4: From left: Eza Mapipa (forestry development officer of NTE Company), Mthandeni Ntanzi (black wattle farmer) and Cliff Walton (NCT’s district manager for member services in the Greytown area). Mapipa and Walton are helping Ntanzi become an increasingly productive, sustainable and profitable producer.
It’s not easy to pin down Mthandeni Ntanzi for an interview. That he is clearly a busy, hands-on farmer with little free time is evinced by his neat and well-tended homestead surrounded by 4,5ha of well-managed black wattle (Acacia mearnsii). And it is precisely for his strong work ethic and resourcefulness that Ntanzi was named NCT Forestry Co-operative’s 2019 Tree Farmer of the Year in the small-scale grower category.
1: Many smaller-scale black wattle producers like Mthandeni Ntanzi prefer to grow denser black wattle populations than industry norms as a precaution should any trees be damaged.
Ntanzi is a fourth-generation resident of his family’s 5ha smallholding on KwaCele Traditional Authority land in KwaZulu-Natal’s eMatimatolo area. Like his great-grandfather, grandfather and father before him, Ntanzi grows black wattle for commercial purposes. However, unlike his forebears, he has made the trees his primary income source and so dedicates almost all of his time, efforts and resources into producing the best-quality black wattle bark and timber he can.
2: The two most economically important uses of black wattle trees are pulpwood, used to make paper products, and tannin, which is extracted from the bark and used for tanning leather.
A VALUABLE RESOURCE
Commercial black wattle production has long had great economic value in South Africa. According to the Agricultural Research Council, the two main uses for the tree are the extraction of tannin from its bark (for the tanning of leather) and the production of pulpwood chips, which are exported for further processing.
3: Double leaders from black wattle trees are removed so that they do not draw any water or nutrients from the commercially important primary stem.
Ntanzi sells the mature bark of his trees to NTE Company and the pulpwood to NCT. Using his own Mercedes-Benz flatbed truck, which can carry a 7t load, Ntanzi delivers the bark to NTE’s processing plant at Hermannsburg, about 21km away, and the timber to an NCT satellite depot near Greytown 14km away. “My late father, Give, didn’t receive any training in how to grow black wattle commercially. He learnt things by talking to other farmers,” says Ntanzi.
“He also learnt from his mistakes. He taught me much of what I needed to know about growing black wattle commercially. When he became very ill in 2003, and eventually passed away, I took over the full management of our business.”
Guiding Ntanzi for a number of years have been Cliff Walton, NCT’s district manager for member services in the Greytown area, and Eza Mapipa, NTE’s forestry development officer. They are Ntanzi’s sounding board, and also share any production guidelines and relevant new research that can help Ntanzi grow and harvest his trees more cost-effectively.
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