The sustainability and viability of small-scale timber as community economic development : the perceptions of the Entembeni community in Melmoth.
Mahlangu, Isaiah Mahlolani.
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This study was conducted to investigate viability and sustainability of commercial small-scale timber production. Random mushrooming and proliferation of small-scale timber production in KwaZulu-Natal and the lack of available literature on how small-growers perceive sustainability of their own practice prompted the study. Entembeni, a rural community located in northern KwaZulu-Natal, was selected for the study. High levels of illiteracy and increasing unemployment levels characterize the area. Based on a qualitative research design a stratified, random sampling was used to select a representative sample. While an understanding of small-scale timber production tends to focus on smallscale growers as the main role-players, government structures, commercial timber farmers, and contractors play a significant role in regulating and transforming timber production respectively. The study found that small-scale timber production is either hindered or enhanced by the nature and effectiveness of existing institutional arrangements. Distribution of assets is characterized by social inequality based on gender and social status. It was also found that small-growers lack the necessary skills, expertise, land and infrastructure to effectively participate in commercial timber production. Partnerships with the private sector (in the form of contract farming) ensure that small-growers have access to loans, expertise and the markets. Small-growers who are motivated by the prospects of increased income and entrepreneurial development, fail to reach anticipated targets. Reasons for this are numerous. Some small-growers operate in areas of land too small to yield the desired outcomes. Inability for value adding and reliance on large-scale growers and contractors for loans and harvesting and transportation services contributes to small-growers inability to maximize benefits. The study concluded that small-scale timber production in its current state at Entembeni is not viable or sustainable. Viability and sustainability of small-scale timber production can be enhanced through a holistic land use plan and management that provides alternative land use options, not just timber production.