Coast KZN

Apply for

A Licence Regarding Trees in Natural Forests

Riverine Forest, aMatigulu River

This refers to Section 7(1) of the National Forests Act (NFA), 84 of 1998, as amended.

The application relates to persons who intend to

Cut, destroy any indigenous tree in a natural forest,

Disturb, damage any indigenous tree in a natural forest or

Possess, collect, remove, transport, export, purchase, sell, donate or in any other manner acquire or dispose of any tree, or any forest product derived from a tree in a natural forest.


“Natural forest” means a group of indigenous trees whose crowns are largely contiguous; or which have been declared by the Minister to be a natural forest under section 7(2); (xxviii)


Note: A licence issued under the National Forests Act, 84 of 1998 does not exempt you from the provisions of other laws e.g., NEMA, CARA, Provincial Flora and Fauna Permits.



The DFFE is the custodian of South Africa’s forest resources, which cover over 38 million hectares (ha) – about 31.1% of the country’s land surface area and include natural forests, woodlands and forestry plantations. Natural forests cover about 0.5% of South Africa’s total land area, i.e., half a million ha of land in total. Plantation forestry covers about 1.2 million ha and woodlands makes up the rest. Almost half of all natural forests in South Africa are found on private property or land under communal tenure.

Application Regarding Trees in Natural Forests

Natural Forests

Forests are classified into 24 types, many of which overlap or blend with each other; e.g., coastal dune forest can fade into coastal lowland forest, which can blend into riverine forest. Some of the coastal forest types in KZN include:

Coastal Scarp Forest found on slopes and in secluded valleys between the coast and the Mistbelt.

Coastal Lowland Forest which was once found almost continuously along the KwaZulu-Natal coast.

Sand Forest found on ancient inland sand dunes in Maputaland in the north of KwaZulu-Natal.

Dune Forest was previously found almost continuously along the coastal dunes of KwaZulu-Natal.

Riverine Forest occurs along natural waterways, even in dry areas that would not normally support forests, and are vulnerable to flooding.

Swamp Forest are found around the edges of lowland lakes and streams

Mangrove Forest occurs in favourable tidal estuaries along the coast.

Protection of Natural Forests

Forests have long been a source of medicinal plants, with more than 2100 tonnes extracted from forest areas in KwaZulu-Natal each year; a practice which is unsustainable. Eco-tourism is the most viable and sustainable option for the forests of KwaZulu-Natal, with several government, private and non-government projects to ensure this are underway or in the planning stages.

The Natural Forests Protected Areas System informs the setting aside and demarcation of natural forests as protected areas.

Additional information

South Africa did not have a historical culture of tree planting until the 1970s. The concept of National Arbor Day ensued from the 1973 Green Heritage Campaign. South Africa celebrates Arbor Month in September every year and Arbor Week is commemorated in the first week of September. This is an opportunity to encourage citizens to protect indigenous forests, help prevent veld and forest fires, plant a tree to green the country and mitigate against climate change, plant indigenous trees that save water, use water conserving methods when planting trees and integrate fruit trees into their food gardens.

The Million Trees Programme was launched in 2007 as part of a United Nations (UN) greening initiative to encourage countries worldwide to plant more trees. Its purpose is to ensure that at least one million trees, including fruit trees and indigenous ornamental shade trees, are planted every year in various member states of the UN. In South Africa, the Million Trees Programme is a partnership between the three spheres of government, the non-governmental and community-based organisations, schools and the corporate sector. This forms part of the South African contribution to the UN Environment Programme’s Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign.