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April/May newsletter – Stepping up during challenging times

While the majority of businesses have had to close their doors during the lockdown, as an essential service, the Forestry Sector has had to step up and continue providing essential products and feedstock despite the COVID-19 challenges, and to fulfill its commitment to keeping the economy alive and the nation stocked with essentials.

However, some companies have then gone above and beyond this, dedicating time, resources and manpower, to address some of the issues their workforce, neighbouring communities, and our country as a whole face. Here are some of their stories.

Providing a helping hand

Hand sanitiser used to be considered a luxury item, but now with the COVID-19 outbreak it has become a national necessity. As the pandemic unfolded around the world, global supplies of hand sanitiser diminished.

Following countrywide shortages in the supply of hand sanitiser, Sappi refocused the efforts of its science research centre, based in Pretoria, to produce the company’s first prototype hand sanitiser. Over 16 000 litres of Sappi hand sanitiser, worth around R1 million, have been distributed to more than 80 community clinics and health care centres in the rural and peri-urban areas of KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.

It is not just Sappi’s scientists who are thinking outside of their normal box to address COVID-19 shortages, Sappi’s Saiccor Mill in Umkomaas, rented spare sewing machines from local businesses to install in their Skills Centre where apprentices were deployed to make cloth masks. Their target is to make 3 000 masks for distribution, along with instructions on use, to those in need, along with hand soap and social distance guidelines.

Sappi’s distribution team has also got involved, using their knowledge and access to rural community networks in order to distribute 6 000kg of A+ instant porridge to vulnerable communities in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.


Ensuring lifesaving equipment is where it is needed

Globally, we have seen the challenge of treating COVID-19 patients with severe breathing difficulties without an adequate supply of ventilators.

Concern over ventilator availability in South Africa spurred a plea from South Africa’s Medical Foundation for both patient beds and ventilators. A plea, FSA member NCT Forestry Co-operative Ltd acted upon. “As the first period of lockdown commenced at the end of March, we responded to an urgent appeal to assist South Africa’s already over-burdened health care system.” explains NCT Forestry Co-operative Ltd spokeswoman Anita Nicholson, “NCT donated R250 000 towards the purchase of life-saving medical equipment that would help reduce the impending impact of COVID-19”.

This is not the first time NCT Forestry has combined forces with South Africa’s Medical Foundation. As one of NCT Forestry’s CSR beneficiaries, NCT contributions have helped the foundation secure appropriate medical equipment and infrastructure to hospitals and clinics in mainly rural areas. These include the Odidini clinic in Umbumbulu and Inanda Community Health Clinic outside Durban, which service rural communities.


Providing the means to keep hands clean through simple innovation

The National Business Initiative (NBI), which many FSA members are members of, and Business for South Africa (B4SA) COVID-19 Working Group on Water and Sanitation (B4SA Water) have launched an emergency water response in recognition that WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is the first line of defence against the coronavirus. In partnership with the Department of Water and Sanitation, B4SA Water launched a small pilot project aimed at making hand washing accessible to all.

The pilot project, run in an informal settlement north of Johannesburg where access to running water for handwashing is challenging, has been a huge success. Using a simple handwashing unit, comprising of a standard two-litre plastic bottle that is fitted with a self-closing tip tap valve, the bottle is placed into a wall-mounted plastic bracket, incorporating a ribbed soap holder and peg to accommodate a face cloth or small towel. “It was very special to see the way the community organised where the units should be placed and who would have responsibility for keeping the bottles filled and looking after the soap. They are deeply appreciative,” said Cliff Musamba who runs the Heart of a Champion programme.

The success of the pilot programme has resulted in a call for donations to help with its roll out to other vulnerable communities. For more information about how to get involved, click here.

Tip-tap water bottle handwash units - credit Vivid Images 5
Tip-tap water bottle handwash units - credit Vivid Images 9

Photo credit: Vivid Images

Do you have a story to share?
It can be a big company-based project or a small, individual initiative – it is the fact you’re doing something that counts! We want to hear about what our Sector is doing to help, as these are the stories of hope we should be sharing during these dark days. Send us your stories –

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