By Wood-Mizer | Photos by Wood-Mizer

Richard Saziya’s successful sawmilling businesses in Zimbabwe rely on Wood-Mizer sawmills to trade profitably, rebuild communities, restore roads, preserve forests and inspire better lives.

When Zimbabwean Richard Saziya started his sawmilling business in 2001, he did not imagine where this road would lead him. His introduction to Wood-Mizer happened when his employer Cembee Furniture asked him to find sawmilling equipment that could cut sawn timber for the factory to save money and that wasted less timber than circular swing-blade type sawmills.

He found a used Wood-Mizer sawmill in Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands and when Cembee bought it, the Wood-Mizer reliably produced accurately sawn timber with very low wastage for the factory. Saziya’s success with the Cembee sawmill project was enough reason for him leave the company and think about his own sawmilling business.

PanPri and Tsanga Timbers

One of Richard Saziya’s teams cutting on site in Zimbabwe.

He bought a used Wood-Mizer LT40 portable petrol sawmill that could move around to where the trees were. This advantage made the money flow in and Saziya could start PanPri Timbers in 2001.

He added three more Wood-Mizer LT15 petrol sawmills to the LT40 to produce more sawn timber and grow sales. A contract with Zimbabwe’s Forest Commission also allowed PanPri to cut trees that were not native to the protected areas.

With the growth in timber sales, a new timber depot in Harare, and more timber supply contracts in Bulawayo as well as Gweru and Maronberg adding more profits, Sayiza now wanted to grow his business further. He knew he could use the good quality B-grade timber that was left over from the A-grade logs at Panpri better – this was the answer for more growth.

He started Tsanga Timbers in 2010 to use B-grade offcuts and logs to produce pallets, skirting and ceiling boards as well as doors for the local building and construction market. Nyanga-based Tsanga Timbers recently also opened a new depot in Harare to develop the fast-growing business group’s profits further. The company also runs a network of qualified carpenters in Mutare, Masvingo, Bulawayo and Harare to assist with fitment of products bought through them.

Growing trees and using timber wisely

Saziya gives his business partner and co-director of Tsanga Timbers, John Saunders, the credit for using timber better. “John really opened my eyes to the potential money that value-added timber has. Logs only provide a small part of the value. Only once you cut the timber and produce products from it, do you unlock the real value of timber,” he says.

As part of the drive to use timber sustainably, Saziya and Saunders also use a unique way to grow their own timber. “Our own timber costs us less, it bypasses the difficulties of Zimbabwe’s land battles, and ensures a stable timber supply that will add a sustainable basis for our timber business,” Saziya says.

The PanPri and Tsanga Timbers team supply landowners with seeds and seedlings that are grown on private properties. Once the trees are mature, the company gets first option to buy the logs. This methods bypasses Zimbabwe’s land battles and gives endless access to ready land for planting.

Sawmilling with Wood-Mizer

When Saziya first started his business, he had one team that moved around to find trees to cut. The three-man team used one sawmill and chainsaw operator to cut

Cutting high up in the Nyanga mountains in Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands.

and mill the timber and one tractor driver to drag the logs to the Wood-Mizer mills. Since then, Panpri’s team has expanded to 30 employees and three tractors.

Tsanga Timbers’ team has also expanded and now consists of 35 workers, including three who are dedicated to timber milling as well as road construction and repairs. Communities now have a reliable partner to ensure safe and good quality roads that has contributed towards improved lives for all. Tsanga Timbers’ factory employs an additional 12 workers for a total workforce of almost 80 workers, with Saziya’s businesses in total slashing unemployment in Zimbabwe.

Saziya recommends using a blocking method to produce timber for the Wood-Mizer sawmills. “Don’t try and transport logs but rather work in-field and cut blocks that are easier and cheaper to transport. I also use petrol Wood-Mizer sawmills because they can move to where the trees are. The thin kerf blades that Wood-Mizer sawmills use also waste less, which all save costs and give more profit.”

Challenges, changed lives and the future

Learning to steer around the challenges that sawmillers deal with in Zimbabwe has also ensured Saziya’s success – Zimbabwe’s land battles, the access to and the pricing of timber owned by large timber companies in the country, the influx of sawmilling companies from China and the lack of foreign currency are just some of the issues they face.

Despite this, Saziya’s business has flourished – the successes from it has afforded him the opportunity to build schools, start farming enterprises, build roads, uplift communities, reforest land and ensure education abroad for his children.

Rebuilding roads with timber milled on a Wood-Mizer.

About the future, Saziya has high hopes for Zimbabwe. “We face many challenges and my wish is that we as Zimbabweans build a future that everyone can be proud of. We’re also ploughing more funds into the private school to improve the facilities and accommodate more than the 200 children that already attend the school.

“We’re also very proud of our relationship with the Zimbabwean National Parks with a recent purchase of more chainsaws allowing the company to clear out invasive species to make way for timber that will be planted,” Saziya says.

A Wood-Mizer perspective

Wood-Mizer’s sawmilling equipment allow sawmillers to remain competitive in a fast-changing timber processing landscape. In Zimbabwe, timber is becoming scarcer and competition for the resource is increasing. To start a timber processing business is also expensive, highlights Etienne Nagel of Wood-Mizer.

Nagel continues, “Wood-Mizer’s portable sawmilling equipment make it easy for sawmillers in the country to stay ahead of the competition by cutting close to the resource, reduce costs and make a bigger profit. The use of thin-kerf narrow bandsaw technology also wastes less with more timber available to sell.

“Wood-Mizer’s affordably priced sawmills also reduce the entry costs associated with starting a sawmill. Freely available sawn timber makes manufacturing easy and creates downstream jobs. Sawmillers, their families and the community benefit as a result.”