An award-winning forester is set on growing the industry in his small town of Stutterheim in the Eastern Cape.
Mlungisi Bushula (30) was this year awarded the best Forestry Excellence Award in the large-scale category at the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ Youth in Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (YAFF) awards. The go-getter is now mentoring four local emerging forestry businesses.
His decision was prompted by the fact that he was the only finalist in his category at the awards ceremony this year.
“I am trying to help small businesses enter the market so that they can grow,” he said.
The owner of SA Fine Tuned, which boasts 1 800 hectares of trees in the Amahlathi Local Municipality area, was himself a novice in 2013. After inheriting a farm from his late grandfather, Bushula received purchase and lease offers from local farmers who wanted to use the land for forestry, instead of mixed farming as his grandfather had done.
He said after doing research, he realised the value of the forestry market and started his business on a 350-hectare farm. Today, the business manages 1 800 hectares of land across the Amahlathi Local Municipality. “This includes land belonging to chiefs and the municipality, which we manage on their behalf,” he said.
SA Fine Tuned harvests gum and pine trees which yield 20 000 units of poles and droppers a month. It also produces 200 tons of pulp per month.
The company’s products are sold to paper producer Sappi, TWK Agriculture and NCT Forestry Co-operative Limited, among others.
Bushula employs seven people permanently, with 27 others employed on a seasonal basis. “The plan is to employ more people permanently and give them job security,” he said.
Bushala’s YAFF victory earned him R200 000. In 2015, he pocketed R50 000 after winning the Small-Scale Farming category of the awards.
“Last year I received three chainsaws from the Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform at their Agri-Entrepreneurs Awards,” he said.
Bushula said his business is set to expand further thanks to a R3 million loan from the Industrial Development Corporation.