Push for action against fake forests

AN environmental lobby group is hoping to put pressure on the world forestry conference in Durban next week to curb the growth of what they deem to be “fake forests”.

The Global Forest Coalition (GFC), which represents indigenous groups globally from more than 40 countries who believe their land rights are being violated by big government and corporations, is expected to petition the UN next week to have the definition of “planted forests” changed.

According to Durban-based Timberwatch project co-ordinator Wally Menne, they will also be hosting a counter-conference next week to ­coincide with the World Forestry Conference at the Durban ICC from September 7 to 11.

“We are hosting a counter-conference under the banner of the Civil Society Alternative Conference [CSAP]. We have been working on this conference for the last 18 months and have over 30 speakers, a film festival, talks and debates. Affected communities from the Midlands, Northern KZN, the Eastern Cape and the majority of provinces around the country will be attending,” said Menne.

Using the Botanical Gardens as the base, on September 10 they anticipate a crowd, several thousand strong, to march to the ICC to “resist monoculture tree plantations”. They will then hand over a petition to a delegate from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

“The FAO definition of ‘planted forests’ includes the commercial growth of wattle, eucalyptus or pine.

“We believe this definition is wrong. These trees are an industrial crop the same as we wouldn’t call a farm under sugarcane a grassland,” said Menne.

Currently, according to the FAO, planted forests are “intensively managed for production purposes but can also be established for protection, conservation or socio-economic purposes”.

Menne said while 1,5 million hectares countrywide was under managed plantations, in KZN an area “as large as the managed size” was under “feral plantation”.

“If you look in the KZN Midlands there are thousands of hectares of wattle tree that has escaped. They were not planted but seeded naturally. This can be said for all over the province.”

He said the industrial plantations, what he terms are “fake forests”, were incapable of doing what real forests do — purify the air, provide water, shelter for species and medicine and food for people

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