Activities and Projects

Certain Timberwatch activities and projects, which include the monitoring of relevant political governance and timber industry behaviour, are ongoing while others, such as research projects and community workshops, are linked to specific issues, events or target dates.

Raising civil society and government awareness of the actual and potential negative social, economic and environmental impacts of large scale tree plantations and their associated industrial processing is an over-arching objective which requires sustained intensive effort and the committed support and involvement of members, supporters and partners.


Research Projects & Partnerships

Global Forest Coalition

Timberwatch has co-operated with the Global Forest Coalition (GFC) in the production of relevant research reports since 2002, and from 2007 to 2013, Timberwatch served as the NGO focal point in Africa for the GFC. The main strategic approach of the Global Forest Coalition is to help build the capacity of NGOs, forest dependent local communities and Indigenous Peoples´ Organisations (IPOs) to be able to monitor and to actively influence international forest policy processes as well as support national initiatives to implement the outcomes of policy processes.

A second, complementary strategy is to facilitate joint advocacy campaigns by its members, targeting international forest policy processes to ensure that they promote socially just and ecologically appropriate forest policies that respect the rights and needs of Indigenous Peoples and other forest dependent communities.      

GFC Life as Commerce – Certification in South Africa by Wally Menne and Blessing Karumbidza (2008) 

A study to ascertain whether the FSC forest certification model can demonstrate sustainability in large-scale agrofuel crop production. Certification is intended to ensure “sustainable forest management based on environmentally, socially beneficial and economically viable management of forests for present and future generations” according to the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Council (PEFC). The leading certification body, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), also says its mission is “to support environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the world’s forests.” In addition, FSC’s Principle 6 states that: “Forest management shall conserve biological diversity and its associated values, water resources, soils, and unique and fragile ecosystems and landscapes, and, by so doing, maintain the ecological functions and the integrity of the forest.” In reality, the certification of forests and tree plantations by organisations such as the FSC (103 million ha) and the PEFC Council (202 million ha) – leaves much to be desired, even when it comes to certifying forests. As this and other case studies show, such criteria are often insufficient to meet the intended objectives; and can be easily manipulated or side-lined.

For more information about the membership, objectives and projects of the Global Forest Coalition, visit their website


World Rainforest Movement

Timberwatch has had a long and fruitful association with the World Rainforest Movement (WRM), an organisation that has been a supportive partner of Timberwatch since June 1998 when a Timberwatch member participated at the first International Plantations Campaign meeting in Montevideo, Uruguay where the WRM is based. WRM focusses on documenting the negative impacts of monoculture tree plantations, and using the accumulated information to produce user friendly educational material in a number of languages.

WRM Publications on Southern Africa

WRM Timber Plantations in Southern Africa (2008)

WRM A Study of the Social and Economic Impacts of Industrial Tree Plantations in the KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (2005) by Blessing Karumbidza

WRM Swaziland: The myth of sustainable timber plantations (2007) by Wally Menne and Ricardo Carrere

For more information about the objectives, projects and information resources of the World Rainforest Movement, visit their website


Case Study on Carbon Sinks in Southern Tanzania (March 2011)

The effects of the establishment of tree plantation carbon sinks in southern Tanzania. The main focus was a plantation project at Idete in southern Tanzania initiated by Norwegian-owned company Green Resources Ltd. The company planned to obtain 400 000 CDM carbon credits through the planting of nearly 6 500 hectares of alien gum and pine tree plantations, and to sell them to the Norwegian government for use as offsets against carbon emissions in Norway.

The research project began with the production of a preliminary report that was completed in time for the United Nations Climate Change meetings held in Copenhagen from 7th – 18th December 2009. During 2010 there was further research, including two field trips to visit the plantation project at Idete. This work resulted in a comprehensive report that also examined the implications of broader issues such as the carbon market, global timber consumption trends, and possible alternative approaches to halting climate change. The final report was published in March 2011. It was supported by the Siemenpuu Foundation in Finland


Eastern Cape Workshop on Plantations and Pulp Mills

In 2009 a workshop was held in East London with assistance from the WESSA Border-Kei Region which also provided the meeting venue. Participants came from across the Eastern Cape, representing local and national government entities, industry, NGOs, and local communities. This workshop was a part of a campaign supported by the Grassroots Foundation in Germany, to increase awareness of the impacts of pulp mills and plantations in South Africa.