Cape Town,  23 May 2007


(NOTING:  The Cabinet meeting of 16 May 2007 noted that the Social Sector is finalizing an Antipoverty Strategic Framework to be tabled at the July Cabinet Lekgotla)





The Forestry programme promotes the sustainable use and protection of plantation, woodlands  and indigenous forests to achieve social and economic benefits and to promote rural development, through policy development, regulation, facilitation and monitoring and evaluation. The forestry sector has significant potential for rural development and job creation in underdeveloped areas. The eradication of poverty and underdevelopment is the greatest challenge facing the world today, South Africa is no exception. Poverty alleviation can and should be the objective of every development project, thereby addressing the main challenge for the South African Government to halve poverty and unemployment by 2014. These objectives are feasible – provided we work together to achieve a common goal.


Poverty is generally characterized by the inability of individuals, households, or entire communities, to command sufficient resources to satisfy their basic needs. The definition of poverty has been the subject of debate amongst policy analysts, herewith follows some of the  ways in which poverty is conceptualized, for example:


  • In 1990 the World Bank,  defined poverty as the inability to attain a minimum standard of living. This approach suggests that a quantifiable and absolute indicator of poverty can be set and measured;


  • Townsend (1979) explains the lack of resources with which to attain the type of diet or life-style that is socially acceptable as an indicator of poverty thereby placing  emphasis on a relative indicator which would vary according to the standards of the society being measured;


We should note that a major threat to poverty reduction is the spread of HIV/AIDS. The Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that by 2020 South Africa may or will  have lost up to 20 percent of its agricultural workforce to HIV/AIDS. It is of concern that the  rate of HIV/AIDS infections amongst forestry workers is currently estimated at 39%.


Considering the purpose of this  presentation  the following will be addressed:



  1. Forest policy and legislation
  2. Forests and poverty alleviation
  3. Forests and development
  4. Policy perspective




The forest resources of South Africa consist of three main components: woodlands,  indigenous forests, and plantations. The 1997 National Forestry Action Plan estimated that between two to three million households gain some significant benefit from forests.


South Africa’s framework for sustainable development, co-operative governance and participation of local communities in forest management is provided by the White Paper on Sustainable Forest Development (1996), the National Forestry Action Programme (1997) and the resultant National Forests Act (1998). The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) has responded to the policy context through a 2003 vision mission that commits the department to ensuring that ‘Forests are managed for people and the need to create an enabling environment for economic and social development through sustainable forest management at the local level’. DWAF’s role is redefined from forest manager to a forest regulator putting people at the centre of forest development.


The state through DWAF will in future no longer directly manage plantations, this role is being transferred to the private sector, to this effect South Africa is in the process of creating enabling conditions that will allow broad socio-economic development. The policy shift is intended to benefit the majority of the population who were previously disadvantaged. The broader policy shift and developmental directive is embraced by the Forestry Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment Charter.


National forest laws have the following elements; to promote:


  1. the sustainable management and development of forests;
  2. and provide social measures for protection of certain forests and trees;
  3. sustainable use of forests for environmental, economic, educational, recreational, cultural, health and spiritual purposes;
  4. community  forestry;
  5. greater participation in all aspects of forestry and the forest products industry by persons historically disadvantaged by discrimination;


Elements referred to above are covered by the following forest laws, the:

National Forest Act no 84 of 1998;

National Veld and Forest Fire Act no 101 of 1998;

National Veld and Forest Fire Act no 12 of 2001; and

Forestry Laws Amendment Act no 35 of 2005


In addition to the laws and policy framework referred to above forest management in South Africa is affected and influenced by related legislation. Such related legislation includes for example water, biodiversity, protected areas, land, heritage, labour, wildlife, environment, tourism, agriculture and mining frameworks. The related legislation is obtainable through the South African government information portal ( or through the specific departments’ websites.





Forests, woodlands and   other natural resources are crucial to the livelihoods of millions of poor people in South Africa. To emphasize the contribution of forests and woodlands we may ask the following questions such as just how important are forests for poverty alleviation, can forests and woodlands help lift people out of poverty, or are they mainly useful as gap-fillers and safety nets preventing extreme hardship?


Answers to these questions are essential to design effective policies and projects to alleviate poverty, and thereby contribute to meeting the challenge of halving poverty reduction by 2014. In order for Forestry to be relevant in the current developmental agenda, it needs to make a substantive contribution to poverty reduction in South Africa. The potential for forestry to contribute to poverty reduction varies across the country. This is a result not only of the fact that benefits derived from forest goods and services differ between provinces, but also that the incidence and nature of poverty vary from province to province. The contribution of forests to poverty alleviation may be more pronounced in provinces such as Eastern Cape, Kwa Zulu Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo; these provinces have a substantive forest resource base.


Herewith follows forestry means of intervention that contribute to poverty alleviation:


3.1 Subsistence and informal trade


The very poorest have to rely on the collection of a wide range of items growing in the wild to sustain and supplement their livelihoods. Forest resources provide three types of benefit, namely:

(i)                   the supply of basic needs;

(ii)                 a saving of cash resources; and

(iii)                A buffer or safety-net during times of misfortune.





3.2 The supply of basic needs


This is a function where  forest resources do make a contribution towards poverty alleviation. Firewood, building poles, medicinal plants, and edible fruits are all critical to the livelihood of the rural poor. For instance, it is estimated that over 80 percent of rural households use fuelwood as their primary source of energy.


3.3 Cash saving


The saving of scarce cash resources is an important role played by  forest resources. Being able to collect such resources to meet daily needs for energy, shelter, medicine and food allows scarce cash resources to be used to secure other household needs, as well as helping to accumulate the necessary asset base for a more secure livelihood. This includes the education of children, investment in agricultural tools, and capital for income generation activities.


