was in KZN where I had to learn to speak Zulu and understand their culture for the very first time (originally I am from Venda (Limpopo Province).”
“An ideal forester is someone who is nature loving as we spend time in the plantations (forests); independent with the ability to work with little supervision; open minded; able to take advice that pours in from various stakeholders; innovative; be willing to try new things and be an extrovert,” says Gerson.
An average day
An average day will entail waking up early in the morning at about 05:00 and driving to the field operations to check on safety and quality. At about 09:00 I will have to attend to the admin issues in the office such as checking on the productivity figures. Other tasks include: doing budget control and expenditure forecast, to discipline or counsel staff to correct irregular activities and answering telephones.
I also meet with staff and contractors, attend to issues pertaining to the running of the plantation, meet with the local community to discuss things like land claims, fire-wood shortage and funds requested for social activities. I will also meet with the local farmers, negotiating the use of common roads and costs involved, and meet with the security officials regarding the plantation.
The best thing about your job
Getting to know different people (local people), managing diverse cultures, making decisions jointly with all stakeholders, mentoring young staff and rate negotiations with the contractors. Facing challenges and be able to work around them – the forestry industry differs from a factory environment as the production is weather-related. As a manager you learn how to manage your resources around the weather. Decisions must be quick and spontaneous.
The worst thing about your job
Incident/Accident investigation after an injury or death – our vision is to provide a safe environment for the staff, contractors and their employees. It might happen that due to some negligence, human error, etc. people get injured or killed. Should that happen, we have to do a proper investigation to identify the root cause and present findings to management. If a person is injured because of negligence, disciplinary procedures have to be followed. How do you fire an injured person?
Informing contractors about budget cuts – we might discuss and agree on a certain rate with the contractors and based on the company performance at the time, budget might be cut. Then it will be my responsibility to inform all affected. The atmosphere might be tense, people losing tempers and becoming emotional, but as the manager I have to bite the bullet and pass the message.
Dealing with the landclaims – some people are not well-informed about the land-claims procedures. As soon as they hear that a portion of property is under landclaim, they start putting pressure on management. We have to convince them to wait and try to instill logic.
Published By: Marli Merz & Matters