Following back-to-back newsletters featuring two of the female faces of FSA, we thought it time for one of our male colleagues to have a moment in the spotlight. This month it is the turn of FSA Business Development Director Nathi Ndlela, whose boundless enthusiasm, infectious smile and willingness to go the extra mile makes him a shining light in our FSA team.
Nathi Ndlela, FSA Business Development Manager
Forestry may not have been the career Nathi envisaged himself in as a child, but when he discovered the true nature of the Sector he jumped at the opportunity of being part of such a diverse, interesting and challenging Industry. “When I discovered that forestry was so much more than simply growing and harvesting trees, that it had social, political, economic, environmental facets too, I began to become seriously interested in the Sector, to the extent that I did a community forestry course as part of my initial degree” Nathi explains.
However, it was during Nathi’s Masters degree that his passion for forestry was truly sparked, as he explains, “I became heavily involved in various social community development programmes during my Masters, this combined with my interest in policymaking, meant I jumped at the opportunity when a post for Community Facilitators was offered by FSA.” The rest we can say is history!
Nathi’s deep understanding of the challenges and solutions faced by the industry, in particular, it’s emerging growers, makes Nathi a great asset and highly reguarded member of the FSA team. His ability to build working relationships with industry players, acting as a strategic partner to small-scale timber growers, as well as, establishing and strengthening institutional structures of timber growers in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape has ensured Nathi has made a positive impact on the industry. Perhaps the jewel in Nathi’s forestry crown is the establishment of grower structures, which has seen small-scale growers having seats on FSA boards and becoming representatives for the industry in other forums.
“For me, it is the interactions with people in the industry that I love most about forestry. It is an incredibly friendly environment to work in and the fact that forestry is helping to support the growth of our country, especially in rural areas, makes it all the more pleasurable”, Nathi enthuses. There are still challenges, as Nathi explains, “for me, one of the biggest challenges we face is with communicating key messages, ensuring what we want to be communicated is heard and not translated into something different. There is also a lack of information about the Industry and Sector in the public sphere and this is a gap I feel we need to fill if we are to truly change the way the world views forestry.”
After over 15 years in the Industry, does anything still surprise Nathi? “Yes! It still puzzles me why such an important sector is shrinking in size and why the industry is not getting as much support as it is supposed to, being one of the key industries providing rural development opportunities.”
Looking to the future, Nathi wants to see the youth taking up opportunities that are existing in the Sector, “Forestry is an ageing Sector, it is time to start handing it over to the next generation, who will help shape the Forestry Sector of the future.” Forestry is an industry that Nathi believes has a lot to offer South Africa’s youth, “there is great hope about the sustainability of the industry and the opportunities it can provide. As I mentioned before, there is a lot more to forestry than simply the act of growing trees – although this is key to all we do! Forestry has an extensive value chain and this is where I believe the Sector has the potential of truly changing the way we live today, for the better. We need to look at how we tap into the 4th industrial revolution and I believe the youth will help us do this.”