3 years ago

Opportunity Issue 91 - Sept-Oct-2019

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FORESTRY Growing talent

FORESTRY Growing talent Women are breaking down barriers in forestry The association of humanity with trees dates back to the earliest human origins, making forestry one of the oldest forms of agriculture. One of forestry’s most persistent misconceptions is the outdated view that forestry is a male-only profession. In fact, the past five decades have seen women not just survive but thrive in forestry-related careers. Moving into the 21st century, silvicultural and technological advancements have helped break down gender barriers. We are seeing successful women come to the fore in every role within the sector, from machine operator to chief financial officer. To dispel the “male only” myth, we asked six of the brightest, most dedicated and passionate staff women to describe their career in forestry, explain why they love working in forestry, and advise women who might be interested in entering forestry themselves. The forester Dorothy Makoetlana works at Stevens Lumber Mills as a silviculture forester. She has a BSc in Forestry. “I manage the Stevens Lumber Mill plantation where we strive to produce the best quality saw timber with minimal knots. Part of my role is to ensure that operations are completed at the required standard and on time, both by our own employees and the contractors who work with us. Silviculture operations involve ordering seedlings, land preparation, planting, pruning, slashing, chemical weed control, tree enumeration, plantation mapping and firebreak preparation. We also respond to controlled and uncontrolled fires. “I love being able to protect my farms from fire. During fire season, I wait for my radio to sound — just one call and I’m up. I want to get to where a fire has been spotted as quickly and as safely as possible. When I get there, I’m calm and start thinking of a way to control the fire and what resources I need. The satisfaction I get when everyone is safe and there has been minimal damage to a plantation or property is huge. “Forestry develops legends! You must love it to do it as your work becomes your life. You must be dedicated, hands on and willing to do things on your own. To women who love a challenge, join the industry — every day feels like a huge accomplishment.” The machine operator Ephie Mogakane is a senior operator forwarder at SAFCOL. She has undergone Safcol Machine Operator Training and a Dorothy Makoetlana CMO competency assessment. Forestry has been her career for 13 years. “My job is to move logs from the field to the roadside. In the morning, we grease our machines and check them for faults, fill in the daily checklist, inspect the work area, attend toolbox talks and then start working. After a shift, we grease and check our machines again and report any problems before handing over to the next operator. “I started out as a general worker, so forestry definitely provides opportunities for growth. It is also quiet and isolated, and the job is flexible. “Forestry is a male-dominated industry but there is room for women too. Women like myself operate machines and there is 16 |

FORESTRY Lizette de Waal Ephie Mogakane scope to learn and improve. There are also many opportunities for growth, as long as you are willing.” The tree breeder Lizette de Waal is a tree breeder for York Timbers. With a BSc (Agric) Genetics and MSc Forest Science, she has nine years of experience. “I assist with the management of York’s pine breeding programme which involves planning and coordinating annual operations to ensure that the nursery receives enough seed of the correct species for commercial establishment. I represent York at various industry forums to keep updated on developments and participate in collaborative projects. “I love the balance between working outdoors and in the office. It enables me to improve my understanding of the environment and how it affects tree health and growth. In addition, I get to collaborate with people in a variety of fields involving tree improvement and conservation, climate change and the environment, pest and disease, silviculture and molecular genetics. Forestry also contributes to the local economy by creating jobs. “Research in forestry is a great career to get into at the moment. There are a lot of exciting projects under way that will help us to gain a better understanding of how different species grow and respond to their environments. This will help us plant more sustainable forests in the years to come. It’s great to be a part of that!” The communicator Zelda Schwalbach is communications managers for Sappi Forests KZN. Qualified with a BA Communications, she has spent 18 years in the sector. “In my role, I aim to achieve our objective of creating shared value that promotes local economic activity in rural areas where we operate, ensuring sustainability in all we do. In the process, becoming a trusted partner to our stakeholders, through building and maintaining a positive reputation, whilst also proactively managing risks that could impact negatively on our operations. “Stakeholder engagement, risk and crisis management, branding, sponsorships and CSI programmes, media relations and employee engagement are all important aspects of this role; especially as the working environment itself is challenging and often geographically remote. “Working in an environment which is blessed with producing an abundance of essential products from renewable resources - in a time when everything else is plastic, or causes harm to the planet - is quite inspiring! In addition, the forestry industry provides a wealth of opportunities for so many participants in the value chain – thousands of people are earning a modest living from this sector. There are many misconceptions | 17

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