The South African forestry sector makes a meaningful contribution to the economy of the country and has huge potential in the development of our impoverished rural areas. In South Africa, rural development poses an enormous challenge, a challenge that has not been successfully met by a great number of other developingcountries.

The vast majority of people live in rural areas. Since the election of 1994, the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) has been working on a national forestry plan that was completed in 1998. The implementation is now in progress. Van der Zel (1994) defines a national forest policy “as the relationship between the people of a nation, and the forest resources at the disposal of the nation”. It implies taking part and accepting responsibility in the decision-making processes of the policy. It also implies a continually changing vision and thus a policy to adapt to changing circumstances.

Mixed evergreen forests form the smallest (about 3 000km), most widely distributed and most fragmented biomes in South Africa. Evergreen forests occur along the escarpment and East Coast in areas with an annual rainfall of more than 525mm per annum during Winter and more than 725mm per annum during Summer. The few large forest complexes are widely separated from one another. The large ratio of forest margin to forest area accentuates the importance of forest margins in forest survival. The natural fragmentation has been aggravated by current land use practices. The development of commercial forestry plantations of pines and eucalyptus in the grasslands and shrub-lands surrounding the forests contributed to conservation of the forests. The plantation stands, also nurse the establishment of shade-tolerant forest species. This succession process is used to restore the forest in selected areas.

    South Africa has extensive and valuable forest resources. They are valued for their biological diversity, for medicinal and local uses, and for their aesthetic and spiritual values. In the vicinity of Knysna and George, which is in the Western Cape Province, and in the Amatola Mountains of the Eastern Cape Province, plantation forests are used for timber. The most extensive resources are the woodlands, originally about 42 million hectares of open savannah, of which as little as half now remains. There are about 1.49 million hectares of industrial forest plantations (1.3 percent of national land). These plantations support a multi-billion rand industry, employing over a hundred thousand people which are managed for sustainable production.

Although the commercial plantations are extensive, there are many places where natural forests have been depleted and where people’s needs are not being met. South African forestry policy includes in its scope, all kinds of forests in the country and woodlands, as well as planted forests and small groups of trees.

Forest goods and services fall into two broad categories:

• Where the resources are consumed (the use values of forest resources);and
• Where the resources may not be consumed, but are nevertheless, valued by people (the non-use values).

Forest goods and services are derived from plantations, natural forests and woodlands. The benefits and costs associated with each type of forest differ.

Examples of use values of forests, for which there is normally an active market, are:

• Wood products for industrial processing and wood forfuel
• Non-timber forest products, such as resin, fruit and other foods, medicinal plants, bark, fibres,wildlife;
• Opportunities for recreation and tourismdevelopment;

Figure 1: Wooden poles

Source: landreport.coma

• Conservation of biological diversity;and
• Fixing of carbon dioxide from the air to compensate for industrialemissions.

One way of reducing conflicts in land use, is the recognition of the value of the forests. Geldenhuys (1999) recognised direct and indirect values of the South African forests are as follows.

Large diameter trees of selected species are harvested for building and furniture timber. Tree species normally used include Podocarpusspp. and Ocoteabullata(Lauraceae). Today, pines, eucalyptus and wattle plantations provide the structural timber needs of South Africa. Most of the timber comes from Southern Cape forests. Timber harvested illegally is usually livewood, which is cut for tall straight poles and lathes. Selection for durable, termite resistant species results in cutting species with low annual increment. Where legal harvesting of indigenous timber takes place, trees of declining vigour is selected for harvesting, thereby minimising the impact of harvesting on the natural turnover rates and functioning of the forestecosystem.

Fuel wood accounts for 51% of domestic energy use in South Africa and represents the highest volume of forest products used by rural people (Geldenhuys, 1999). Fuel wood gathering focuses on forests where woodlands or exotic plantations do not surround forests, and woodlots have not been developed.

Traditional medicines are important to rural communities for medical, psychosomatic and economic reasons. Traditional medicinal forest plants include trees, shrubs, climbers, epiphytes and parasites. Popular species include Cassipoureamalosana, Erythrophleumlasianthum, Ocoteabullataand Warburgiasalutaris. Faunal elements of forests are also important for this purpose, particularly pill millipedes, baboons, genets, pythons, mambas and cobras. The traditional medicines remain important to the rapidly growing urban black population. This has generated a local and countrywide multimillion rand annual trade between rural source areas and urban markets and shops.

