Perspectives and drivers of modernisation of silviculture re-establishment in South Africa
Efficient and cost-effective re-establishment practices are important parts of any sustainable forest re-establishment programme. Re-establishment activities include residue management (post-harvest slash), preparation of a planting position, planting, fertilisation and vegetation management. In South Africa, these activities are largely labour intensive, time-consuming and relatively costly. Although mechanisation of site preparation during afforestation was achieved in the mid to late 1990s, plantation re-establishment operations in South Africa have remained manually oriented. However, there have been notable technology developments over the past decade. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 66 experts (grower company specialists, foresters, contractors and machine manufacturers) to get their perspectives on modernisation of re-establishment activities in South Africa. Frequency distribution and chi-square test analysis found that two-thirds of the experts believed that re-establishment activities had progressed in terms of technology over the past decade. This development was reported as primarily due to the need to improve health and safety (91%), increase production whilst reducing costs (89%), improve stand productivity (quality) (86%), mitigate social (mainly labour) risks (80%) and reduce prevalent negative environmental impacts (50%). Key barriers to modernisation were identified as the capital cost of equipment (65%), reduction in employment opportunities (44%) and low utilisation of equipment due to seasonality of silviculture work (18%). Experts indicated that the efficiency of mechanised re-establishment equipment can be affected negatively by residues, high stumps and compaction of the site after harvesting. The results of this study will assist forestry stakeholders to make informed decisions when planning and implementing modernised silviculture operations.
Keywords: experts, planting, technology