5 September 2013
South Africa will have planted a million trees across the country by the end of this year, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said at the launch of National Arbor Week on Tuesday.
This will bring to 13-million the number of trees planted nationwide since the inception of the million-a-year tree plantation programme that was launched in 2000 in partnership with petroleum giant Total South Africa.
Speaking at Mpumalanga stadium outside Durban, Joemat-Pettersson highlighted South Africa’s “champion trees”- some of the oldest, largest and culturally significant trees in the country – including the Sophia Town Oak Tree in Johannesburg and the Sagole Baobab Tree in Limpopo province.
“These trees are part of our heritage,” Joemat-Pettersson said.
According to the South Africa Yearbook, the forestry industry is an essential contributor to national employment levels, directly employing an estimated 166 000 people.
“Nearly two-thirds of those employed are in commercial forestry, including about 30 000 small-scale growers, most of whom are women,” Joemat-Pettersson said.
South Africa’s commercial plantation resource of some 1.273-million hectares covers only 1.1% of the country’s total land area, yet contributes 27.4% to agricultural gross domestic product (GDP).
Joemat-Pettersson said the forestry industry’s contribution to down-stream processing industries was especially significant.
“In 2011, the value of sales from primary processing plants was estimated at R21.4-billion. At the same time, exports of these products contributed 15.6% to the country’s trade balance,” she said.
The World Forestry Congress will be hosted at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban in 2015.
“More than 7 000 delegates including scientists, policy-makers, community-based organisations, non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations and government officials around the globe will attend this event to discuss issues affecting forests,” the minister said.