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Large scale, fast rotation monocultures of alien timber species have a high impact on the water, soil and biodiversity resources of Southern Africa. These industrial timber monocultures are not designed to supply the needs of local people but to feed the ‘over-consumption’ of paper and pulp products in northern countries.

For more information on local impacts and struggles explore the links on our sites.

  Large scale, Industrial Timber Plantations
cover millions of hectares in South Africa’s
higher rainfall areas – accumulative impacts
are negatively affecting water, biodiversity, livelihoods and eco-sustainability.

With growing demand for wood fiber,
multi- national plantations corporations
are looking towards countries like
Mozambique for expansion.

Approximately 10% of Swaziland
has been transformed to industrial
timber plantations – displacing rural
people and impacting on livelihoods.

Green Links


Issues & Articles from different Sources

GeaSphere Community on Facebook

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)

Albert Einstein once said that if the bees disappear – man will follow after 4 years… No Bees, No Pollination, No Plants, No Animals, No Man… In the U.S., unprecedented colony losses are being reported – yet no one seems sure of what the cause may be… -
Collony Collapse Disorder

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Earth Day Cometh and Earth Day Goeth - And Where have all the Bees Gone?

An Earth Day Essay by Paul Watson Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

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If we want to save the planet, we need a five-year freeze on biofuels

Oil produced from plants sets up competition for food between cars and people. People - and the environment - will lose

George Monbiot article March 27, 2007

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- Warning –
 Conventional Agriculture could be Hazardous to your health...

A Limpopo medical doctor documents health impacts associated with cropspraying of agri-chemicals in the Groblersdal area, South Africa…

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The Meatrix

The truth about our meat supply – view this excellent animation. Well worth the download!

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Earth at Night

View the earth at night, a composite of NASA satellite images showing human impact – specially in the north.

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What the World Eats...

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South African Water Caucus
Environmental Monitoring Group
Global Forrest Coalition
World Rainforest Movement
Wildlife & Environmental Society of Southern Africa
Grassroots Foundation
Global GreenGrants Fund
FSC Watch - Because Transparency Matters
Freshwater Action Network
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Keep updated with GeaSphere via Facebook

SAPPI Ngodwana conversion to Chemical Cellulose

On Monday, 9th of May 2011, Sappi announced that the conversion of the Ngodwana Pulp and Paper Mill towards the production of chemical cellulose – moving away from conventional pulp – was approved by the board.

Prospectively it will be online early in 2013. Chemical cellulose, or dissolving pulp, plays an increasing important role for the global pulp market as it serves as raw material for a variety
of consumer goods, especially textiles and packaging, and Sappi puts much effort into increasing its output. GeaSphere wants to provide some background information about this process also regarding the related Green Energy Power Project (GEPP) by Sappi, the construction of a boiler at the site of the mill for biomass combustion.

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Stop Exploitative Land Transformations in Mozambique

Please show your support by signing the petition by
following the link or clicking on the image below.

Click Here to Sign The Petition

If you need to find out more about the petition and its goal,
please click here to watch the video.

FSC “Eco-label” Allows Killing of Wild Baboons.

According to environmentalists, FSC places commercial interests above the lives of wild baboons in the timber plantations it has certified in South Africa.

"In response to a formal complaint lodged by GeaSphere, an environmental pressure group based in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa where baboon killings are taking place, and supported by various international organizations, the FSC’s supposedly independent and impartial Complaints Panel refused to end the killing of baboons using the cruel ‘trap and shoot’ method. “The Panel’s strange decision will just give the timber industry further justification for the ruthless killings” says Tim Strupat, a German volunteer at GeaSphere.

Since the beginning of 2011 at least 295 baboons have been killed in FSC-certified timber plantations in Mpumalanga, which is the heart of the plantation industry in southern Africa, according to Philip Owen... "

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GeaSphere e-Book 2011

Download the latest Geasphere e-Book

"This book encapsulates some of the advocacy work of GeaSphere."

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GeaSphere lodges a Formal complaint to FSC regarding the killing of baboons in FSC-certified industrial timber plantations in South Africa

Stop the killing’ of baboons in the mountains of Mpumalanga, South Africa!

The environmental pressure group GeaSphere submitted a formal complaint to the FSC – Forest Stewardship Council – on Tuesday, 11 January 2011.

At least 1,914 permits to ‘remove’ baboons by a controversial ‘trap and shoot’ method by FSC Certified plantation companies have been issued by the authority during the past two years. Most of the affected troops were from the Sabie, Graskop and Blyde River areas in Mpumalanga province, South Africa.

GeaSphere is demanding an immediate moratorium on the killing of baboons by FSC certified companies and the de-certification of plantation companies involved in this practice.

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Swaziland Trip Report - November 2010

By Tim Strupat and Isabel Jakob

Swaziland, an independent kingdom lying within South Africa and Mozambique, faces serious problems with industrial and invasive timber plantations. About 120 000 hectares, being more than nine percent of the whole of Swaziland, are covered by industrial timber plantations. Important to note here is that another unknown, but great area is covered by invasive timber. The ones who suffer the most from the impacts of the thirsty trees are, as often, poor rural communities who rely on small-scale farming to secure their livelihood.

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Thirsty alien trees, no water left and climate confusion – what version of sustainable development are we leaving our children?

By Liane Greeff

You've thrown the worst fear that can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children into the world
For threatening my baby unborn and unnamed
You ain't worth the blood that runs in your veins.