3.4 The safety-net function of forest goods


This refers to the role of  assisting households cope in times of adversity. During such times many rural households turn to forest resources for subsistence use  or as a means to generate income. Because the safety-net function of forest resources is temporarily variable, there is little information regarding its prevalence throughout rural communities.





4.1 The commercial forest sector


The commercial forest sector offers significant business opportunities for small-scale entrepreneurs, particularly for small growers, contractors and saw millers. It is reported that there is more than 30 000 small growers, 240 small saw millers and 300 independent contractors, of which half are black emerging contractors. In addition to this the pulp and paper industry has created more than 10 000 income opportunities for waste paper vendors.


4.2 Economic contribution of forests


The forestry industry is of considerable importance to the national economy, and to large numbers of poor people living in remote rural areas. Forest management  generates 170,000 jobs (this range from permanent, contract and informal workers). The majority of the jobs created are low skilled based and concentrated in rural areas where there is high unemployment. In comparison the forest sector contributes about 1,1% to the total Gross Domestic Product of the Republic of South Africa and 1,4% to the total formal employment; this is comparable to other large sectors of the economy1.


(1. Sub-sectors: plantation forestry, sawmilling, pulp and paper, treated poles, charcoal, & firewood)



4.3 Non-Timber Forest Products


Income from the trade in forest goods constitutes a significant business opportunity for many small-scale entrepreneurs. There is widespread trade in forest goods both within rural communities and in external markets. Rural livelihoods are characterized as being diverse and opportunistic.


Therefore, for any single forest product enterprise, be it marula beer sellers, woodcarvers, timber small-growers, medicinal plant collectors or fuelwood vendors, a large number of people earn relatively small amounts of income but it is still important as it can be used to settle debts or make payments that do not occur frequently, such as school fees, the purchase of agricultural implements, or household improvements


4.4  Households and  livelihoods


The rural poor rely on forests for important subsistence goods, such as fuelwood, medicines, wood for construction and household items such as brooms, spoons, Furniture as well as edible leaves, roots, fruits and medicines. Goods, such as fuelwood, medicines, wood for construction and household items such as brooms and cooking utensils, and medicines are also sold at markets, along with crafts and timber products, providing families with extra income and improving food security. Modest in scale, such forestry activities nonetheless make a real difference to poor people


4.5 Forest enterprise development


The benefits of forest products are not only restricted to household use and the substitution of cash items with “free” forest goods. Forest products are also traded extensively and contribute to rural household incomes. For instance the commercial forest sector offers significant business opportunities for small-scale entrepreneurs, particularly for small growers, contractors and saw-millers.


Additionally, other forest operations like charcoal production, honey production and nurseries can be a source of much-needed employment, raising incomes and so indirectly strengthening food security





Policy measures can also help boost the contribution of Forest resources to reducing poverty. The department will continue to promote forest policies that are people centred to ensure that poor people in forest areas must have a much greater say in decisions regarding the use of forest resources. In areas where forests are central to livelihoods, the main objective of forest management should be meeting their needs in a sustainable way.


It is critical that forest social and economic development opportunities are ‘included’ in Provincial Growth and Development Plans as well as municipal Integrated Development Plans. Forest-based poverty alleviation programmes should not be carried out in isolation, but must be part of an overall Rural Development Strategy of the National Government.




An overriding Forestry Sector Strategy, the Charter and the National Forestry Programme as well as a guiding document for  Local Economic Development  are being developed to help set the priority work programmes for social and economic development through sustainable management of forests.


The Portfolio Committee could further note the work of Working for Water and Working on Fire forestry related programmes that considerably contribute to poverty eradication within the Expanded Public Works Framework.


In conclusion, Forestry will contribute to poverty eradication within government’s larger agenda by ensuring that  the following are implemented:


a.       State forest transfers and forestry-related  land reform


b.       Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment in the Forest Sector


c.       Community Forest Management (woodlands, small indigenous forests and woodlots)


d.       Forest Products Innovation


e.       Management of Ecological Services (climate change, soil & water conservation) and providing information on the ecosystem services value attached to South Africa’s forests, including the fraction of the benefits captured exclusively or primarily by rural communities.


f.         Working  with other government departments to encourage multipurpose land use in forests and woodlands, on State, private and communal lands, so that benefits and opportunities from the full range of resources are optimized from any piece of land.


g.       Strengthening  and developing  initiatives on improving access rights for rural communities with a concerted strategy to improve opportunities for the poorest to benefit from both private and state forest resources.


h.       A review of the legal provisions regulating the subsistence harvesting of forest produce is required to make legal use possible and accessible to the rural poor.


i.         Developing  and clarifying  the roles and responsibilities of all tiers of government, and local structures, particularly traditional authorities, in protecting and regulating sustainable use of forest resources.


j.         A long-term fuelwood strategy, which takes into account the predicted 2,5 million rural households remaining without electrical supply for the next twenty years, needs to be developed and implemented.


k.       National statistics are required to record the significance of subsistence use of forest produce and services by the rural (and urban) poor. (studies commissioned in Gauteng and Bushbuckridge)


l.         Acknowledging the role of women in forest development through  proactive gender policies in all DWAF strategic initiatives.


m.     Research on the appropriate yields that can be harvested without damaging natural population levels for a number of important plant species is urgently required.


n.       Support needs to be provided to the small-scale tree growers and sawmilling industry in securing log supplies and a strategy developed for the saw timber segment of the sector generally, in order to meet the rising and projected increase in demand.


o.       Supporting charcoal joint ventures, for example the remaining DWAF plantations in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo contain extensive areas of hardwood suitable for charcoal manufacture.