Creating value in our forest communities

Community engagement in our forests

We believe we cannot operate effectively without engaging with our neighbouring communities on an on-going basis with the aim of building sustainable, mutually beneficial relationships and shared value. Co-operation with non-governmental organisations, industry bodies and academic institutions is vital to our strategy, particularly in respect of community development. Through a process of constructive engagement we can draw on the fundamental knowledge, expertise and resources of local bodies or communities to ensure the relevance of our socioeconomic development programmes.

We address issues related to the cultural heritage of indigenous communities affected by our operations, particularly those living close to our forests, in a sensitive manner and we endeavour to resolve these issues in a spirit of respect, trust and dialogue. We uphold the rights of indigenous people and, where necessary, rectify historical injustices even if these are not of our own making. Nothing came to our attention to suggest the occurrence of any incidents of violations involving rights of indigenous people during 2013.

Socioeconomic Assessment Toolbox (SEAT) processes and community engagement plans (CEPs) are in place at all our forestry operations and assist us in maintaining dialogue, so that communities may raise concerns they need to be addressed. The effectiveness of our CEPs is monitored to ensure that they deliver real and lasting social and economic benefits to our communities. In 2013, all our forest operations maintained and updated their annual CEPs. For more information, see our SEAT and CEP processes.

Specific examples of how we engage with our communities are detailed below:

  • Health care projects

    In South Africa, we support a number of HIV/AIDS programmes, and sponsor a trauma centre in Merebank and four mobile clinics in our forestry operations. We support child-headed households by providing shelter and basic care through the Isibindi Programme and other Orphans and Vulnerable Children programmes. We also make regular donations to NGOs working in our mill communities.

  • Poverty alleviation and local economic development

    Our operations take action to combat the economic and social consequences of unemployment by procuring goods and services through local suppliers, and supporting educational initiatives that give local business people vital skills.

    In Russia, in terms of the agreements in place with local municipalities, we invested over €900,000 in 2013 to support small businesses and local infrastructure projects in the surrounding communities and to promote training and development in the forestry, pulp and paper industry.

    Many people in South Africa depend on forests for their livelihoods and creating and supporting sustainable livelihoods for these communities is important. One such initiative is the livestock programme, with steady progress made in training cattle owners to develop enterprises during the year.

    A good example of local economic development and job creation in South Africa is Mondi Zimele. Mondi Zimele was established to support and promote small and medium sized enterprises and has created or sustained businesses with an employment footprint in excess of 4,200 jobs since its inception in 2007. See Mondi Zimele below.

  • Education and youth in South Africa

    We believe that education is the key to development in South Africa and this belief drives our choice of corporate social investment projects in South Africa. We continue to focus on improving the mathematics and science skills in schools in the Merebank and Richards Bay areas close to our mills, by sponsoring Saturday mathematics, science and accounting classes for grade 10 to 12 learners, for example.

    Improving the literacy and English language skills of our employees is of critical importance and to this end we run various programmes including Adult Basic Education and Training at our operations.

    The Mondi Mkhondo Education Centre provides career guidance, education and training to local people. The centre welcomes some 17,000 learners, educators and other visitors per year.

    In 2013, Mondi provided bursaries to 14 students from land claimant communities and 53 students from rural communities through a partnership between Mondi and the Rural Education Access Programme (REAP). Our partnership with REAP enables us to support a greater number of students who have historically been marginalised.

Land claims in South Africa

In South Africa today, a portion of our landholdings are subject to land claims under the Restitution of Land Rights Act (No.22 of 1994). In previous years, we have reported progress on our commitment to report on the percentage of claims settled and land transferred to the communities, based on a different baseline of 82 land claims affecting some 139,000 hectares of our managed land.

In 2013, due to some developments including the disposal and de-gazetting of some land that affected both settled and unsettled claims, this baseline figure has been reduced to a total of 73 land claims involving some 122,000 hectares of our land.

To date, some 36,000 hectares of Mondi land under forestry have already been transferred to community beneficiaries, bringing the percentage of land transferred to claimant communities to 26% of the total area of 139,000 hectares under claim, and the percentage of settled claims to 23% of the total number of recorded claims. Due to changes in government priorities and government budget constraints, no Mondi-related claims were settled in 2013. Mondi will continue to make every effort to facilitate and expedite the settlement by government of all land claims affecting our operations.

The above mentioned Act provides for the restitution of rights in land to persons or communities dispossessed of such rights after 19 June 1913 as a result of past racially discriminatory laws or practices. Restitution of a right in land can take the form of restoration (the return of a right in land) or equitable redress (which includes the granting of an appropriate right in alternative state-owned land and payment of compensation). All claims had to have been lodged not later than 31 December 1998.

The issue is clearly a significant one for Mondi in South Africa and we are committed to restoring land to community ownership in South Africa. We have a highly successful and innovative model for engaging and settling with land claimant communities, and assist them to develop long-term sustainable solutions and forestry enterprises rather than merely land restitution. In this way communities derive an income from their land, and Mondi retains a reliable source of wood supply.

