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"It is exciting to use student-centred learning to drive change, innovation and entrepreneurship in communities and in partnership with the industry"


Dr. Kaluke Mawila, Campus Principal of the George Campus of the Nelson Mandela University, first Chair of the Advisory Board for Forest21 Project 


Optimal & appropriate forest business models for future management of State plantations earmarked for recapitalization - 2023 

In this student challenge, students will be tasked to address the real-life challenge of which the DFFE and Forestry Industry are in pursuit in achieving effective and beneficial implementation of the commercial forestry master plan. The participating institutions are Fort Cox University (South Africa), University of Venda (South Africa), Tshwane University of Technology (South Africa) and Aalto University (Finland). The participating students in this student challenge will be expected to analyse different existing or earmarked business models designed for the transfers of State plantations and/or settled forest-based land reform claims and recommend relevant improvements. It is important that the planned transfer programme of State plantations ensures that the beneficiaries manage these plantations in an economically beneficial, socially acceptable, and environmentally friendly way.

Therefore, the expected deliverables that the students will have to come up with include: business models for setting up sustainable community-based forestry enterprises, business systems to improve conflict management and broad-based benefit sharing in community-owned forestry enterprises, guidelines on the business support systems that are required to ensure the sustainability of newly formed community-owned forestry enterprises and an outline of the post-settlement support that is required by new beneficiaries of State plantations and land claim beneficiaries. 

Multiple land use in South Africa - 2023 

The students from the participating institutions were divided into three groups within the context of the study area, each group conducted a comprehensive field survey/observation, which include identification, fact finding inquiries, and evaluation of the different land uses in the farm. 

Strength, weakness, opportunities, and threats of the present form of multiple land use in terms of the changes in micro-climatic patterns (what are the main strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats? And why are interventions critical?)  

Strategic and operational plans to mitigate identified negative impacts of climate change on the farm (what are the long- and short-term plans to ensure more resilient landscape and ecosystem for optimum production, food security and sustained land quality?)


Entrepreneurial opportunities to ensure sustainable, viable and resilient production of benefits, including valorization of wastes as potential business opportunities. Each group selects one out of identified list for in-depth analysis (what are the entrepreneurial opportunities available within and around the farm that can guarantee circular economy and optimum gain?)


Conduct needs assessment for a robust climate-smart multiple land use approach (what are the important components, once off or periodically, needed to ensure the efficient implementation of climate-smart multiple land use framework?

Ratambo Farm Visit during Student Challenge in UniVenjpeg

Climate-smart, resilient forestry/ agriculture production landscapes - 2022

Students from four partner started work on project topic " Climate-smart, resilient forestry/ agriculture production landscapes in their various Institutions and collaborative work was conducted through remote working tools in addition to the field work.

Nelson Mandela University Fort Cox University, Häme University of Applied Sciences & Tshwane University of Technology students worked on the topic.  


In addition, students used the opportunity to network, share knowledge and acquire new skills from each other and also mentors who provided guidance to the students throughout the task. 

Read the full Challenge report

Development of new, high value engineered products in the saw milling value chain - 2022

The main challenge of recovering more sawn timber from logs, is of course the fact that a log is round and sawn timber is square. Engineered wood products often allows the use of the round edges in the product since it can be covered in the gluing process. Many products such as cross-laminated timber (CLT), glued laminated timber (glulam), double sheet panels, duo and trio beams, and perhaps even new product types offers the opportunity to include rounded edges that can be hidden by positioning it correctly.


This approach is not currently used in industry but might have the potential to significantly improve the volume recovery and profitability of a saw milling operation.The broader objectives are to identify avenues for novel engineered
wood products which have improved processing efficiency (volume recovery), environmental impact, and profitability of a sawmilling operation by including wane (rounded edges) into the final product.

Similarly, interventions to optimize the usage of waste raw materials and reduce the environmental impact of current products and processes were also welcome from students.

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