Institute for Commercial
Forestry Research

Forest Engineering Southern Africa

All our material and resources are freely available for download from this site


FESA provide the platform for Applied Forest Engineering Research in southern Africa.
We are an industry funded initiative which serves the southern African Forest Industry's Forest Engineering sector through research, development and technical support.

Our Mission: Developing Solutions for Delivering Timber Sustainably at the Lowest Cost

Our focus includes the following forestry disciplines:
  • Harvesting
  • Extraction
  • Roads
  • Transport
  • People
  • Integrated Forestry Supply Chain








FESA is the technical institution that assists the South African Forestry Industry in doing this in the most efficient, productive, sustainable manner. Forest Engineering involves all activities associated with getting standing merchantable timber delivered to a mill or processing plant in the required form.


FESA was established in 1989 in response to the need in the South African Forest Industry for applied research in this costly, ergonomically hazardous environment. Forest Engineering accounts for on average 60-70% of the entire value chain cost of forestry in South Africa. This cost is can be higher in small grower operations and emerging aided operations. FESA is an industry initiative aimed at curbing this excessive cost in a sustainable manner, bringing South African Forestry to the forefront of international competitiveness.


FESA is based at and operates in full interaction with the Institute for Commercial Forestry Research in Pietermaritzburg. This powerful collaboration of all aspects of silvicultural research together with forest engineering has facilitated FESA and the ICFR together being able to address the issues and needs of the industry holistically throughout the entire value chain, through forest research and development that is applicable and provides relevant and real solutions for the industry.


FESA's existence is made possible through the following contributing members (listed in alphabetical order): Bedrock Mining Solutions, Cape Pine, Forestry South Africa, Komatiland Forests, Merensky, Masonite, Mondi, NCT Forestry Co-operative, PG Bison, private timber growers, Sappi, TWK Agriculture and York Timbers. Several academic institutions form part of FESA's technical collaboration, namely; Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (Saasveld), Rhodes University's Ergonomics department, Stellenbosch University's Forest Engineering group, University of KwaZulu-Natal's Agricultural Engineering group and the University of Pretoria's post-graduate school.


FESA's role is bringing robust, cutting edge, reliable, practical, applicable information and resources to all spheres of the South African Forestry Industry's forest engineering sector. Stakeholders include large, medium and small timber growers, equipment suppliers, forest contractors, government agencies, training and education institutions and certification bodies.





FESA's objectives are detailed into four pillars on which all of our work is built:


  • Drive down the Southern African Forest Industry's delivered fibre cost through applied forest engineering research and development aimed at improving the productivity and efficiency of the industry.
  • Assist stakeholders in the application of robust forest engineering research findings through effective knowledge dissemination and technology transfer.
  • Raise forest engineering-related skills and development within the Southern African Forest Industry by promoting and supporting appropriate training and education.
  • Engage in and promote co-operation in forest engineering research and development within and without southern Africa.


All resources on this site are funded upfront by contributing members within the South African Forestry Industry. The material is therefore freely available  from this website to all users.


Some handbooks can be downloaded here for free or ordered through the FESA offices at and purchased at printing cost prices.


Please note: All of the information contained in these publications is copyrighted to the ICFR and FESA, and no guarantees are provided, either explicitly or by implication.
The ICFR and FESA must be acknowledged whenever information contained in these documents is reproduced or used in any form.


FESA Handbooks


FESA Documents

To access FESA's technical reports, presentations and other documents, click on more link below







FESA is continually updating handbooks to ensure the material is completely current and applicable to our rapidly advancing industry. New handbooks are also produced and added to portfolio as the need arises.

Research is also underway through FESA to support the industry's developments in the future.


Handbooks currently being produced/ reviewed by FESA include:

  • Guidelines for Forest Engineering Practices in South Africa (previously published in 1999)
  • South African Cable Yarding Safety and Operating Handbook (previously published in 2001)
  • Chainsaw Handbook (previously published in 2000)


Research projects currently underway through FESA include: 

  • South African forest engineering value chain analysis
    • This study will run an industry-wide stakeholder survey to map the forest engineering sector of the South African forest industry and recommend innovations which could be applicable for curbing the issues presenting the biggest obstacles within the value chain.
  • The integration between silviculture and harvesting 
    • This study aims to address the interface between silviculture and harvesting, looking at the influence of silvicultural decision-making ,management, operations, productivities and costs have on harvesting decision-making, management, operations, productivities and costs (and vice versa).  The aim is to identify and address key issues to improve the efficiency and economics of the whole value chain. For example, looking at species, spacing, planting regimes etc are required to optimise harvesting operations, or what harvesting practices (i.e. equipment modification or slash management) will best support optimal silviculture operations.
  • Productivity standards 


Working Groups

  • FESA's Mechanised Harvesting Working Group is based in Nelspruit. This working group comprise mainly contractors and equipment suppliers, and is concerned with industry issues related to mechanised harvesting operations and developing ways of addressing these. Collaboration of expertise is one of the key drivers of the groups, as well as tackling specific projects.
  • FESA's Small Grower Working Group aims through short courses and workshops with small growers to provide tools needed to run their operations efficiently and profitably.


Focus on Forest Engineering Conference

The annual Focus on Forest Engineering Conference, co-hosted by FESA, is one of the highlights of the South African forest engineering industry's calendar. It is usually held in the last quarter of each year. Details on the next conference will be added to the ICFR Upcoming Events page as they become available.


ICFR Field Days

FESA supports the annual regional ICFR field days, which provide a valuable industry platform for information dissemination and technology transfer. FESA's latest research and development is presented at these events, and details of these can be found on the ICFR Upcoming Events page. 


FESA is based at the Institute for Commercial Forestry Research (ICFR) in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa and can be reached at the following address:

PO Box 100281

Scottsville 3209


South Africa


To contact the FESA team please e-mail or call the ICFR office at +27 33 3862314