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South Africa - Penn State Forestry Tours

In summer 2009, four South Africans visited Pennsylvania on a two-week forestry study tour.  Pierre Ackerman and Cori Ham from the Department of Forest and Wood Science at Stellenbosch University, Willie Louw from the Saasveld Forestry School at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, and Mark Filter, a private forest landowner, toured various forestry operations in Pennsylvania. 

South African small-scale timber farmers increasingly supply raw material to primary processors.  The study tour provided an opportunity for our visitors to learn from an industry based on small-scale timber farmers. They examined the sustainability of Pennsylvania forests, and the related roles of Penn State Cooperative Extension, NGOs (non-government organizations), and state agencies. 

Being used to plantation forests with timber rotations as short as six years, the South Africans were fascinated by the long rotation periods and diversity of management strategies employed in our natural hardwood forests.  Highlights of their tour included visiting the Allegheny National Forest, small-scale timber operations in Clarion and Wellsboro, and the Montpelier Forest Estate in Virginia.

SouthAfrica1SouthAfrica2Penn State students planted trees in South Africa that were part of a carbon sequestration project.  Native species planted were Khaya niasica, Brachystegia spiciformis, Pterocarpus angolensis, and Milletia stuhlmannii.

This summer (2010) a group of Penn State students and faculty traveled to South Africa and Mozambique.  Penn Staters had traveled to South Africa in summer 2008, and this year the Mozambique part of the trip was added to experience more of Africa’s diversity of forestry and natural resources.  The tour included stops at an FSC-certified tropical forest, a national park, and forest industry plantations.  One of the highlights for the students was spending time in a rural village, and helping with tree planting and other community-based activities.

The forestry tours are part of a broader effort to create opportunities for exchange in research, extension, and teaching among faculty and students at Penn State and Stellenbosch University.  The tours alternate—one year a group from Africa visits the United States and the following year a group from Penn State visits Africa.