Johannesburg — THE forestry department says at least 100000ha of communally owned land has been identified for forestry development that will benefit rural communities.
A spokesperson for the department said yesterday that 40000ha in KwaZulu-Natal and 60000ha in Eastern Cape had been identified for the development. The department said more communal land could become available, depending on the outcome of environmental impact assessments.
Government views the forestry industry as of strategic importance.
The commercial forestry body Forestry SA warned last month that SA faced a shortage of forestry products, while forestry scientists said then that this was partly because SA had run out of land to establish new plantations.
They said the country would have to look to neighbouring countries to ensure a stable supply of sawlogs.
Earlier yesterday, Water Affairs and Forestry Minister Lindiwe Hendricks addressed the media on the challenges facing her department. Hendricks succeeded Buyelwa Sonjica as minister three months ago.
Hendricks said the department would be considering the transformation of forestry through the sector's broad-based black economic empowerment charter, which should be finalised by the end of this year.
"There are a great deal of opportunities to expand the forestry sector through new forests, particularly in Eastern Cape," she said.
The minister's spokeswoman said the review of the state-owned South African Forestry Company (Safcol) was being considered in terms of the plantations that remained in state hands, the privatisation of the Safcol asset Komatiland and the requirements of the forestry sector empowerment charter.
On transformation of the sector, Hendricks said the department would ensure that women were "firmly in the driving seat in forestry and water", not only as recipients, but as empowered owners of their own enterprises.
She promised to leave behind a "lean and mean and smaller department" focused on its role as leader for forestry and water, as well as regulator and supporter of institutions in these sectors.