Deputy Minister Makhotso Sotyu: Handing over ceremony of Mabama Plantation to Mashamba Traditional Council Limpopo

Speech by the Hounourable Deputy Minister of Forestry Fisheries and the Environment, Ms Makhotso Sotyu handing over ceremony of Mabama Plantation to Mashamba Traditional Council Limpopo, Makhado Local Municipality

Programme director
Executive Mayor of Vhembe District Municipality, Cllr Freda Nkondo
Mayor of Makhado Local Municipality, Cllr Dorcus Mboyi
Vho Thovhele NTL Mashamba
Members of the Mashamba Traditional Authority
The representatives of the Forestry Industry
Distinguished guests
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen 

It gives me great pleasure to be in your presence today for the handing over ceremony of Mabama plantation to Mashamba Traditional Council.

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment has been leading a process to develop the Commercial Forestry Sector Masterplan. The Masterplan is essentially the growth, investment and transformation plan for the sector. The plan was approved for implementation during November 2022.

Part of the deliverables of the Masterplan is the transfer of plantation resources such that government focuses on policy and regulation, as well as creating an enabling environment for the sector to thrive. The Mashamba Traditional Council submitted an offer to enter into a Community Forestry Agreement (CFA) in terms of Section 29 of the National Forests Act and confirmed interest in respect of the future management of Mabama plantation. After numerous engagements between the Department and the Mashamba Traditional Council, the CFA was approved on 27 March 2024, by the Honourable Minister of Forestry Fisheries and the Environment, Ms Barbara Creecy.

For this reason, I am happy to hand over the management of Mabama plantation to the beneficiary communities of Mashamba Traditional Council. The total extent of this plantation is approximately 71.92 hectares. This is the first plantation handing over ceremony in the province of Limpopo. However, the Department has since 2023 already handed over numerous plantations to various communities across the country and conducted similar handover ceremonies.

The handing over of this plantation is in line with the provisions of the National Forests Acts, 1998 (Act No.84 of 1998). The purpose of this Act is to promote the sustainable management and development of forests for the benefit of all; promote community forestry and promote greater participation in all aspects of forestry and the forest products industry by persons from disadvantaged communities.

Section 29 of the NFA allows communities that are interested in managing State Forest plantations to submit their request to enter into a Community Forestry Agreement (CFA) with the Minister. The purpose of today’s ceremony is for me, on behalf of the department, to formally hand over the management of the Mabama plantation to the Mashamba Traditional Council, as a representative of the communities in this area.

The transfer of the management of this plantation will go a long way to improve the livelihoods of communities within Mashamba Traditional Council.

The Department takes cognisance of the fact that these plantations are not necessarily in a condition that is ideal for timber production purposes and require a lot of work and resources to turn them around. I would like to make a commitment on behalf of the Department that we will provide the community with the necessary support that is required to make these plantations productive in future. It must be noted that these plantations are categorised as woodlots, and the Department will work with the affected communities to develop a plan that will ensure the management of these resources in a sustainable manner going forward.

We commit to undertaking initiatives such as site species matching to determine the ideal species that can grow well in this area, provision of technical and advisory support services and training of beneficiaries to empower them with knowledge and skills of sustainable forest management. Furthermore, the Department can provide seedlings that will be needed to re-establish the plantations. These commitments are further outlined in the post settlement support package that is in the process of being finalised by the Department.

Where feasible, we will also try to link communities with strategic partners who will then assist with additional expertise and resources to recapitalise the plantations. The success of this project depends on the commitment of the communities in ensuring that the land is kept under forestry production. Should a need arise for multiple land use, the department has finalised the piloting of such systems like Agroforestry which can be employed for such a purpose without reducing the area under forestry. Best practice guidelines are being developed in this regard for both land users and practitioners.

As I have already indicated, the forestry sector has developed the Commercial Forestry Masterplan, and this work is done in line with the ideals of this plan. The Forest Industry and labour are represented on the structures of the Masterplan, and we hope that they will assist when they are called to assist in this regard.

In conclusion Programme Director, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the role-players and stakeholders who made this initiative possible. Negotiations and discussions as well as the associated processes are often protracted and complex, but ultimately, we have reached the goal of empowering our communities.

I thank you.

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