Edible fruits and fungi, wild spinaches and honey provide important dietary supplements to rural people in less developed areas of South Africa. This provides nutrients which are deficient in the starchy staple diet. This role is increased during drought periods, particularly in marginal agricultural potential areas. Pyrenacanthascandensis the most popular forest spinach along the northeast coast of South Africa. Forest in the Afromontane region along the escarpment, is generally poor in edible fruit-bearing species but those species may occur at high density such as Eugenia capensisin Transkei, South Africa.

The Southern Cape indigenous forests contain the fern Rumohraadiantiformisthat is used extensively in the florist trade, both locally and abroad. During 1994/1995, 2.2 million fronds were harvested from the forest over a total area of 15 000 hectares and sold for a value of almost US$125

  1. The industry has expanded to shade cloth nurseries and planting under pinestands.
    Forests have cultural importance as burial sites. The forest of the Vhavenda and the burial site of the Zulu Chief Dingaan in Hlatikulu Forest are some examples.

Forests have an increasingly important role in providing for the recreation and aesthetics of the growing urbanised and industrialised societies. South Africa has many picnic sites, viewpoints, camping sites, forest walks and hiking trails. During 1994/1995, the revenue from entry fees to one viewpoint with a big tree of Podocarpusfalcatusin the Southern Cape was US$27 500. The availability of such trails is important in the tourism industry and in conservation education.

The presence of vegetation can prevent soil erosion and drift sand formation in coastal and inland areas. Faunistically and floristically, forests are amongst the richest biomes and are important in maintaining genetic diversity. Preservation of plants is important because they may still have important utility in allowing experimentation and research (Geldenhuys, 1999).

Geldenhuys (1999) defines conservation status as the extent to which populations, species or communities have been modified by the influences of man and the degree to which they might be expected to maintain their genetic diversity and ecological processes in the medium term (10 to 100 years).

The National and Provincial Governments and statutory bodies manage and control a very large proportion of the forests and only a small portion is privately owned. Conserved forests in South Africa range from forests in private and tribal ownership that are in good condition, to forests in conservancies and natural heritage sites, through to forests in nature reserves and wilderness areas proclaimed under the Forest Act (Geldenhuys, 1999).

There are many forests outside the proclaimed areas, which are well conserved, with insecure conservation status. Geldenhuys (1999) defined conserved forests as those forests in the custody of government authorities, including National Parks Board and City Councils. The forest types and forest complexes in South Africa are generally well conserved. Along the entire South African coast, the seaward slopes of the coastal dunes and the dunes within a one kilometre restricted area are proclaimed under the Environmental ConservationAct.

In KwaZulu-Natal, where many forests are on private land, the Conservancy System and the Natural Heritage System hold out hope for conservation. It is noteworthy that controlled utilisation of reserved trees and ferns on private land through a permit system contributed to forest conservation in many areas. A number of nature reserves provide for the conservation of large areas of forest (Geldenhuys, 1999).

However, various sources still exert pressure on our forests:

• Growing human needs in rural tribalareas;
• High intensity farming interests such as in the Eastern Cape lowlands cause the clearing of scrub and riverine forests foragriculture;
• Economic pressures cause uncontrolled exploitation, grazing and burning of forests on farms;
• Mining of forested dunes continues along the KwaZulu-Natal North coast;and
• Development of infrastructure, (roads, powerlines, dams) township and resort developments (Geldenhuys,1999).

The following definition of agroforestry is used by the International Council for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF) and accepted worldwide: “Agroforestry is a collective name for land-use systems and technologies where woody perennials (trees, shrubs, palms, bamboos, etc.) are used on the same land management unit as agricultural crops and/or animals, either in some form of spatial arrangement or temporal sequence. In agroforestry systems, there are both ecological and economical interactions between the different components” (Esterhuyse, 1994).

In the tree-rich savannah veld of South Africa, such as parts of the Eastern Cape, Northern Natal, the Lowveld, Bushveld in the Northern Province and the Kalahari where livestock farming is practiced, trees are protected for the production of additional fodder for drought season as a source of fencing material and firewood, stabilising soil, providing shade and for general environment conservation purposes.

