Komatiland Forests SOC Ltd celebrates 25 years of FSC Forest Management Certification

On Friday evening, 4th November, the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) was invited to attend the South African Forestry Company’s (SAFCOL) Annual Forestry Awards. These awards celebrate the contribution staff members make to the operations of SAFCOL and its subsidiaries across several categories – Forestry Development, Socio-Economic Wellbeing of Communities, Silviculture, Harvesting and Sustainability to name a few.  FSC had the honour of presenting the Sustainable Forest Management Award to Petrus Malivha from Jessievale Plantation. Gerard Busse from FSC Southern Africa, had the privilege of delivering a speech on behalf of FSC International.  It was indeed a joyous occasion with spontaneous song and dance from staff throughout the evening between the different awards that were handed out.

Awards Winners
South African Forestry Company’s (SAFCOL) Annual Forestry Award Winners & Special Guests

This year was even more special in that the SAFCOL subsidiary, Komatiland Forests SOC Ltd (KLF), celebrates 25 years of FSC Forest Management Certification (FSC-C013832).  This was even more exciting as KLF was the first FSC Forest Management Certification not only in South Africa, but in the  African continent.

In sharing this special occasion at the function, we reminisced about the process that KLF went through all those many years ago. 27 years ago, SAFCOL, through its operating subsidiary KLF did something ground breaking and incredibly brave: they approached the then newly formed FSC and asked to be audited. 

Pieter Odendaal, KLF’s then Divisional Director of Forestry recalls: “[At the time] we were under huge pressure about [the environmental implications of] plantation forestry. I had heard about FSC, that they were an independent source able to look at what we were doing and make an assessment on our environmental performance.”  Peter continues: “The first meeting for the KLF representatives was not a particularly comfortable one, with FSC who were only 3 years old asking “some questions that were very uncomfortable at that time.”  One of the biggest challenges was changing mindsets he said, “we had to accept that the wider social and stakeholder issues are important.”  Pieter explains, “we were now assessed not only on our operational performance, but also on social and environmental aspects.”

At the function, Gerard Busse, from the FSC, stressed the importance of all forests, both plantations and natural, being part of FSC.  We value them all and see an important role for plantation forestry to fill a need in an increasingly resource scarce world. The message that well managed FSC-certified plantations can bring many benefits to forests ecosystems including water shed management, climate change mitigation, biodiversity conservation, soil management and recreation.

Gerard Busse, Marketing & Communications Manager, FSC Southern Africa
Gerard Busse, FSC Southern Africa addressing the FSC Award Winners, Nominees & Guests

From those humble beginnings, KLF now has 187 417 hectares certified. FSC principles are firmly incorporated into KLF’s day-to-day forestry operations and have Chain-of-Custody for their sawmilling operation (FSC-C007806).

 SAFCOL, through KLF, are proud forest stewards in the fullest sense: they are not only one of the first plantation forestry operations worldwide to be FSC certified, but more than a third of their landholdings are classified as conservation areas, including indigenous forests, grasslands, riparian zones and “areas of special interest” like caves and rock art. These High Value Conservation Areas are a vital part of FSC’s mandate.

Beautiful High Conservation Value Areas within  KLF plantations
Beautiful landscape feature in and adjacent to  KLF managed Forest Management Units

Once again, our heartfelt congratulations to the SAFCOL / KLF team, FSC is proud to have you as one of our pioneer Certificate Holders and wish them all the best for the next 25 years of FSC certification.