Biggest community forestry project creates 600 jobs in rural KwaZulu-Natal
It's been a long time coming, but the biggest category B plantations in the country are in community hands at last. Manzengwenya and Mbazwana plantations, totaling 19 000 ha, are in the process of being handed over to the Tembe Mbila Mabaso Development Trust, which represents three communities in Maputaland.
The Trust has partnered with the NGO Lima Rural Development to secure R80 million grant from the Jobs Fund and R20 million from DAFF to finance the community forestry project for the first three years. The money will be used to clear and plant 3 300 ha of temporary unplanted land, creating hundreds of jobs in an area where there are very little alternative employment opportunities.
Work started in the Manzengwenya plantation in the middle of 2013, with 1 000 ha planted to date. The target is to clear and plant 3 300 ha over three years.
The two plantations (Manzengwenya and Mbazwana) are situated on Ingonyama Trust land on either side of Lake Sibaya. These plantations were established by the then KwaZulu Department of Forestry in the 1960s and have been leased by DAFF (formerly DWAF) since 1994.
The tribal authorities of the three communities surrounding the plantations formed a joint trust, known as the Tembe Mbila Mabaso Development Trust, which has been engaged in negotiations with government to take over the lease of these plantations for more than a decade.
The TMM Trust has set up a wholly-owned commercial company, TMM Forestry (Pty) Ltd, to run the forestry business. TMM has a small core staff and uses local contractors to do the clearing, land preparation and planting. There are currently 606 people employed in the project.
Themba Zikhali said that one of the key challenges for TMM is to ensure that jobs and business opportunities are spread fairly between the three communities.
Themba said that the TMM team meets with the tribal councils regularly to report back and maintain open communication channels.
"We want to empower communities through establishing a number of projects to create more jobs for those people not employed in the forestry operations," said Themba "For example growing crops, the nursery businesses, honey production and a cattle project."
The forestry operation faces the usual challenges - fire, uncontrolled grazing of cattle, pests and diseases and timber theft. Fire breaks are either non-existent or inadequate as a result of the years of neglect. TMM has joined the Zululand FPA and are liaising with Working on Fire to get them to run workshops through the tribal councils.