Forests include plantations, natural/indigenous forests and woodlands/savannas. All activities linked to these fall under the umbrella of “forestry”. A look at the menu options of websites listed on this page will confirm the scope of forestry.

In addition to timber and related products, forests offer non-timber products and activity. They play a big part in our fauna and flora. Fruits, plants, medicinal herbs, birds and animals are found here. Trees protect watersheds and conserve the soil. They purify water and moderate its flow. They produce oxygen and help the planet against global warming. Often tourist activity incorporates forests or woodland area (South Africa’s Kruger National Park is a woodland area).

This page focuses more on plantations. It is interested in forestry as “the science of planting, managing and caring for timber plantations”. Not that forestry, defined like this, lessens the undertaking. The landscape, the plant and animal species found within them, and the communities affected by them all still require attention. (See the notes by Forestry Explained on what goes with these enterprises at

Forestry gives us several sectors downstream, like sawmilling, furniture making, paper and pulp production. For more on this, see the “Wood, pulp and paper” page.

Agroforestry is when trees are incorporated among other activities on the farm with environmental and other benefits. Interested readers are referred to the following sources:


International business environment

Loss of forests leads to a loss of biodiversity and diminishes the planet’s ability to withstand global warming. The main threats to the world’s forests are conversion to agriculture, illegal logging, population growth and urbanisation, and poverty. Globally, what mainly causes concern for the management of forests, is deforestation through the illegal cutting down of trees, the expansion of logging into areas which are protected or of high conservation value (HCV), and timber supply from controversial sources.

Further reference:

Local business environment

Visit the Forestry South Africa websites for useful overview of forestry in the country: See also for statistics, news, information on training and legislation and more.

About half of the more than 1 700 indigenous tree and shrub species found in South Africa grow along the south and east coasts and on the southern and south-eastern slopes of inland mountains. The other half is spread over the interior plateaus. Indigenous forests are indispensable to the country’s heritage, beauty, wildlife and environment, while commercial forests provide jobs and economic opportunities for many people, especially in rural areas.

Plantations can be classified into two main categories: hardwood and softwood. Eucalyptus (mainly Eucalyptus grandis and its hybrids) and wattle (Acacia mearnsii) are the main hardwood species grown in South Africa. Pine (of which Pinus patula is the most common species) accounts for all South African softwood plantations.

As a tree poor country (where indigenous forests are protected), South Africa has had to rely almost exclusively on the development of exotic forest plantations to meet its demand for wood.

Forestry plantations

Forest products contribute about R36.34 billion to the economy (GCIS, 2021).

Plantations cover about 1,2 million ha of South Africa. Timber production areas are found in Mpumalanga (41%), KwaZulu-Natal (40%), Eastern Cape (12%), Limpopo (4%) and Western Cape (3%). Pine accounts for 49% of the total timber planted area, followed by eucalyptus (44%), and wattle (7%). South Africa produces between 15 and 18 million tons of timber a year (GCIS, 2021)

The forestry sector provides some 147 400 direct jobs and livelihood support to 648 000 people of the country’s rural population. The pulp and paper industry provides about 13 200 direct and 10 000 indirect employment opportunities. Some 18 100 direct workers are employed and 6 000 indirect in sawmilling, and 3 600 in the timber-board and 2 000 in the mining timber industries, while a further 7 500 workers are employed in miscellaneous jobs in forestry (GCIS, 2021).

Challenges to the sector include stringent government restrictions on granting water licenses, environmental policies restricting plantations in protected areas, and farmers moving away from timber to other crops such as citrus, macadamia and avocados.

Sources:; the Forestry and Wood Products Market Value Chain Profile which used to be published by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development.


Forestry certification

“Certification encompasses an independent and ongoing assessment / audit of an organisation’s forest management practices, to measure compliance against a range of nationally and internationally recognised social, economic and environmental standards” (Forestry South Africa). Read the PDF “Forest Certification: What’s it all About?” at

Further reference:

National strategy and government contact

Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE)

Find the forestry pages on the DFFE website.

Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic) the Amended Forest Sector Code (April 2017) on Forest Sector Charter Council website. “Forestry, timber, paper, pulp and furniture” has previously featured in the dtic’s Industrial Policy Action Plans (IPAPs) and the IPAP’s agricultural cousin, the Agricultural Policy Action Plan (APAP).