The major constraints to successful livestock raising in the Summer rainfall areas of South Africa, are the shortage of fodder available to livestock during Winter. Since in Winter there are limited rainfalls and lower temperatures, grass growth is restricted.

Conversely, increased rainfall and temperatures in Summer should create more favorable conditions. A second reason for the poorer carrying capacity in Winter is the result of leaching of soil nutrients (sour grasslands are in the high rainfallareas).

According to Bisschop (1994), nutritional needs of cattle herds are not attuned to this decrease in grass growth. In fact, it is during the Winter that cows are suckling large calves, are heavily pregnant and thus have the greatest nutritional needs. The solution on most commercial farms to alleviate

fodder shortages during winter is to set aside part of the farm for grazing. Some of the excess grass is cut and used ashay.

In rural Zululand, such practices are rare, largely as a result of the fact that available resources are primarily allocated to the survival of the human population. Money is always in desperate short supply and most purchased inputs such as licks are simply beyond the means of the rural poor. A possible solution to the problem of winter feeding has been gleaned from the habits of goats and their ability to browse and utilise the leaf material of trees.

Trees and shrubs not only remain green into the Winter months in the savannah landscapes of Zululand, long after grasses have died but also green, up to the end of Winter. The reason for this phenomenon is their deeper, better developed rooting systems, which have greater access to both sub-surface moisture and nutrient supplies. Trees, once established, need little ongoing care and provide a ready source of plant material during Winter

Tree species that are used for fodder include Prosopisspp., Ceratoniasiliqua, Sesbaniasesban, Leucaenaand Chamaecytisuspalmensis. These are exotic trees (mostly legumes) and they perform a number of valuable functions apart from being fodder crops. There are a number of
interesting indigenous species which are used as fodder trees i.e. Tremaorientaliswhich is known to be palatable to livestock and is reputed to have anthelminthic properties. There are a wide variety of Acacia species which can be of benefit to the livestock. Research work needs to be done to establish effective uses for these trees. Possible species in the Zululand area are Acacia robustaand A. karoo, both of which grow fast in Natal. In most of the rest of the country, large proteinaceous pods are beneficial.

Limited projects of various kinds such as trials of Leucaenaleucocephalahave been carried out by the Agricultural Research Council, by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry with communities in the Northern Transvaal. Other projects have been implemented in the Eastern Cape to test their agroforestry systems. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have supported an extensive array of trials of new species throughout the country since 1985. NGOs working in rural development have fostered the use of fruit trees in household gardens andfields.

The Biomass Initiative was launched in 1992 to address the growing fuel wood problem in rural South Africa, as part of a holistic approach to rural development. The project was motivated by the need to address the rapidly deteriorating energy situation in rural areas, symptomatic of increasing poverty, in which 90 percent of households are dependent on wood for energy. It also attempted to halt the environmental degradation due to pressure on theland.

The expected benefits of the Biomass Initiative were the stabilised provision of firewood, revitalised subsistence farming, provision of food and fodder, improved soil fertility, stimulation of the local economy, improvement in health (particularly of wood collectors), prevention of natural resource degradation, improved water catchment management and greater protection of habitats.

Potential avenues of intervention were identified including:

• Agroforestry and social forestry systems focusing mainly on individualhouseholds;
• Community woodlots and smallplantations;
• Control of invader bush in game, commercial farming and water catchment areas;and
• Utilisation of forestry waste from the commercial forestry industry. The production component of the Biomass Initiativeinvolved:
• Tree planting communal or individual woodlots, oragroforestry;
• Nurseries owned by individuals orcommunities;
• Training people in social forestryextension;
• Fencing certain areas to protect scarce indigenous species and allow natural regeneration; and
• Installing biogas plants to assess theiracceptability.
This component showed that although there is no general tree-planting ethic in rural areas, rural people are amenable to tree planting and veld management for their own benefit (Plant for Life, 1996).

In districts where land is communally owned, especially in the former Transkei and KwaZulu- Natal, government authorities established small plantations around natural forests (often, at least initially, through negotiation with traditional authorities), to create alternative resources for the supply of wood for households. These usually passed to the control of the traditional authority and for various reasons became neglected.