Origin of Forestry in Sabie: The forester, the history and more

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a forester and the Origin-of-Sabie-Forestry-and-timber-industry

Sabie, Mpumalanga is well known for its picturesque views, holiday vibe, and friendly people. In this week’s post, we will discover more about the first forester and the history of Sabie. Therefore, if you want to know how this area became the hotspot for Forestry in South Africa, you’ve come to the right place.

Get some Forestry Facts, the founding foresters/companies and what forestry means to the community today.

Sabie, Mpumalanga

“Experience the picturesque beauty of nature in and around Sabie – a small country town nestled in the majestic Drakensberg escarpment mountains of the Mpumalanga province, South Africa” –Sabie

Sabie Forester

While Sabie is now known for one of the largest forests in the world, this town did not originate due to forestry. The name of the town originated from Swazi and Zulu cultures, they called it “uluSaba” which translates to “the river of fear” due to the fact that the Sabie river was always crawling with crocodiles.

TTherefore, Sabie is an adaption from uluSaba. Also known as “place of the rising sun”.

The Forester that began it all

After the initial discovery of gold in Pilgrims Rest in the year 1873 a flood of settlers made Pilgrim’s Rest their home. The settlers moved around the area to explore and hunt. It is said that during a hunting expedition led by Henry Thomas Glynn (1871), a bullet hit an escarpment which revealed the treasure beneath. Gold.

After this, there was a mass of settlers making their way to Sabie in order to mine the gold. With this influx of people and the mining industry booming it was pertinent to get timber for underground mining supports etc.

The first forester to start a commercial forest was  Joseph Brook Shires. He planted the first trees in 1876, which slowly started the conversion of the area from mining to forestry.

Map of Sabie, Mpumalanga

The first Corporate Forester of Mpumalanga

In 1910 TGME was planning a tree-planting scheme due to the high demand. The high demand was mainly coming from the mining industry in the Sabie/Pilgrims Rest area. This tree-planting scheme was planned out for Elandsdrift, an area close to Sabie.

McKenzie from Dalton was appointed to assess the area, soil and more and come up with a tree-planting scheme that would be efficient and profitable. He set out to investigate the climate and other factors in the Sabie area. Thereafter, McKenzie drew up instructions for the optimal planting and growing conditions for Black Wattle.

“A hectare was expected to yield 8 to 12 tons of tannin bark and 40 tons of wood depending on depth and nature of soil.” – Sabie Blog

EB Gleaser was appointed by TGME to start the planting scheme. He was instructed to start planting on an 800 ha farm in Elandsdrift around 1906.

By 1916, the trees had grown enough to yield profits.

Following the success of the first Corporate Forester

After the huge success, the planning of another planting-scheme started. In 1919, the launching of the aforementioned planting scheme launched. Thereafter, Nils Eckbo took over the tree-planting scheme. The profits grew every year. This was the start of forestry becoming its own industry, breaking away from the control of the local mining companies in the area.

Not long after this success, a box-factory establishment arrived at Hendriksdal. The Acme Box Company of Durban took over the management of the sawmill.

Forestry in Sabie, Mpumalanga today

Following the start of forestry by TCME and Joseph Brook Shires, the industry boomed. The big companies have since been bought and sold by major corporates nationally and internationally.

But aside from the international companies, there are various companies specializing in different species, growth processes, cutting and drying of timber in the area. The forests are mostly Pine (A softwood) and Eucalyptus (A hardwood).

The forestry industry in Sabie is the biggest contributor to employment in the Sabie area. Today, the industry is still growing every year.

Origin of forestry in Sabie.

Interesting Forestry Facts:

Now that we know more about how Forestry became such a huge industry in our area, we want to share some general forestry facts with you:

  • There are three main types of trees that grow on South African plantations. They are pine (44%), Eucalyptus (44%) and wattle (12%). –Country Life
  • The South African forestry industry employs 158 000 people and is responsible for 11% of the country’s agricultural GDP and 5% of manufacturing GDP. –Country Life
  • There are around 26 000 timber growers in South Africa. These include the big multinational corporations, government and thousands of small-scale companies. – Country Life
  • One of the largest afforested areas in South Africa (an area of 0.6 million hectares) is in the Mpumalanga province. – Sabie
  • The Forestry Industry contribute 8.7% of the gross value of the country’s agricultural output.- Sabie

Sustainable Forestry Today

Some companies, like Sabie Poles, are dedicated to sustainable forestry. Therefore, we grow, harvest, treat and transport our own wood. For every pole we sell, we plant a tree.

As a company that is located in the hub of the South African forestry, we feel it is our duty to create an environment where the forests are sustainable. However, we also believe in providing our clients with the highest quality timber. Therefore, we grow our own Eucalyptus trees. We get our seedlings from a reputable supplier. Thereafter we plant them according to certain specifications to ensure the highest quality timber.

We harvest our trees and put them through a process called CCA Treatment. This treatment increases the life-span of the wood. Consequently, the wood lasts up to 10 years! No replacements needed.

We feel it is our responsibility as foresters to ensure sustainable forestry for the environment.

You can read more about Sustainable Forestry in our previous blog post.

While we do specialize in CCA Treated Eucalyptus Poles, we have various other products available. You can download our product catalog/product price list from our website. 

In conclusion, the forestry industry in Sabie started in 1976. The mining industry was booming, consequently, they desperately needed timber for underground support structures.

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