Research Papers

Productivity and cost analysis of semi-mechanised and mechanised systems on the Viphya forest plantations in Malawi

Published in: Southern Forests: a Journal of Forest Science
Volume 76, issue 4, 2014, pages: 195–200
DOI: 10.2989/20702620.2014.938294
Author(s): Elisha NgulubeForest Postgraduate Programme, Plant Sciences Complex, South Africa, Michal BrinkForest Postgraduate Programme, Plant Sciences Complex, South Africa, Paxie W ChirwaForest Postgraduate Programme, Plant Sciences Complex, South Africa

Abstract

At least 200 000 m3 of timber is harvested annually using semi-mechanised harvesting systems on the Viphya forest plantations in Malawi. Although these systems have long been used on the Viphya, no investigation on their productivity has so far been reported. Additionally, the absence of localised productivity analyses in Malawi has created a paucity of information on appropriate timber harvesting systems for production maximisation and cost minimisation. The objective of this study was to compare the production rates and operational costs of chainsaw/grapple skidder (semi-mechanised) and feller-buncher/grapple skidder (mechanised) harvesting systems in order to determine the economic feasibility of mechanised systems in the Viphya forest plantations. The study was conducted in Pinus kesiya compartments at the Kalungulu and Champhoyo forest stations of the Viphya forest plantations. A work study approach was followed to capture harvesting time and volume data for the semi-mechanised system. Secondary work study data were used to simulate productivity of the mechanised system on similar compartment conditions. A timber-harvesting costing model was used to analyse the results. The study showed that the simulated mechanised system was associated with lower operating costs and inventories with higher production rates than the semi-mechanised system. The cost marginal difference was US$0.89 m–3. It was therefore established that migration to mechanised systems could optimise timber harvesting productivity on the Viphya in future, if optimal volumes are available to ensure the efficient application of the mechanised harvesting system.

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