Mr Senzeni Zokwana
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry
South Africa’s forest resource base, comprising three types, namely, woodlands, natural forests and commercial plantations, plays a significant role in terms of addressing the country’s triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. Our forests play a significant role in terms of poverty eradication through job creation, economic growth and supply of basic needs, particularly in the communities that live in close proximity to the forest areas which are characterised by high levels of unemployment and poverty.
These forests act as safety nets in that the communities derive their livelihood from them. Timber, fuelwood, building poles, medicinal plants and edible fruit types are some of the resources sourced from the forests. Moreover, forests are known for playing a vital role in the provision of ecosystem services while also being responsible for mitigating the effects of the global phenomenon, climate change. On the one hand, climate change and climatic variabilities have an effect on forests in terms of pests, diseases and fires. Like in many other parts of the world, South Africa’s forests are still threatened by human-induced activities such as mining, developments, unsustainable harvesting of forest produce and wildfires.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, under my leadership, is responsible for ensuring sustainable forest management and development and sees the XIV WFC as a good platform for the global forestry community to meet and share ideas and experiences that seek to arrive at a mutually enriching goal – that of seeking ways of reversing forest degradation and deforestation. The theme for the congress, “Forests and People: Investing in a Sustainable Future”, put the people of the world at the heart of forests and I sincerely trust that the meeting will yield the desired objectives including that of ensuring a sustainable future for the forests.
In this light, together with members of the Local Organising Committee and FAO, I am pleased to invite all people of the world involved with the forests and related sectors to the XIV WFC, to be held for the first time on African soil since its inception in 1926. I am optimistic that the congress will provide a good opportunity for the participants to craft solutions that will benefit the sustained survival of all types of forests and trees outside the forests, wherever they occur in the world.