • The Forestry Handbook, published by the Southern African Institute of Forestry (SAIF). Visit for details (look for the “Forestry Handbook” menu option), or contact 082 523 8733. Find the other publications here too, like the Southern Forests: A Journal of Forest Science, the Fire Manager’s Handbook on Veld and Forest Fires (by William C Teie, edited by Tian Pool), and There’s Honey in the Forest.
  • Forestry and Sawmilling Directory and Wood Southern Africa & Timber Times are very useful to anyone involved in this industry. Visit or call 011 726 3081.
  • SA Forestry Online –
  • Find the annual Forestry and Wood Products Market Value Chain Profile on the Directorate Marketing web pages at, website of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, previously Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
  • Find the “Sustainable FORESTRY. Sustainable CITIES. Sustainable ECONOMIES” infographic.
  • Tree Farming Guidelines for Sappi Outgrowers is a practical guide to timber forestry. The manual is available on CD-Rom (contact 033 347 6629 or write to Sandra.holder [at] Chapters can be downloaded from
  • The A1-size poster Pests & diseases in South African Forestry can be ordered from SA Forestry magazine. Write to Debbie [at]
  • Subscribe to the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) eNewsletter. Go to for details.
  • Venter F. & Venter, J-A. 2015. Making the Most of Indigenous Trees (3rd edn). Pretoria: Briza.
  • Esterhuyse, N., Breitenbach, J. von & Söhnge, H. 2012. Remarkable Trees of South Africa. Pretoria: Briza Publications.
  • Van Wyk, B. & van Wyk, P. 2014. Field Guide to Trees of Southern Africa. Cape Town: Penguin Random House.
  • Identify South Africa’s 980 larger indigenous tree species, as well as 135 alien invasive trees with an App. Read about The Tree App South Africa at

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