DURBAN – A government-owned eco-furniture manufacturing plant specialising in building coffins was officially launched by the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs in Cedara last week.
Speaking at the launch, MEC Sihle Zikalala said the success of the alien invasive plants’ programme had enabled the government to open the furniture plant in Cedara as it used the invasive plants, such as wood from the Sirex wasp tree, to build furniture and coffins.
He said the Cedara plant had performed beyond expectations and was producing furniture for low-cost housing; schools, offices and churches; coffins and caskets.
“We are pleased that (the plant) has been able to provide skills training to more than 10000 beneficiaries who spend their time there learning how to build furniture. The plant has provided employment to more than 600 people in timber harvesting and furniture manufacturing,” said Zikalala.
He said 15 business enterprises had been formed, employing about 350 people.
“We intend to replicate what we have done in Cedara in other parts of KZN, in order to be a sustainable and commercially viable initiative,” he said.
Zikalala said the implementation model that the department had entered into aimed to establish timber and furniture manufacturing co-operatives in uMgungundlovu, Harry Gwala, King Cetshwayo and uMkhanyakude in KZN.
He said each year, South Africa lost about R6.5billion to invasive alien species.
“Our invasive alien species programme, which we initiated 13 years ago, has yielded handsome dividends in the form of thousands of job opportunities.”
He said over the past five years, the department had injected more than R500million to control invasive alien species.
“The investment has not only made it possible for over 500 000 hectares of alien plants to be cleared, it has also led to the creation of more than 25000 job opportunities for disadvantaged communities,”said Zikalala.
In the 2019/2020 financial year, the programme was expected to provide skills in timber and furniture manufacturing and create 280 direct job opportunities in the UMgungundlovu District, said Zikalala.
“Each district project is likely to generate R37m revenue per annum, largely from the sales of timber, building material and school furniture, desks in particular,” he said.
Zikalala said once alien plants were depleted in a certain area, another area could be targeted.
He said the products would be marketed to South Africans, but there was a possibility of exporting to other countries.