Fourth Conference – 1935, South Africa

Seven years were to elapse before the next conference took place, and this  time the Union of South Africa acted as host: the President was Colonel the Honourable Deneys Reitz, of the South African Government, while Sir Roy Lister Robinson  took  the  chair  at  the  more  technical  meetings.  The  63  participants included a strong contingent from the African continent, with 23 delegates from the Union itself, and one each from (Southern) Rhodesia, Northern  Rhodesia (now Zambia), Nigeria, Gold Coast (now Ghana), Sierra Leone, Kenya, Uganda. Tanganyika (now Tanzania), Nyasaland (now Malawi), Basutoland (now Lesotho), Bechuanaland (now Botswana) and Swaziland. The many changes of name for the territories concerned reflect the change in politics, and the administration of the forests, that have ensued over the past thirty-two years.

This conference first assembled at Durban on 2nd September and then moved inland to Pietermaritzburg, the capital of Natal. From this point tours  were made to the remarkable plantations of wattle, Acacia mearnsii, a tree native to Australia, which is cultivated on an extensive scale for two products – bark for leather tanning extracts, and pit props for local coal mines and the gold mines of the Rand. Next the party moved to Pretoria, the administrative capital of the Union, and  saw  some of  the semi tropical  broadleaved  forests of  the  Transvaal. The closing sessions were  held  at  Cape  Town,  and  here  the  emphasis  was again on artificial  plantations. Large areas of the veldt have been afforested with sub-tropical pines imported from the Southern States of America, California, and the Caribbean zone. These pines show remarkable rates of growth, up to nine feet in height a year, but pose peculiar problems of spacing, pruning and thinning, for which solutions were only just being thought out.

An interesting resolution passed by this conference concerned the “Preservation of Types of Indigenous Forest”, which was now becoming a live issue for many forest services.  Alike in South Africa, East Africa.  Australia,  New  Zealand  and the British Isles, it was already apparent that the future for large-scale timber production  lay  with  exotic  trees – just  as  farming, in  nearly  every  country, relies on introduced crop plants. Forest services have, nevertheless, a public duty to conserve certain forests of the native tree species, even where they are no longer economic, as nature reserves for scientific study and public enjoyment. If such indigenous woods are allowed to vanish, neither they nor their associated flora and fauna can ever be re-assembled.

Excerpt from:
Commonwealth Forestry Conferences: 1920 to 1962
H.L. Edlin
The Commonwealth Forestry Review
Vol 46, No 3 (129) (September, 1967), pp 192-200 (10 pages) Published by the Commonwealth Forestry Association