It has been six years since South Africa and 192 other countries adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the Sustainable Development Summit in 2015. A new South African project is set to become Africa’s voice in attaining the goals set out during the summit within the next nine years. The LNR Forest Estate will launch the project in Limpopo in the first week of March 2021. The flagship project’s launch will coincide with the UN World Wildlife Day, which is celebrated annually on 3 March.

From the first week of March and over the next decade, LNR Forest Estate will research and in due course, implement solutions to ensure sustainable livelihoods and biodiversity in post-mining economies. The LNR Forest Estate, owned by Dr Lindiwe Ringane, who is also the lead researcher for the project, says the LNR Forest Estate will be a platform for research and education.

The project will attempt to make many sustainable development goals (SDGs) such as addressing climate change, clean water, sustainable communities, and responsible production a reality. It also ties in with this year’s theme for World Wildlife Day – Forestry and Livelihoods. The focus will be on SDG 2 (zero hunger), 13 (climate action), and 15 (life on land). Another SDG includes forming partnerships to make these goals a reality, and this is exactly what LNR Forest Estate is doing.

Partnerships facilitate growth

LNR Forest Estate has formed a partnership with Merensky Holdings, which includes Merensky Timber and Westfalia Fruit, to facilitate research in sustainable production. Merensky Timber is a leader in the sustainable management of forestry, and Westfalia Fruit is an expert in avocados’ sustainable production. LNR Forest Estate will be the co-ordinator of the research activities, which will be established on a long-term basis.

A large aspect of the research will also centre on solutions to ensure that communities as well as the environment remain sustainable in areas where mining takes place. The LNR is in discussion with the Royal Bafokeng Nation in the neighbouring province, North West, where mining is one of the main supporters of livelihoods. The project aims to restore the growth of trees and other vegetation in villages where mining has taken place.

If successful, it should restore water and soil quality for future agricultural activities such as grazing. Restoring plant growth will also contribute to carbon sequestration, which will help combat climate change. Underground greenhouses or plant nurseries could also be introduced on such land.

Other activities include a possible partnership with the University of Venda’s Department of Forestry. Dr Ringane said there is also a research partnership in the pipeline with Montana Technological University’s Faculty of Engineering in the United States (US). Here, they will be working with Professors Scott Rosenthal and Paul Conrad.

A forest for the people

Currently, the LNR Forest Estate land consists of mainly pine forests for timber, but the farm also has rich plant and bird biodiversity that needs to be preserved. To preserve the indigenous plants and flowers, Dr Ringane wants to establish an indigenous nursery on the farm that will also include a seed bank for native plants. The project will involve traditional authorities to assist in educating communities about traditional plant names, as well as their botanical names.

The estate currently generates no income from farming or forestry activities and wants to start its endeavours with less destruction and fewer unsustainable activities. With Dr Ringane’s background in science, he is acutely aware of the effects that agri-practices can have on the environment. Especially in Limpopo, many trees are felled and burnt down to open fields for citrus or avocado orchards. This contributes to soil degradation, pollution, and carbon release into the environment.

Programmes for 2021 will be conducted online. This year’s programmes will focus on integrating mining, conservation, and biodiversity, to create a realistic green sustainable economy that will be meaningful beyond 2035.

For more information, contact Dr Lindiwe Ringane at – Ursula Human, AgriOrbit