Research and Development

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries as a custodian of forestry resources in South Africa is responsible for the promotion of the sustainable management of the country's forest resources for the benefit of the nation. The forestry resource base, i.e. natural (indigenous) forests, commercial plantations and woodlands, is spread over some of the poorest areas in South Africa and therefore plays a significant role in terms of poverty eradication, through job creation and the supply of basic needs.

In 2005, Cabinet approved a new national strategic management model to improve the science and technology system in South Africa, formulated by the Department of Science and Technology (DST). This new model involved the transfer of the national Science Vote for scientific and technological innovation (STI) activities to the line departments. For the forest sector this model signified a new, focussed, strategic approach to the management of state-funded STI through harmonisation and collaboration of initiatives in science and technology innovation of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and DST, with DAFF becoming directly responsible for state R&D funding within the sector.

South Africa's forest policy accords with both national science and technology policy and AsgiSA in emphasising scientific and technological innovation in building the knowledge economy as a key foundation for the development of South Africa. Forestry Research and Development is currently governed by numerous “instruments” including the National Forests Act, 1998 (Act No 84 of 1998), National Veld and Forest Fire Act, 1998 (Act No 101 of 1998), The National Forestry Action Programme, the Framework for the National Forestry Programme as well as the Forest Sector Transformation Charter.

National Forests Act, 1998 (Act No 84 of 1998) section 5

"The Minister must carry out or commission research. The research must promote the objectives of forest policy and conform with national policies and programmes relating to science and technology."

The National Veld and Forest Fires Act section 30

"The Minister may carry out or commission research into the prevention and combating of veldfires; and the use of controlled fire in sustainable forest management. The Minister must make the results of the research available to all fire protection associations free of charge."

The National Forestry Action Programme (NFAP, 1998)

set as its Research, Technology and Innovation Goal the development of a system which had to supply, and effectively transfer, the information needed for an environmentally and socially sustainable and economically competitive forest sector. It defined a strategy to establish a funded, well-managed, accountable and credible structure that can take responsibility for efficient coordination and networking between funding bodies, researchers and end-users in the private and public sectors. The NFAP defined seven tasks to implement the strategy.

The Framework for the National Forestry Programme (NFP)

The NFP also identifies ten (10) Forestry Policies and Strategies and their social, economic and ecological goals, which should be reflected in R&D agenda's mandates and priorities in SA.

National Forestry Sector Transformation Charter

The Charter governs Research and Development by stating: "Greater attention needs to be given to Forest Sector innovation, research and development to ensure that the sector has access to information, appropriate technology and innovation to support B-BBEE and enterprise development. To this end Government, through DWAF, undertakes to drive the process to develop a Forest Sector research and development strategy with clearly outlined responsibilities, funding mechanisms and timelines."

Recently, the Department established a specific role focussing on forest science, technology and innovation in the Directorate: Forestry Policy and Strategy by the appointment of a Forestry Science, Technology and Innovation Advisor and a Forest Research Coordinator. The mandate for this function includes supporting the current research base in South Africa, as well as to expand their role beyond merely playing a regulatory role in the forest sector science, technology and innovation. The research capacity aims to: ?

  • Develop mechanisms to enable the Department to assume its proper leadership role in sector related research and development.
  • Substantially increase its financial support to the national forest sector R&D effort and create increased, investment through appropriate funding mechanisms .
  • Create a mechanism to determine and regularly review and prioritise research focus areas (RFA’s).
  • Establish a strategic harmonisation and integration of national science and technology efforts in terms of training, infrastructure development, research and development performed by a network of expertise nodes.
  • Develop human resource capacity in sector research and development.
  • Government needs to establish the effective and equitable management of intellectual capital.

The new research and development capacity will furthermore aim at achieving a number of short term goals such as:

  • Reinvigorate Research and Development Strategy.
  • Establish National Forest Research Forum.
  • Management of intellectual property.

The Forest Research function within DAFF has been coordinating a number of research projects focusing on sustainable management of forest resources. These include:

  • Sustainable utilisation of Flagelleria guineensis
  • Monitoring and evaluation of bark harvesting techniques of two indigenous tree species in the Letaba State Forest Read more...
  • Sustainable harvesting of plants utilised for medicinal purposes Read more...
  • The sustainable use of Monkey rope (Secamone gerradii) by local subsistence farmers Read more..
  • The ex situ and in situ conservation of the Critically Endangered Protea roupelliae sbsp. hamiltonii and conservation of the co-occurring endangered Leucospermum gerrardii within the Dr. Hamilton Nature Reserve Read more...

The Department furthermore relies on the substantial institutional and human capacity to mobilise forest sector Research & Development in South Africa. The current capacity consists of a number of world class research and Higher Education Institutions and Science Councils (research nodes) focusing on a broad spectrum of research focus areas as listed below.

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Council for Scientific and Industrial Research

- Biodiversity and ecosystem services
- Climate change
- Ecology and management of alien plants
- Fire research
- Forest hydrology
- Reproductive biology research
- Resource economics
- Tree breeding and genetics
- Forest product research
- Woodland ecology and management

Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute

- Forest biotechnology
- Forest entomology
- Forest genetics
- Forest pathology


- Silviculture
- Tree improvement
- Wood quality

Institute for Commercial Forestry Research

- Re-establishment
- Sustainable Forest Productivity
- Tree Improvement
- Collaborative research Initiatives:
   - SA Sirex Control Programme
   - Pine Fusarium Working Group
   - Forest Engineering South Africa

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University

- Fire management
- Forest engineering
- Forest management
- Forest site classification & evaluation

Rhodes University

- Conservation management
- Natural resource management
- Participatory forest management
- Resource valuation
- Woodland ecology

? University of Cape Town

- Ecophysiology of trees – Nutrition, Water & Carbon
- Fire ecology
- Forest ecology
- Global change
- Rural development
- Social ecology

University of Witwatersrand

- Biogeochemistry of savanna ecosystems
- Nutrient cycling in plantation systems
- Plant Ecophysiology
- Nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon dynamics
- Fires and nutrient cycling
- Forest & woodland ecology

University of Stellenbosch

- Agro forestry
- Biomass production and renewable energy
- Community forestry
- Forest economics
- Forest engineering and logistics
- Forest mensuration and inventory
- Forest planning

Contact Details

Director: Forestry Regulations and Oversight
Mr. Renny Madula
Tel: +27 12 309 5710
Mobile: +27 82 809 1855


Deputy Director : Sector Foresight
Dr. Ronald Heath
Tel: +27 12 319 6463
Mobile: +27 83 611 6946


Forestry Research Co-ordinator
Mr.Guiney Itchell
Tel: +27 12 309 5797