Schematic impacts of Forests4People Schematic impacts of Forests4People

Schematic impacts of Forests4People.

Graphics by TUM


Development and implementation of a multifunctional community forest management approach in South Africa.
A chance for rural livelihoods in a changing climate

Project description

Worldwide, community forests are an indispensable socio-economic and cultural backbone of rural societies widely facing severe challenges due to bad living conditions, climate change, urbanisation and migration. In the course of land redistributions to black society after the Apartheid and the election of Nelson Mandela in 1994, community forests and their management play an important role also in South Africa. However, many communities lack the knowledge of how to manage these forests sustainably under conditions of a changing climate. As a result, land is often leased to large forestry companies again creating dependencies for the individual communities.

Project objectives:

  1. Investigation of climate resilience and CO2 reduction potential of current community forests through inventories.
  2. Determining the importance of forest-derived ecosystem services (ESS) and their dependence on gender, age, and educational background through expert interviews and socioeconomic surveys.
  3. Establishment of real model forests (marteloscopes), with the help of which local knowledge is gained through virtual forest thinning and subsequent group discussions.
  4. Scaling up the concept of model forests: stakeholder workshops to exchange silvicultural knowledge, networks and training, strategy paper for national decision-makers.
Connection of the four central project components (WPs): climate, forest, communities and politics

Schematic overview of relations between the four main task areas (work packages) of the project and their subordinated targets.


Forests4People takes a multidimensional and interdisciplinary approach by combining scientific methodology from different disciplines. While the inventory of the different community forests follows a natural science approach (dendrochronology, laser scanning, sampling of soil profiles), the socio-economic surveys have a social science approach (expert interviews, semi-open surveys, group discussions). The experimental design applies to both of these domains. In addition, objective parameters for multifunctional forest management, as well as statements about silvicultural knowledge and experience within the various social groups and communities, are to be derived through the instrument of digitally recorded model forests (called Marteloscopes).

Project design overview

Overview of the study region in the Province of Limpopo and definition of three climate classes (depending on mean annual precipitation and temperature. Research design of the project with 9 different forests and 27 plots (each 30 x 30 m).

Project results & Dissemination:

The model forest approach is intended to contribute to the building and transfer of silvicultural know-how and capacity among community members. Through a smartphone app, the installed Marteloscopes will serve as perennial training sites for community members and for student field excursions, thus contributing to forestry qualification, as well as to the training of multipliers. During workshops, representatives from the various communities will have the opportunity to exchange ideas on community forest management solutions with NGOs, the state forestry agency, scientists and stakeholders from the private forestry sector. In addition, research visits to Germany and South Africa will enable further networking, and mutual knowledge exchange at eye level between forest scientists from both countries.


  • 2022-10-01 - 2025-09-30




Project partners

University of Pretoria –
Technical University of Munich (TUM) –

Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) –
Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE) –