Eastern Cape

With support from IDC, a number of communities in the Eastern Cape have been assisted to plan commercial forestry businesses on their land. Umsonti Directors James Ballantyne and Mike Howard were contracted through this programme to facilitate forestry development planning.  Of the eight communities where support has been going, two have emerged as areas where there is significant potential for forestry and associated businesses: Ludidi and Chevy Chase

Chevy Chase

Chevy Chase located between Mount Fletcher and Maclear in the Eastern Cape. Chevy Chase Community trust was founded in February 2020 to represent the Traditional Councils (Batlokoa Traditional Council overseeing the Chevy Chase Admin Area), as well as the 6 villages where the community reside. The Trust represents all households in the community, and plays an oversight role in managing development programmes. 

Agroforestry initiatives at Chevy Chase comprise three integrated elements:

  • Jungle wattle clearing for pasture improvement and restoring water supplies.
  • Establishment of managed wattle, pine and eucalyptus plantations (the area has high potential for commercial timber production. Chevy Chase community has allocated a significant area of community-owned land suitable for commercial forestry)
  • Improved agricultural production on arable land, as well as additional grass production for livestock feed

Wattle jungle conversion, wood production and pasture improvement: Wattle clearing and spacing activities are yielding firewood and pulpwood grade timber.  After clearing, the area is converted from unproductive wattle jungle to managed plantations and grazing camps.  The clearing is funded through the Eastern Cape LandCare Programme.  

Before / during wattle jungle harvesting

Pulpwood generated

Brush stacked in piles, firewood left to be collected after pulpwood removed

Offloading pulpwood

Pulpwood available for sale to NCT Durban Wood chips (it is extracted from the field and brought down to the R56 tarred road where it is loaded onto trucks to be taken to NCT Durban Woodchips or PG Bison in Ugie.

Wood that is not suitable for chipping is sold into local markets as firewood with excess being made available to the local community free of charge.

Lining out of wattle regeneration

Lines scratched in the soil and grass seed sown

Wattle regeneration with grass for sheep and cattle planted in between the rows

Sowing of lines of grass in camp for grazing (picture taken end Nov 2019) from area cleared of wattle in 2018/2019

Wattle regeneration 1.2 years old

Community animals grazing Oct 2020 in the same camp

The Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform (RDAR) supplied tractors, row planters, trailers, boom sprayers, chainsaws, and brushcutters to the Community Trust in 2020. An agricultural shed has been budgeted for and will be erected in 2021.  120 hectares has been fenced for agricultural production. The main crops are beans and maize with grass will be allowed to grow on the remaining area to be cut and bailed in autumn for cattle.

Liming the ripped areas (Oct 2020)

Ploughing the limed areas (field on the right has been ploughed, field on the left is still to be ploughed) (Nov 2020)

Preparing for planting


The Ludidi community has set aside 1600 hectares within a wider area identified as having high potential for forestry.

A Community Trust has been formed with Trustees representing the Founder, Nolitha Ludidi (Chief of the Hlubi Traditional Council), the Headmen for the Admin Areas (3 Headmen) and Trustees elected from each of the 7 villages who allocated their land. Out of the Trustees, Directors were selected and the Ludidi Development Company (Pty) Ltd has been formed.

The implementation plan has 4 phases:

  1. Plantation establishment at Cengane, Tsilitwa, Nonyikila and Sivivaneni where Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Water Use Licence (WUL) are in place.
  2. Plantation establishment at Upper Chulunca, Luqolweni and Qhanqu when the EIA and WUL is complete (likely to be in 2023).
  3. The incorporation and rehabilitation of two existing old government plantations, Cengcane and Etwa into the forestry business.
  4. Establishment of new plantations adjacent to the Etwa plantation on Etwa community land allocated for the purpose. The land is currently infested with wattle.

Project finance is currently being sought for Phase 1 and 2.  Based on experiences at Mabandla and elsewhere, Umsonti has developed financing models that combine grant and loan funding in order to ensure commercial viability and as far as possible secure community ownership free from debt and onerous sales agreements. 

The area is also suitable for improved agricultural production on existing abandoned farmland. Combining forestry, crop and livestock production makes financial sense and there are many synergies. For example, equipment such as tractors to be used by both forestry and agriculture.  Cattle can access grazing within plantations so long as they are kept out of newly planted compartments. This is a win-win as grazing reduces fire risk in the plantations. Grass grown alongside maize and other crops can be baled and used for winter feeding.

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