The Forestry Sector Master Plan is in support of the Reimagined Industrial Strategy for South Africa. Forestry is also one of the sectors that is being prioritised under the Public Private Growth Initiative – a partnership between government and the private sector to stimulate investment.


The instruments of policy relevant to the forestry sector are:


  • The National Forests Act, 1998 (Act No. 84 of 1998) – concerned with the sustainable management of forests and the protection of forests and trees as well as community participation
  • The National Veld and Forest Fires Act, 1998 (Act No. 101 of 1998) – concerned with the combating of veld and forest fires
  • National Water Act, 1998 (Act No 36 of 1998) – afforestation is a stream-flow reduction activity (SFRA). The introduction of this Act led to the forestry sector losing some 80 000ha (APAP, 2014:13).
  • The Wattle Bark Industry Act, 1960 (Act No. 23 of 1960) which provides for the control of the wattle bark industry
  • The Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act (CARA), 1983 (Act 43 of 1983) seeks to protect prime agricultural land and manage land use nationally.
  • The National Environmental Management Act (NEMA), 1998 (Act No 107 of 1998 means that afforestation requires an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
  • The Forest Sector Transformation Charter. Find the Amended Forest Sector Code (April 2017) at


Planting trees in a fairly regulated process. A water licence and an environmental impact assessment (EIA) are required.


Certain trees are protected by law and should anyone wish to cut or utilise these trees they need to apply for a licence from their local DFFE office. In terms of Section 15(1) of the National Forests Act, no person may cut, disturb, damage or destroy any protected tree or possess, collect, remove, transport, export, purchase, sell or donate any protected tree or any forest product derived form such a tree without a license.

Role players


Note: Click to expand the headings below. To get a free listing on our website like the ones below, visit here for more information or place your order here. Disclaimer: The role player listings are not vetted by this website.

National Empowerment Fund (NEF) Some funds by the NEF are specifically forestry, pulp and paper orientated e.g. the Rural and Community Development Fund and the Strategic Projects Fund. Details can be found on the website.
Representative Bodies
South African Wood Preservers Association (SAWPA) SAWPA represents timber treaters and preservative manufacturers.
Forestry South Africa (FSA) Forestry South Africa (FSA) “represents 11 corporate forestry companies, approximately 1 100 commercial timber farmers and some 20 000 small-scale growers. Collectively, these growers own or control no less than 93% of the country’s total plantation area of 1.2 million hectares” (FSA, 2023). Find details of the Head Office and Pietermaritzburg Regional Office on the FSA website
Training, Consulting & Research Service Providers
Institute for Commercial Forestry Research (ICFR) The ICFR is a research institute funded by the private sector timber industry and focused on applied research in many fields, including amongst others, tree breeding, silviculture and forest protection.
University of Venda Department of Forestry – The Bachelor of Science in Forestry, a four year programme (AGBBFR), is offered
Community, NGO and NPO Service Providers
Dendrological Society and Foundation The society "promotes the study, protection and propagation of trees and tree-dominated ecosystems".
Komatiland Forestry Museum Tel: 013 754 2724 View the history of the timber industry and how forestry operations have developed over the decades.

Further reference:

Companies involved

  • The reader is referred to the Forestry and Sawmilling Directory, the most comprehensive directory for all involved in this industry. Refer to the next heading.
  • Also find the extensive Business Directory on with some 40 different categories e.g. agrochemicals, anti-split plates for pole manufacturers, automation and information technology, chain saws etc.


  • Forestry South Africa (FSA) represents the interests of 11 corporate forestry companies, about 1 100 commercial and some 20 000 emergent small-scale timber growers in the country. In total its membership owns or controls well over 93% of the Industry’s plantations. It is thus regarded by all stakeholders, both private and public as being the representative body of the South African Forestry Industry.

Training and research

  • Numerous companies like Skills for Africa provide short courses and other training. The reader is referred to FITPA or FP&M SETA for a further list of training materials.
  • Rhodes University, the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Cape Town offer some training relevant to this forestry page e.g. Woodland Ecology, Forest Ecology, Ecophysiology of trees – Nutrition, Water & Carbon.

Websites and publications

Visit the websites of role players listed earlier on this page.

Some articles:

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