Celebrating our ladies
With August being National Women’s Month in South Africa, the role of women in their respective fields are being highlighted. This week, we provide you a bit of insight into a very special lady in the forestry industry that has been very active in forest and wildfire mitigation. Annalize van Wyk is the fire risk officer at South African Forestry Company Soc Limited (SAFCOL) and has been part of the forestry and forest fire fraternity for 22 years. Van Wyk is based in Swartfontein at Witklip in White River and is responsible for all SAFCOL’s plantations in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo, an area that stretches from Ngome Plantation in Nongoma, KwaZulu-Natal all the way to Entabeni plantation in Louis Trichardt, Limpopo; 15 sawlog and pulp plantations of primarily pine and some Eucalyptus.
Her qualifications include Matric, a Conservation Diploma 1999 (HSC), Veldfire Management Higher Certificate 2015 (NMU Saasveld) and practical experience from fellow foresters that cannot be found in any tertiary institution (1992 – 2019).
The following interview was done by Dr Katy Louise Johnson on behalf of Forestry South Arica (FSA), South Africa’s largest forestry organisation. This interview is one of many on the Forestry Explained website, www.forestryexplained.co.za.
Interview with Annalize van Wyk
“Never in a million years would I have thought that forestry would become my life! As someone who is responsible for fire risk management at all of SAFCOL’s plantations in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo, my job involves identifying and mitigating fire risks, formulating and developing fire management plans and ensuring that these are kept up to date. I also conduct annual fire audits and ensure that the right information from the various fire protection associations to which we belong is shared.
Why I love working in the forestry sector
If I could change one thing about my life, it would be starting my career in forestry sooner! I never thought I would attend varsity, but at age 52 I was privileged to complete the first-ever Veldfire Higher Certificate Management Course at Saasveld NMMU’s George Campus, what an experience!
I love seeing the impact of good fire management; how it can save lives and ensure that our assets are kept safe. Working with the most experienced pilots during fire fighting operations is just phenomenal. Ours is an industry that draws enthusiastic and passionate people and I get to work in areas of outstanding beauty. I salute all involved in forestry and fire fighting. The satisfaction I get from my work makes me feel like it is more of a hobby than a career.
My advice to those exploring a career in forestry
If you have the passion and drive, just do it. You don’t need to fit any stereotype; in fact, some of the most talented fire fighters I have worked with are the tiniest women you will ever meet. Neither your size, gender nor your age is important when it comes to starting a career in this industry, all you need is the passion - it is that simple!
Michael Peter, executive director of FSA, said, “Some have dedicated their lives to the sector, others are just at the start of their career but all have one thing in common, the wish to dispel the myth that forestry is a man’s world,” says. "Their success is testament to how our sector has embraced and benefited from the skills and qualities women bring to the industry." By sharing their stories of triumph and growth within the industry, FSA hopes other women will follow in their footsteps and the myth that forestry is a male-only workforce will be busted once and for all.
Fire and Rescue International commends all women in their respective fields for their dedication, passion and commitment.
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