Following a successful land claim process, communities gain ownership of the land and derive a sustainable income from it, while at the same time progressively developing their own businesses to operate within the forestry value chain. Critical to Mondi’s approach is to ensure that land claim beneficiaries receive meaningful and sustainable benefits, and that sources of fibre are both assured and sustainably managed into the future and retain their Forest Stewardship Council™ certification.

Mondi Zimele

Mondi Zimele, the small business development division of Mondi South Africa, has three core objectives:

  • Develop sustainable empowerment contractors in Mondi’s forestry value chain;
  • Encourage job creation and local economic development through the support of small businesses in surrounding communities; and
  • Facilitate the increased availability of sustainable fibre for Mondi mills from private growers with the emphasis on new community forestry businesses.

Mondi Zimele adds value through making available funding, business development support and market linkages to high potential prospects and businesses within the Mondi forestry value chain and surrounding communities.

Structured processes and tools are used to assist entrepreneurs in identifying key success factors and establishing appropriate controls in their businesses. The focus is on assisting the entrepreneur to employ the right business management practices together with clear market strategies to develop their business idea. The involvement of the Mondi Zimele team is from concept, through feasibility, funding and eventual implementation. Continuity of support leads to a strong sense of commitment and Mondi Zimele typically remains in support of small businesses for up to three years.

The word ‘Zimele’ is derived from the African languages and means ‘to be independent’ or to ‘stand on one’s own feet’ which reflects Mondi Zimele’s overriding ethos of ‘Independence through Enterprise'.

Initially Mondi Zimele focused on accelerating and facilitating sustainable black economic empowerment in businesses operating in the value chains of Mondi. In 2011, Mondi Zimele expanded its focus to incorporate support for employment creating small businesses in communities around Mondi’s areas of operation. The offering now also includes forestry development support to emerging forestry land owners and small growers. In 2012, Mondi Zimele further intensified its focus on job creation and small business development through a partnership with the Development Bank of South Africa which resulted in the establishment of the €9.6 million Mondi Zimele Jobs Fund.

Since inception Mondi Zimele has extended support to over 80 small businesses with a collective turnover in excess of €50.6 million per annum and an employment footprint of over 4,200 people.

Mondi’s Mkhondo Development Project (MMDP)

In 2007 Mondi initiated the Mondi Mkhondo Development Project (MMDP), a public-private partnership between the Mpumalanga Provincial Government, Mkhondo Local Municipality, Gert Sibande District Municipality and Mondi. Community stakeholders are represented in this partnership by local committees elected by the residents involved.

The MMDP is home to 65 rural settlements on Mondi landholdings – approximately 9,590 people have set up their households here. The employment rate is as low as 31% in the area, and most inhabitants are extremely poor, with little or no access to basic services (94% of households do not have electricity and 85% have no access to water on site). While 90% of these people have no employment relationship, either present or past, with Mondi or its contractors, they have accumulated rights through their length of stay on the land.

The aim of the project is to improve the socioeconomic conditions of the people living on Mondi owned land within this region and in doing so, implement permanent and sustainable solutions to alleviate poverty. The MMDP model provides people with three choices: continue their pursuit of rural livelihoods in planned and serviced agri-villages; seek urban livelihoods in newly-serviced urban residential developments; or, remain where they are.

The Jabulani agri-village is currently being implemented as a pilot. The first phase of 34 housing units were completed during 2013 and the construction of the balance of 76 units began in November 2013. A multi-purpose centre was also built and the school extension and refurbishment project completed. Street lights have been installed and work has now commenced on the internal road network and an Early Childhood Development Centre.


Mondi’s settlement model encourages land claimants to directly participate in forestry businesses and value chain programmes. A business created by land claimants is participating in Mondi’s Food4Forests programme, which provides meals to forestry contractors every day.

Providing hot and nutritious meals to 5,200 people a day in remote areas is a huge task with many logistical challenges. But the benefits of the programme, both for the wellbeing of employees and contractors and the productivity and safety of Mondi’s forestry operations, are being felt. The health care service providers, who do the annual medical check-ups of field staff, have reported that their overall health has improved. There is also a reduction of safety incidents and absenteeism as a result of the programme.

Capacity building in our forest communities

In South Africa, there is a critical need for skilled professionals who can lead organisations towards sustainability in a complex and challenging environment.

The Mondi Wetlands Programme (MWP) has established a professional development programme for students to support the development of young professionals in the field of wetland conservation, with the aim of contributing to the capacity development of individuals within government, the sugar and forestry industries, historically disadvantaged rural communities and tertiary institutions as well as among private wetland practitioners.

During 2013, two interns completed their Masters degrees and a third has embarked on PhD research with support from a fellow of the Stockholm Resilience Centre. Two new interns have joined the internship and there is potential for this project to grow further.

The Phase II of the catchment research, sponsored by the Water Research Commission, ‘Working for Water’ and Mondi, concluded at Mondi’s Two Streams catchment in 2013. The catchment provided an ideal practical training ground for undergraduate hydrology students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and over the period, the research has supported three honours degrees, three MSc degrees and four doctorates.