W­he­re are all the lo­cal tim­ber in­dus­tri­a­lis­ts?

Knysna-Plett Herald - - Letters | Briewe -

T­heo S­tehle, Knys­na:

The re­cent Knys­na Tim­ber Fe­s­ti­val held on the pre­mi­ses of Tim­ber Vil­la­ge (now be­reft of its buil­dings and con­tents af­ter the fi­re de­stroy­ed e­ver­y­thing), tur­ned out to be the most success­ful e­ver, thanks to the in­do­mi­ta­ble s­pi­rit of Jock M­cCon­na­chie and his work te­am (and its new o­w­ner Carl) who took up the c­hal­len­ge to re­build Tim­ber Vil­la­ge to at le­ast w­hat it had been be­fo­re.

The­re was a wi­de va­ri­e­ty of exhi­bi­ti­ons and de­mon­stra­ti­ons at the e­vent, which was very well at­ten­ded by the pu­blic, al­so o­ver­se­as vi­si­tors. Ho­we­ver, t­he­se we­re o­ver­w­hel­mingly from el­se­w­he­re in the coun­try, and a­part from man­ning a hand­ful of stalls, the lo­cal (in­clu­ding the wi­der Gar­den Rou­te) in­du­stry gla­red in its ab­sen­ce.

This is most di­sap­poin­ting, as the Knys­na Tim­ber I­ni­ti­a­ti­ve (KTI), to­get­her with Knys­na mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty (Il­se van S­chalk­wyk) and Knys­na Tou­rism, ha­ve wor­ked hard to get the lo­cal bu­si­nes­ses in­vol­ved in the re­sur­recti­on of that sec­tor of the lo­cal e­co­nomy that 20 y­e­ars ago for­med the back­bo­ne of the Knys­na and Gar­den Rou­te e­co­nomy – the tim­ber in­du­stry.

The de­cli­ne of this im­por­tant in­du­stry is de­plo­ra­ble. Alt­hough all the par­ti­ci­pants in this in­du­stry ha­ve com­plai­ned bit­ter­ly a­bout this du­ring the past y­e­ars, o­w­ners of tim­ber-re­la­ted bu­si­nes­ses ha­ve not re­gar­ded it worthw­hi­le to ma­ke sa­cri­fi­ces and work to­get­her to re­vi­ve this in­du­stry – e­ven just by in­ves­ting in the Tim­ber Fe­s­ti­val, which has been la­bel­led by KTI com­mit­tee mem­ber Jock as “the ca­ta­lyst” for its re­vi­val. Ho­we­ver, if the­re is no buy-in from the lo­cal mem­bers of the in­du­stry, the de­si­red re­vi­val will not fall from the sky. It sim­ply can­not be left to the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty or a few in­di­vi­du­als to try to a­chie­ve this.

It is a fact that for y­e­ars o­w­ners of lo­cal tim­ber bu­si­nes­ses ha­ve ca­red pre­do­mi­nant­ly for their own, and not for the col­lecti­ve wel­fa­re of the in­du­stry as a w­ho­le. E­ven one of the le­a­ding firms w­ho­se his­to­ry g­oes back ma­ny, ma­ny y­e­ars, is going it on its own.

If this con­ti­nues, the­re isn’t a ho­pe that the si­tu­a­ti­on mig­ht chan­ge for the bet­ter.

A good ex­am­ple of pe­op­le with a com­mon in­te­rest wor­king to­get­her is the succes­ses a­chie­ved by or­ga­ni­sed a­gri­cul­tu­re, in which the SA far­ming com­mu­ni­ty col­lecti­ve­ly took up the c­hal­len­ge to success­ful­ly im­pro­vi­se for the se­ri­ous lacks of all sp­he­res of go­vern­ment.

A­gri SA is as­sis­ting 100 000 e­mer­ging far­mers with mo­ney and ex­per­ti­se to es­ta­blish e­co­no­mi­cal­ly vi­a­ble, sus­tai­na­ble, far­ming en­ter­pri­ses. It has be­co­me a le­a­der in re­sol­ving bro­a­der a­gri­cul­tu­ral is­su­es in which the go­vern­ment has lar­ge­ly fai­led. It is on the fo­re­front of techno­lo­gi­cal de­ve­lop­ment and pro­vi­des ex­per­ti­se to most A­fri­can coun­tries, so much so that qui­te a few mi­nis­ters from such coun­tries at­ten­ded the A­gri Ex­po in the OFS last y­e­ar. It has a for­mi­da­ble voi­ce with go­vern­ment, be­cau­se the far­mers stand and work to­get­her. Ad­mit­ted­ly this is on a lar­ge sca­le, but su­re­ly on a much smal­ler sca­le the prin­ci­ples re­main the sa­me?

The que­s­ti­on is: Will lo­cal tim­ber in­dus­tri­a­lis­ts ta­ke up the c­hal­len­ge to ta­ke part in the KTI and band to­get­her to get the in­du­stry on its feet a­gain? If not, the soug­htaf­ter re­vi­val is not going to hap­pen, and com­plai­ning a­bout it cer­tain­ly will not a­chie­ve a­ny­thing.

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