Minister T Joemat-Pettersson's speech for Arbor Week event, Jonkershoek Cape, Winelands Municipality
4 Sep 2009
The Honourable Premier
Honourable district mayors
Local municipality mayors and deputy mayors
Ladies and gentlemen
Programme director, it is an honour for me to be invited to this occasion to celebrate Arbor Week with you all. As we celebrate this important week it is my pleasure to confirm my department’s commitment to ensuring that communities are empowered to contribute to the development of the natural resources base of South Africa, in this case the value of trees to our daily life.
The driving theme for this year is “plant trees, save our planet”. Those who have been following our campaigns may wonder why we have chosen to use this theme as it was used for the past campaigns. We thought it is important that we continue emphasising that climate change and in particular global warming is the most serious threat to the existence of human beings in our planet today.
One of the reasons that trees and wood are one of the greatest and most important natural resources in the world is that their contribution to the effective regulation of our environment and atmosphere is priceless.
Trees and their products are among South Africa’s most valuable national treasures and play an important and diverse role in the national economy. People in both rural and urban settings are becoming increasingly knowledgeable and sensitive about trees and forests, resulting in a greater awareness of the maintenance and preservation of this rich heritage.
A few minutes ago I planted a tree to launch the newly established Camcore/MTO Conservation Park. MTO Forestry, besides being our hosts today, is a private company that signed a sustainable lease agreement with the government in 2005 to lease 45 700 ha of state forest land on a long term basis and a further 69 300ha on a shorter term 20 years exit area forestry lease.
MTO Forestry is also a member of Camcore, which is an international forestry cooperative. The cooperative started in 1980 in Central America and has grown to include 29 members in 14 countries. Camcore was created with two main objectives: first to collect valuable, but threatened pine species, in natural stands in the countries of origin and to plant them in provenance trials on member companies’ land. Members have been successful in conserving genetic material ex-situ while some of the populations are now extinct in their natural habitat.
The second objective of Camcore is to test these species and determine which species, provenances and families are the most productive in timber volume, wood quality and disease resistance. The genetic improvement of trees for commercial forestry is an important tool which increases the productivity of plantations on the limited land available for forestry in South Africa.
Being surrounded by plantations today gives us an opportunity to think about forestry. Forestry includes all activities linked to these forests and refers not only to the use and management of forests but also includes the further processing of wood products into pulp for the paper and packaging industries, sawn timber, furniture, shelving, flooring etc. In addition forestry includes the use, management and processing of non timber forest products involving fruits, plants and medicinal herbs. Energy is also a component of forestry; the use of forest woods for fuel and for the manufacturing of charcoal.
We are also able to see the impact of the recent devastating fires. This gives us a moment to become increasingly aware of the impact of fires on our precious natural resources and on the commercial forestry sector. The Western Cape again experienced the worst fire season since 2000, It is estimated that the damage to the agricultural industry estimated to be at between R150 million and R200 million; damage include vineyards, citrus orchards, plantations and pastures
The fires that impacted on the wine estates in the Helderberg area started on the 4th of February and lasted until mid March, the loss estimated at R40,5 million. The loss also included a million pine trees on Lourensford Estate.
Right here in Jonkershoek there was a loss of 720 ha that included 290 ha of commercial forestry.
It is known that fire is a good servant but a bad master. We therefore today once again want to make everyone aware of the impact of uncontrolled wildfires. Different causes for fires were identified during the past fire season. In the Cederberg sandstone rock fell and produced sparks igniting a fire; in the Hottentots Holland Mountain range and in the Cape Peninsula, forensic investigations were undertaken and causes identified included arson, negligence and flare ups from previous fires.
The Western Cape is a fire prone area due to the type of vegetation, fynbos biome and the climate in the region during the summer season being extremely windy, hot and dry. Besides extreme weather conditions and inaccessible mountainous terrain hamper efforts to fight the fires. The veld/urban interface also pose many challenges.
Risk of the spread of wildfires need to be reduced by restricting free spread of wildfires, this is in contradiction with burning for ecological purposes and fire protection need to be established. Fire protection associations established in terms of the National Veld and Forest Fire Act is seen to be the correct vehicle for development of integrated veld fire management strategies.
Ladies and gentlemen, I wish to add that it is important for all us gathered here to note that the prevention of veld and forest fires are crucial if forestry is to continue contributing to the creation of a better life for all those who live in South Africa. Veld fires hinder economic growth and thereby exacerbate poverty. They destroy poor communities, farming communities and lead to loss of life as well as livelihoods. Over and above its role in the carbon cycle, wildfires cause enormous damage to people’s properties every year, as we have just recently witnessed here in Jonkershoek.
When trees and grass burn, they create greenhouse effects, that positively contribute to the climate change, this means that they release back into the air all the Carbon dioxide (CO2) that was initially taken from the atmosphere. That effectively cancels any benefit they had for removing the CO2 in the first place.
We would like to see the full and active participation of our communities, especially the previously disadvantaged, in all forestry related matters. We encourage the sustainable use of resources, sustainable growth and profitability and we would like to see the forestry sector push the mandate of government, which is cantered towards addressing the needs of the poor-poverty alleviation, job creation, rural development and the betterment of the lives of our people, across all ethnic groups.
You will be pleased to know that a number of initiatives around forest management and forestry enterprise development were started about five years ago in the Western Cape. This includes the transfer of state forests to other organs of state and privates. While there are successes in this industry, we still face challenges such as:
* ensuring equity in the entire value chain
* increasing the local supply of round wood to underpin sustainability and growth throughout the value chain
* linking forestry as a rural based industry with poverty eradication and specifically local economic development
* veld and forest fires still pose a challenge.
The department’s vision in the management of fires and I am glad that we have all our partners here at this event is the issue of monitoring and enforcement. We are planning to get tough on compliance and stick to the stipulations of the national Veld and Forest Fires Act.
We will be knocking on doors of landowners of the high and extreme wildfire risk areas for buy-in. we are happy to report that some district municipalities in the Western Cape have the issue of fire management and fire protection entrenched in their Integrated Development Planning (IDP) and this ensures implementation and compliance by municipalities.
The inclusion of previously disadvantaged communities into the economy is no longer debatable; we are working out the “how” and no longer the “why”. The Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) charter for the forestry sector is a key in addressing the following challenges:
* The fact that it is historically white and male dominated, and characterised by large disparities in access to opportunities and benefits for black people, especially black women
* The fact that many small scale, mostly black owned, operators struggle to remain afloat
* the problem of wide scale casualisation of jobs and the reality that poor employment conditions persist and the need to increase raw material supply to sustain growth and employment in the entire forestry value chain.
Furthermore, ladies and gentlemen, please be reminded that one of the reasons that led to our colonisation was the realisation of the richness of Africa in natural resources, which would also include our forests. Let us use these resources responsibly. It is also important to note that trees are our heritage that’s why Arbor Week is celebrated along side with our Heritage month.
Issued by: Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
4 September 2009
Source: Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (http://www.daff.gov.za)
Issued by: Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
4 Sep 2009
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