1) THE TIMBERWATCH COALITION

Timberwatch was founded in 1995 by a group of concerned members of civil society, but has since developed a volunteer network working together with a Coalition of Environmental NGOs

2) NGO MEMBERS

WESSA The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa

EarthLife Africa

ZEAL -The Zululand Environmental Alliance

Botanical Society of S.A. KZN Coastal branch

EMG Environmental Monitoring Group

GEASPHERE

groundWork

BIOWATCH South Africa

 

3) AIMS AND OBJECTIVES

1. To provide a credible body of informed opinion.

2. To ensure plantations are correctly located.

3. To support and to monitor relevant research.

4. To lobby for balanced strategic land-use plans.

5. To ensure that high standards are maintained.

6. To establish monitoring teams to help ensure 5.

7. To encourage removal of invasive alien plants.

8. To ensure protection of grasslands, wetlands, forests and woodlands in timber plantation areas

9. To be represented on bodies responsible for the issuing of water use licences for new plantations.

10. To participate in processes for new plantations.

11. To document the impacts of timber plantations.

4) OUR MISSION 

To promote and coordinate action by members, organisations and the public, and to keep such bodies adequately informed, in order to ensure that timber plantations are not established on land where food, other crops, and live stock (indigenous or otherwise) could be farmed to the greater benefit of both local communities and South Africa as a whole.

5) RESOURCE ECONOMICS

Natural areas; Forests, Grasslands and Wetlands provide a wide range of goods and services that benefit human communities:

Clean air; water; food; medicinal plants; building materials; recreation; good mental health; research and education.

All of these need to be valued so that any loss of amenity can be set off against the claimed economic benefits from plantations.

Timberwatch believes the timber industry should not be allowed to externalise social and environmental costs that result from their timber growing and milling operations

6) WATER RESOURCES

Research has shown that large-scale timber plantations negatively affect both surface & ground water resources.

Eucalyptus plantations especially are known to dry up local streams and wetlands, with serious consequences for communities and ecosystems.

Timberwatch holds the view that timber plantations are not a high priority in terms of water use, and that prior users - farmers and ecosystems - should get preference.

7) OTHER IMPACTS

Damage to public roads, and accidents and injuries to other road users.

Pollution of streams and rivers from use of toxic agri-chemicals and spilled lubricants.

Air pollution from exhausts of equipment used in- field as well as for transporting timber.

Air and water pollution from sawmills and pulp and paper mills affects people and wildlife.

Greenhouse Gas emissions and releases over the full production and processing cycle contribute to global warming.

8) IMPACTS ON BIODIVERSITY

9) SOCIAL IMPACTS

Negative environmental impacts also affect people, but there are specific social costs that must also be accounted for:

Health problems from exposure to toxic agri-chemicals and in-field injuries, that arise after the event.

Disruption of community and family life resulting from the contract labour system.

The spread of STDs as a consequence of both the contract labour system and trucking of timber.

Increased vulnerability of women to abuse and crime.

Threats to the survival of traditional knowledge around agriculture, medicine and the natural environment.

Rural people migrating to cities to escape the effects of expanding timber plantations in farming areas.

10) PAST IMPACTS ON COMMUNITIES

Forced removals and evictions to make more land available for timber plantations have had terrible consequences for communities.

1950s 1970s: The State Forest areas were cleared of people and plantations established.

1970s 1980s: This process continued with large timber companies buying hundreds of farms in the former white areas, and evicting workers that had lived there for generations.

1980s to present: Large timber companies develop a way (woodlot schemes) to acquire community land in the former homeland areas at no capital cost.

11) THE SABOKWE PEOPLE

Removed from their ancestral land north of Richards Bay in the 1970s to make way for pine plantations, the Sabokwe people re-occupied a small portion of their land after 1994, and by agreement with SAFCOL, 590 families were resettled on less than 50 hectares in 1996.

Where they are now, surrounded by alien timber plantations, and without enough land to keep their cattle and goats, they feel that they have very little hope of regaining their identity and self-respect as a community.

These are people that we know about, but how many others that lost their land and homes to plantations of gum and pine, have yet to have their losses counted?