Tree farmers awarded for excellence

NCT FORESTRY announced its tree farmer of the year awards at its AGM in Pietmaritzburg recently.

Margaret Buyisile Mdunge, who grew up in Umvoti, and Jon MacKenzie, of Harding, received this year's tree farmer awards in recognition of their excellence in sustainable plantation management.

Mdunge, winner in the category small-scale grower, comes from humble beginnings in rural Greytown. Her family owned a small wattle plantation and it is here where she received her training. She learned to be farm labourer, supervisor and farm manager.

Mdunge obtained the farm, Essenwood, from her late husband who, together with 10 family members, applied for the Settlement and Production Land Acquisition grant. The grant paid for the deposit of the farm and the balance was raised through a commercial bank.

With no formal forestry background, Mdunge has had to rely on technical support from NCT and showed a clear instinct for timber farming.

She has converted her low-lying wattle compartment into a frost-tolerant species and is today reaping the benefits of this. She controls weeds in open areas by grazing her small herd of goats and cattle.

Mdunge oversees all the farm operations herself and has a hands-on management style.