Umsonti Directors

MikeMIKE HOWARD – Chairperson

A graduate forester with 30 years experience in the forest industry, Mike Howard has developed expertise in a wide range of forest enterprise development and management activities including forest assessment, mapping, enumeration, planning and yield regulation, site clone matching and development strategies, technology transfer and commercialization of research findings. Recent attention has focused on community-based forest enterprise development, FSC certification of sustainable forest management and the utilization of forest waste for bio-fuel.

IlanILAN LAX – Attorney

Ilan has 27 years professional experience as a legal practitioner in Southern African governance. legal and justice systems including environmental, constitutional, criminal, civil and labour relations law.  He has over 30 years experience working with Community-Based Organisations (CBOs) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs): facilitating workshops and providing capacity building and skills development interventions as well as research and advice around governance, development and human rights issues.

JeanetteJEANETTE CLARKE – Social Specialist

Jeanette has worked in the development field for 27 years, with a focus on forestry in the context of poverty reduction and livelihood security. She has worked extensively in South Africa and the region on social aspects of forestry, initially in Zimbabwe and since 1995, in South Africa. Her specific skills and areas of expertise include forestry sector reform and policy development, programme design and evaluation, research and extension, project implementation support and facilitation, skills development and training.

PETER NIXON – Public OfficerPeter

Peter is a Forestry manager and Forester with 45 years of experience in plantation management, Peter Nixon has been working with rural communities to establish and mentor successful forestry businesses for the past 18 years. He has been the Managing Director of Rural Forest Management cc (RFM) since 2000. Peter is experienced in Forestry Engineering and Silviculture, Vehicle and logistics modelling & costing. He has a Diploma in business management and has developed skills in business & project development and financial & business management.

ThembeTHEMBA RADEBE – Social and Technical Facilitator

A trained forester with 33 years experience, Themba started out working for Mondi, and then joined Peter Nixon to establish RFM cc in 2000. Since then, Themba has played a key role in facilitation, conflict resolution and mentoring of a number of community-based forestry businesses. He is also a Managing member of the Sobengwe Trading Company Trust, a forestry business he co-owns and runs with his family.


JamesJAMES BALLANTYNE – Managing Director

James is a BSc graduate with a background in Forestry and Contractor management, Community forestry, Health and safety, Nursery management and Training in the forestry industry, and 20 years’ experience. He has been actively involved in supporting community forestry enterprise development, alongside Peter and Themba, for the past 7 years. He started Rural Forestry Development cc (RFD) in 2010, in order to assist with development of new forestry projects in Kwa-Zulu Natal and the North Eastern Cape. James has successfully facilitated the development of a 345 hectare community project in the Umzimkhulu Area, KZN