Bob Dylan – Masters of War

The main tenet of this paper is that there is not enough water in South Africa for South Africa’s current and planned developmental approach, and that we need to re-examine the impossible nexus between our scarce water resources, potential climate change impacts, and our decision to plant more water intensive timber plantations. Coupled with this conundrum are the issues of food security, or lack thereof, and the potential water and food security impact of alien invasive plants expanding and taking over land and water resources. This last point includes the uncontrolled expansion of invasive timber plantation species.  

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Pulping the Future
Pulping the Future exposes the impact monoculture timber plantations have on escarpment regions in South Africa, where grasslands are rapidly disappearing.
Produced by Philip Owen from Geasphere and filmed by Deidre May, various environmental activists including Philip contest the timber plantation model due to the adverse impacts on the water supply, biodiversity of plant and animal life and livelihoods of rural people.
Alternative land use models are also discussed.

See this and other Geasphere Videos Here

GeaSphere Video Productions
Interviews and presentations providing
Civil Society Perspectives on land
transformation through mining
and plantations establishment
in Southern Africa.

Click here to visit our Video Page
GeaSphere "Earth Matters" Video Online
Philip Owen describes the social and environmental impacts of high impact industrial timber plantations in Southern Africa
Part 1

View Part 1 Here

Part 2

View Part 2 Here

More Videos Here

The GeaSphere Team

GeaSphere Organizational Review Process, Cape Town, 2008
(from left to right)
Vera Ribeiro, Zandile Zwane, December Ndlovu, Philip Owen, Thelma Nkosi, Cecil Mohlale, Nhlanhla Msweli.
Forests & the Biodiversity Convention
Click To Enlarge


Independent Monitoring of the Implementation of the Expanded Programme of Work in Mozambique

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Report Sponsored by:
The Global Forest Coalition

Water is a Scarce Resource
How do Timber Plantations Influence Run-off?
Click To Enlarge


The Klaserie River originates at Mariepskop, Limpopo Province, South Africa The water measurements were taken where the river crosses the road between Tzaneen and Nelspruit, beneath the mountain.

All that has changed between 1935 and 1964 was a progressive establishment of mono culture tree plantations in the catchment area. Mean Annual Rainfall : Mariepskop forestry station (mm) Mean Annual Run Off : Klaserie River Mariepskop (m2) 1935 - 1964

Source : Van der Schyff H.P. & Schoonraad, E., 1971 “The Flora of Mariepskop” Bothalia 10(3) 461 – 500

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Grasslands - The Most Threatened Vegetation Type

Grasslands - Threatened Vegetation Grasslands are the worlds most threatened vegetation type - with an estimated 80% irrevocably destroyed.

Learn more about the value, the conservation status, the dynamics and management of grassland from some of South Africa's most respected grassland specialists.

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The Impact of Timber Plantations on Culture & Livelihoods in South-Eastern Mpumalanga and Swaziland

A series of 6 articles based upon interviews with elderly rural people.

By: Godfrey Silaule

"She insisted that her mother had no power to voice her dislike of mono culture but she hoped that I would be able to bring the attention that was needed, especially to both government and large scale mono producers who constantly rape our nutritious soil in the name of profit maximization".

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FSC Certification

Certification of Industrial Timber Plantations as 'Responsibly Managed Forests"

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Pulp Friction!


The Sappi Pulp Mill at Ngodwana, 50km west of Nelspruit in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa, is a huge wood-pulping plant alongside the N4 highway. This Pulp Mill, being the largest in Southern Africa, currently produces almost 500 000 tons of pulp per year.
It is notorious for the stench and pollution it emits, for its health risks, truck traffic and its seemingly insatiable hunger for millions of alien trees. These alien plantations cover many thousands of hectares of escarpment land, like conquerors of forgotten battlefields where grassland fauna and flora have lost the struggle to survive.

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A Legal Framework which allows Corporations to Externalize Costs

Text transcript of a presentation delivered by Richard Spoor, a South African Human Rights Lawyer.

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Sudwala Caves and Rainforest under Threat!

The Sudwala Caves and Rainforest are situated approx. 35km west of Nelspruit, Mpumalanga province, South Africa. The caves are currently extraordinarily dry – a phenomena which could be attributed to the high impact industrial timber plantations in the cave’s catchment area.

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Alternative Forestry Model

Forests, Water and Development: Seeking Effective Ways of Utilising Our Resources

This paper suggests that the introduction of alternative forms of slower-growing forest trees (such as indigenous hardwoods for either timber or traditional medicines, but not excluding high-value exotics), using significantly less water than industrial plantations as we know them, might provide an acceptable land use in areas which are stressed or water scarce. This might offer a means for the regulatory authorities to allocate at least some water to rural communities in ways beneficial to development, without putting undue strain on catchment resources. It is time, too, for the commercial forestry sector to seek ways to reduce its impact on water and the environment, and a move towards slow-growing high-value trees might offer a way of bringing more benefit at less cost.

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Industrial Timber Plantations

a poem by Mashikisha
We count the costs in shattered bits  lost opportunities
In peoples displaced, Choice denied, The Spring is Dry...

It lives by killing mountains and valleys. Disappearing fountains and streams.
It kills the buck, the mole, the swallow and the lark. Consolidating 'fake forests' -
Fragmenting habitat It does not consider the worm that burrows the soil.
It counts not the micro-organisms and knows not the function of the soil food web.
Just mining blindly.

The massive mills spew filth into the crisp country air,
A constant drainage of polluted effluent
into the crystal clear water,
Compromise the river system – pass the problem downstream.
Trucks roar throughout the night
Gone are the days of peace and quiet.

In the south...
Cheap land, cheap labor, cheap life
Warm sun, fast growth, a quick buck,
draining the life force from this land.

This need for greed, These costs too high
And we must change, So it can change...
Chopped Plantation


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