- Plantation licencing advisory committee
New timber plantation applications in South Africa are subject to a process of evaluation and recommendation by regional committees of the national department of Water Affars and Forestry (DWAF)known as SFRA - LAACs (Stream-flow reduction activity - License application advisory committees).
After an application has been submitted to and considered by the SFRA-LAAC, it may be considered necessary to conduct a site visit in order to obtain a better understanding of the kind of land that could be affected if the application is approved. This also provides a valuable opportunity for committee members to meet and to interact with the land-owners or community members that want to convert land to plantations.
Timberwatch was represented on the KZN SFRA-LAAC by Keith Cooper for a number of years, but since his recent retirement this role was briefly assumed by members who have since resigned. Site visits were normally attended by Bob de Laborde, who prepared reports giving reasons where applicable, for Timberwatch opposing the new plantation licence application. Since Bob emigrated to New Zealand there has not been a Timberwatch representative at the site vists.
An important aspect of the site inspections is that they sometimes can provide an opportunity to advise the applicants on possible less harmful alternative land-use activities, that could generate better income than plantations, while causing far less damage to local communities, food security, the local economy and the natural environment.
There are also SFRA-LAACs in the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga Provinces. Philip Owen of GeaSphere has represented environmental NGOs on the Mpumalanga committee, but there is no environmental NGO representative on the Eastern Cape SFRA-LAAC as yet.
Another DWAF committeee on which Timberwatch has been represented is the 'Alleged unlawful plantation committee' which is supposed to address cases where plantations have been established without the necessary official permission first being obtained. On the whole it seems that the process of taking legal action against the owners of unlawful plantations is very slow and ineffective, and it is obvious that there are many new unlawful (or illegal as we prefer to call them) plantations being established in total disregard of the law.
As there does not seem to be any urgent need to participate in the committees dscussed above, appointing new representatives will be left until such time that a appropriately patient and willing volunteers can be found.
Timberwatch has produced a short video on the subject of 'Illegal Plantations' which can be viewed at this link -
"Illegal Timber Plantations - A Growing Problem in South Africa"