Friday, February 22, 2008

Ukupanga Timber

Ukupanga Timber

Since you have had a brief tour of the businesses related to Kafakumba, I will tell you a bit more about each of them, beginning with the timber business called Ukupanga Timber. Ukupanga Timber includes a sawmill, a small factory making wood flooring and decking, and a larger factory making high-end windows, doors, and a lesser amount of ceiling moldings. It employs 54 people at the moment. The large planer is audible from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., every weekday, even at a distance.

Trees arrive marked by the government foresters, and are squared up into “cants” and further sliced on huge machines called Wood Mizers (a brand of logging equipment). After careful drying—in kilns created ingeniously from shipping containers—the lumber is cut and assembled into Ukupanga’s various products. Any waste or left over scrap is also used to make smaller wood projects such as coffee or patio tables. The beautiful tropical woods create products in high demand in South Africa or in local industries such as the copper mines. Local mining companies build housing for many of their workers and prefer the high quality products produced at Kafakumba.

The question sometimes arises about the cutting of trees and whether it is environmentally sound policy. The answer is a resounding yes! The careful culling of trees is actually preserving forests, protecting their demise to charcoal-making, and using only those trees which will soon rot and fall naturally anyway. Not only does it harvest only those at the maturity of their life cycle, it also returns a just profit to those who fell them—much more than their cutting for use in charcoal. Environmental trusteeship is important to Kafakumba, as is the fairness of recompense to those living in the environment.

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