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Forests include plantations, natural/indigenous forests and woodlands/savannas. All activities linked to these fall under the umbrella 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 and timber. 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 on this by Forestry Explained,

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 a 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.



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, 2022, 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 16 000 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, 2022, 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.

South Africa’s Forest Industry has an export value of over R38.4 billion (FSA, 2024).

Sources:; the Forestry and Wood Products Market Value Chain Profile which used to be published by the then Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.


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 SA). Read the PDF “Forest Certification: What’s it all About?” at

Further reference:

National strategy and government contact

Forestry products contribute “at least” 4.5% to the total manufacturing in the country, putting it among the top five sectors within the manufacturing industry. It is also a “significant contributor to rural economies and social wellbeing”. It has “huge potential in job creation whilst ensuring the sustainable use of natural resources”.

The Forestry Sector Master Plan is “an agreed-upon set of actions, with time frames, that all stakeholders commit to implementing for the benefit of the sector or value-chain. Its objectives include encouraging sector growth, investment, job creation and competitiveness”.

The Forestry Sector Master Plan supports 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.

Source: adapted from

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 (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

Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE)

Find the forestry pages on the DFFE website.

National Forest Advisory Council (NFAC) – The NFAC advises the Minister on all aspects of forestry in the Republic.

Forest Sector Charter

Department of Water and

Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural

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 hereDisclaimer: The role player listings are not vetted by this website.

Moso Africa – Flooring, decking and other products
Bamboo Revolution – Bamboo products like watches and sunglasses
EcoPlanet Bamboo Southern Africa – EcoPlanet Bamboo owns Kowie Bamboo Farm in the Eastern Cape. Find videos like “EcoPlanet Bamboo Kowie Bamboo Farm” on Youtube.
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Websites and publications

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

The Forestry Handbook, published by the Southern African Institute of Forestry (SAIF). Visit for details (look for the “Resources and publications” menu option). Find the other publications here too, like the Southern Forests: A Journal of Forest Science, the Fire Manager’s Handbook on Veld and Forest Fires (by William C Teie, edited by Tian Pool), and There’s Honey in the Forest.

Refer to the Business Directory at A Sawmill Directory is available at

Tree Farming Guidelines for Sappi Outgrowers is a practical guide to timber forestry. Chapters can be downloaded from the Internet.

Find the “Sustainable FORESTRY. Sustainable CITIES. Sustainable ECONOMIES” infographic at

The A1-size poster “Pests & diseases in South African Forestry” can be ordered from SA Forestry magazine.

Call 012 842 4017 or email aeinfo [at] for the leaflet “Charcoal production in kilns”. It is also available in Afrikaans.

Subscribe to the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) eNewsletter. Go to for details.

Venter F. & Venter, J-A. 2015. Making the Most of Indigenous Trees (3rd edn). Pretoria: Briza.

Esterhuyse, N., Breitenbach, J. von & Söhnge, H. 2012. Remarkable Trees of South Africa. Pretoria: Briza Publications.

Van Wyk, B. & van Wyk, P. 2014. Field Guide to Trees of Southern Africa. Cape Town: Penguin Random House.

Identify South Africa’s 980 larger indigenous tree species, as well as 135 alien invasive trees with an App. Read about The Tree App South Africa at

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