South Africa has beautiful forests. Some of the tree species are used for timber that compares favourably with the best in the world. Unfortunately, our forests of indigenous trees are limited, and many years ago it was found necessary to plant tree species from other parts of the world. The demand for timber shows a steady increase. To meet the need for timber, and to ensure adequate timber resources for the future, production from the current 1,3 million ha of afforested area must be expanded by establishing new forests or by increasing the current level of production from existing forests.
When trees reach maturity, they must be harvested. This facet of the forestry industry is very complex, especially where trees are growing on steep mountain slopes. Road systems must be planned in detail and expensive harvesting equipment must be acquired and used efficiently.
The processing of the timber is the next step in the value-adding chain. This can be done either at a sawmill, where it is sawn, seasoned and graded, ready to be used in building or furniture, or at a paper mill, or at some other plant for processing into chips or fibre. Forests do not only meet our timber needs. They also provide outdoor recreational facilities. The need for forests and parks is becoming increasingly important, especially with the current population growth. The majority of forestry areas are accessible to the public. The wider field of conservation ecology addresses this aspect, for example through the conservation of the fauna and flora and the management of the natural environment for its esthetical and scientific importance. Trees also play an important role in rural and urban areas for the production of firewood, bark, medicine and ornaments, thereby enhancing the general quality of life.
Seen against this background, it is obvious that special knowledge, skills and management expertise are required for sustainable agricultural and forestry production. Our wide range of teaching programmes covers, therefore, all aspects of natural resource management, plant and animal production, post-harvest operations and economic management, from the basic science, through to the practical and economic aspects of the respective value chains of agriculture and of forestry.
The DFWS has strengthened its original mandate and is a recognised international leader in this regard. Teaching, research and development services are provided to a full spectrum of stakeholders, both locally and internationally, which include the South African and international commercial forestry sector, government and other public forestry branches, NGOs and society. The DFWS has a small team of dedicated lecturers and researchers, supported by knowledgeable and experienced technical and administrative staff.
Graduates in agriculture and forestry can follow a variety of careers in plant or animal production, conservation, processing and marketing. There are, for example, careers in research, teaching, consultation, information dissemination, farm management, environment management and industrial plant management (cellars, food factories and sawmills). Professions and careers such as these are not only practised in agricultural and forestry companies, but also in associated industries, commercial enterprises and government departments. Agrisciences graduates of this University enjoy high regard in the international labour market.