Big year for forestry at UP

Posted on December 09, 2020

Not only did the Forestry Programme at the University of Pretoria (UP) celebrate ten years in 2020, but Prof Paxie Chirwa, the incumbent of the South African Forestry Companies Limited (SAFCOL) Forestry Chair, co-edited a book on the Miombo Woodlands.

The Forestry Programme at UP started in earnest in late 2009 when Prof Paxie Chirwa joined the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, and a Forestry Chair was established with funding from SAFCOL.

Unlike programmes at other institutions in South Africa, the forestry programme at UP only caters for postgraduate students at the master’s and doctoral levels. In addition, the programme offers a taught MSc Forest Management and Environment through the Centre for Environmental Studies. This programme has been popular with students from other disciplines than forestry, including Geography and Environmental Sciences.

According to Prof Chirwa, “The forestry programme has been especially successful in harnessing collaborative research with other university institutions, especially in Africa and some European institutions. The Chair has also collaborated with scientists in the forestry industry in South Africa in building capacity in research, where many staff from industry have worked on their research or management programmes to earn their master’s degrees or PhDs. These include SAPPI, Mondi, Merensky, York, SAFCOL, among others.  In research, the programme has benefited from funding from the National Research Foundation (NRF), and internationally, from the African Forest Forum, MasterCard Foundations, AU/EU Mobility Funding, Borlaug Higher Education for Agricultural Research and Development (BHEARD), DAAD, etc.”

Apart from local students, the programme is very popular internationally with many students from the SADC region, East and West Africa. For example, in the 2019/20 Academic year, 16 students have graduated including 10 PhDs and 6 MSc.  Most PhDs (80%) are international due to low enrolment of local students and the high attrition rate of local students. However, for master’s, out of the six students, three were local students.

Prof Chirwa added that the forestry programme through its postgraduate research has contributed to research in many parts of Africa in areas of forest ecology and management, socioecological, social forestry, agroforestry, forest engineering, among others. In terms of research outputs, in the last ten years, over 80 papers and 15 book chapters have been published with more than 45 postgraduate students graduating.

In terms of contribution to the forestry industry and Africa in general, some of the graduate students are currently forest general managers in South Africa, while others are in management positions in governments both in South Africa and in other parts of Africa. The SAFCOL Forestry Chair is actively also involved in the advisory on the implementation of the South African Agroforestry Strategy.

We look forward to the continued growth of the programme with the active involvement of the forestry industry, and other stakeholders in South Africa and beyond.



The book Miombo Woodlands in a Changing Environment: Securing the Resilience and Sustainability of People and Woodlands offers a socioecological management and policy analysis of the Miombo ecosystem in the global change context.
Editors: Ribeiro, N., Katerere, Y., Chiriwa, P., Grundy, I. (Eds.)

About the book:

Based on work by the Miombo Network in southern Africa, this book helps decision-makers and general readers alike improve their understanding of the socio-ecology of the Miombo woodlands across southern Africa. It also highlights the importance of and the need for further research on the unique Miombo ecology and its link with economic development. One major challenge facing these woodlands is the influence that direct (both natural and anthropogenic) and indirect drivers of change, as well as interactions between these, have had over the centuries. As such, the book explores the socio-economic and ecological interactions that occur in these woodlands and discusses the need for further research to provide a better understanding of these interactions.

Drawing on data and information from numerous studies conducted in the last 20 years, the book presents a comparative analysis of policy changes and management experiences in the countries concerned. It also addresses issues of global climate change, since they have an impact on Miombo ecosystem management and restoration, and provides future projections based on an assessment of how climate change has affected the Miombo woodlands in the past.

- Author Martie Meyer
Published by Martie Meyer

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