October newsletter – Role models for the future of forestry

This will be the first of a series of interviews with new faces in the industry. These are the foresters, researchers, business managers, community officers and nursery managers who will be shaping the Sector as it moves forwards, so let us hear what they have to say.

This is the first of a series of interviews with inspirational men and women in the early stages of their careers which span the Forestry Sector and its value chain. While their role within the Sector may be diverse, their passion, determination, drive and enthusiasm is contagious making them the perfect role models for anyone looking into a career in forestry. These are the individuals who will undoubtedly shape forestry in the future and we are proud to give them a platform upon which to shine.

Sandisiwe Jali, TPCP Field Extension Officer

“Your dreams are valid – if you can dream it, you can achieve it.”

A childhood surrounded by plantation trees ignited a lasting passion for forestry that has driven Sandisiwe Jali as she progressed from forestry student to silvicultural contractor and now as a research scientist determined to make a lasting impact on the industry she loves.

My love for forestry started at an early age. Growing up in Harding, KwaZulu-Natal, I was captivated by how forestry trees are managed to grow uniformly to such heights,” Sandisiwe enthuses, “I was fortunate to meet a few local senior foresters who were pivotal in my career path choices ensuring when the opportunity to study forestry came up, I grabbed it with both hands and have never looked back.

Sandisiwe’s initial forestry dream was to become a Management Forester, following in the footsteps of the individuals who had inspired her growing up. “I worked as a Silviculture Contractor under MTO Group in the Eastern Cape after graduating from Nelson Mandela University (Saasveld). However, through my many ventures in forestry I found my dream, like me, had evolved and I had a deep interest in the scientific research side of the industry. I jumped at the opportunity to work for FABI’s Tree Protection Cooperative Programme (TPCP) when the opportunity arose”, she explains.

In her role as a TPCP Field Extension Officer working under the Biocontrol Centre, Sandisiwe leads the National Monitoring Programme of Eucalyptus pests and their biological control agents. “Twice a year I travel to Eucalyptus growing regions across South Africa to assess the establishment of biological control agents introduced to control a variety of eucalypt pests”, Sandisiwe explains, “I also provide field support for other important projects looking into forestry pests and biological control.

Sandisiwe’s role requires her to work closely with foresters and researchers to improve tree health, “I feel privileged to travel around South Africa meeting diverse people who share my passion for forestry, many of whom have been pivotal in my personal development. 2020 is officially the year of plant health and I feel delighted that through the work of FABI and TPCP I can have a major role in improving this. Working for FABI is a huge accomplishment and I am fortunate to work under the supervision of expert scientists in various fields of forestry, which is both a great honour and achievement.

A scientist that has had a lasting impact on Sandisiwe’s career is Izette Greyling, former TPCP Extension Officer now working for Mondi as a Forest Health Specialist. “I had to learn and adapt very quickly during my journey from an operational forester to an extension officer in a science-based research field” Sandisiwe says with a smile, “my passion for the industry meant I was prepared and willing to learn and Izette, along with several other TPCP colleagues, imparted me with the skills and knowledge I needed to make this transition successful. In the future, I hope to do the same for others.

Both humble and determined, Sandisiwe’s dream to leave a lasting impact on the industry is both genuine and inspiring. “TPCP provides me with a platform to make a lasting impact within the forestry industry”, Sandisiwe continues, “it has ignited my passion for the research side of forestry, pushing me to evolve and adapt to fit the continuously evolving nature of the industry itself. In this respect, I am testimony to the fact that forestry is not a one-dimensional career option and that if you are open to working hard and pursuing your dreams then really there are very few limitations irrespective of gender.

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