The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries briefed the Committee on the Department’s first quarter performance against its strategic plan. It reported that it comprised seven programmes: Administration; Policy, Planning and Monitoring and Evaluation; Economic Development, Trade and Marketing; Food Security and Agrarian Reform; Agriculture Production, Health and Food Safety; Forestry and Resources Management; and Marine and Coastal Management. The Department reported that there seemed to be progress towards the achievement of the strategic outcomes for the various programmes. The Department highlighted that the challenge with analyzing the performance of the some programmes was that there was no information regarding a base line; this posed a problem because it was impossible to measure if there had been any progress towards achieving the strategic outcome (e.g. base line + 1). The Department was imperative that programmes must indicate the baseline information when reporting, and that the composition of other indicators was difficult to measure.
Members commented that the report gave them very little hope that the agricultural problems facing the country would be solved. Members wanted explanations on Programme Coastal Management, maize surplus and food security, why the Department was not reflecting on challenges and suggesting timeframes for the filling of vacancies, and when it would repeal irrelevant laws and policies. An African National Congress Member was disappointed with the presentation, which contained very little of substance and was full of promises. The problem was that the officials were not taking their work seriously. This was not the way a department of state was expected to function. The Member could not understand why successful black economic empowerment farmers were not helped by the Government, but got assistance elsewhere. Other African National Congress Members complained that the strategic plan and first quarter report were not congruent, and asked how far the Department had progressed in implementing the Maputo Declaration. A Democratic Alliance Member asked what happened to money unspent. Mafisa was last year granted R400m, but had only spent R14m. The Member observed that the Department was not serious about food security and had no framework for it. However, he wanted further discussion to understand the problems from the Department's perspective. Another Democratic Alliance Member asked the Department to brief the Committee on the goings-on of Programme Coastal management. The Chairperson observed that the Department's legislative review was something that had been on-going for a very long time. The Department should stop presenting on-going activities and instead give the Committee something convincing.
Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries briefing
Mr Peter Thabethe, Acting Director-General: Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), reported on the performance, achievements and challenges of each of the seven programmes - Administration; Policy, Planning and Monitoring and Evaluation; Economic Development, Trade and Marketing; Food Security and Agrarian Reform; Agriculture Production, Health and Food Safety; Forestry and Resources Management; and Marine and Coastal Management.
Regarding Human Resource Development and Management, of the 50% of staff targeted for training and development, 13% obtained the necessary training. 70% of the Departmental HIV/AIDS strategy had been developed. In aligning policies and practices with operational objectives, the Department had achieved 100%. Challenges in the amalgamation of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries necessitated that all policies be reviewed. This would involve a lengthy consultation process. As a result, consultation with relevant stakeholders would be fast-tracked. 10% of vacancies had been filled against a target of 16%. The delay in assessing personnel suitability was caused by National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). The Department was putting pressure on NIA and SAQA to speed up the verification process. The quality of performance agreements remained a challenge in terms of measurable and specific key result areas and performance work plans. To correct this, the Department was planning to establish a dedicated performance management Unit to monitor compliance.
All critical Information and Communication Technology (ICT) systems for DAFF had been identified. Policies and procedures from fisheries and forestry were collected. 70-80% of all processes of agriculture had been documented. All Service Level Agreements and contracts on Agriculture and Fisheries were currently being managed by DAFF ICT. Five regional offices of forestry as well as Waterbron were already on the DAFF network. The Foretrust and six offices of Fisheries were also on the DAFF network. The Agriculture Master Systems Plan (MSP), the information Plan (IP) and Architecture Plan (AP) had all been partially updated.
As to stakeholder relations and communications, information on opportunities and understanding DAFF was made available to Departmental clients during the Budget Vote of the Minister in Parliament, DAFF website, and at Thusong Service Centres and the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) e-portal. The Intergovernmental and Stakeholder Relations (ISR) Directorate had successfully facilitated the approval of the draft memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the National Wool Growers Association and DAFF.
Lastly, on development finance, a total of R14m was disbursed to 884 beneficiaries through seven accredited institutions for various enterprises during the first quarter. The amount was increasing and uncertainties about whether additional resources would be availed for Mafisa posed a challenge as soon the funds would be exhausted and would take time to be replenished.
Programme Policy, Planning and Monitoring and Evaluation
This programme was responsible for the coordination of policy development, research and technology and monitoring and evaluation. The MER guidelines were presented to the Governance and Operational Policy Committee (GOPC) and Forestry Branch for consideration. The Directorate still needed to contact Fisheries before guidelines could be considered for approval. Nothing had been done to Monitoring and Evaluation plans due to the awaiting of the approved structure. On policy development and planning, all strategic plans would be concluded by January 2011. A Strategic Operational Planning framework was presented at GOPC. Consultation with Forestry was completed. A process had been established to align Presidential Outcomes and Outputs to the strategic goals and objectives of the Department. Outcomes had been allocated to programmes for inclusion into the strategic plan for 2011/12. The Provincial Department of Agriculture (PDA) Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Framework Report had been drafted and presented to Provinces at the Agriculture, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (APME) Forum for input and comments. Once inputs had been collated, the next stop would be to present the report to the Intergovernmental Technical Committee for Agriculture (ITCA).
Programme Economic Development, Trade and Marketing
This programme was key in directing the priority of DAFF to increase the overall contribution of the sector to national gross domestic product (GDP) growth through the creation of viable and sustainable cooperatives and rural enterprises, product value-addition and increase in exports. The implementation of international relations and trade strategies would be closely connected with marketing to access foreign markets.
Programme Food Security and Agrarian Reform
This programme was meant to develop and facilitate the implementation of appropriate agrarian reform policies and targeted programmes aimed at enhancing the contribution of subsistence and smallholder producers to food security, through education and training, provision of national extension and advisory services and the promotion of transformation imperatives in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors. The DAFF was currently implementing the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, Livelihood Zoning and the formation of the national Vulnerability Assessment Committee. The Household Food Production Programme had assisted 810 households with vegetable packs.
As to sector capacity development, the Agricultural Sector Education and Training Authority (AgriSeta) had trained 1441 students; Food and Beverages Sector Education and Training Authority (FoodBevSeta) - 1123; Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP)- 1254; and Forest Industries Education & Training Authority (FIETA) - 1800. The number of drop-outs who had entered the training but failed to achieve the National Qualification Framework (NQF} Level and competency rate was not indicated in some of the reports from CASP. Workshops to outline how sector-funded training programmes should be co-coordinated, delivered and monitored had been arranged for 7 to 9 September 2010. A total number of 4 192 students were registered in various further and higher education institutions of learning for various study fields in agriculture. Only a small portion of youth was registered in scarce and critical study fields. The envisaged implementation Protocol between DAFF and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DoHET) would assist in addressing this problem.
Regarding National Extension Support Services, 413 farmers against a target of 1000 were trained in the use of the green book of farmers as a management tool. Most farmers found the book challenging due to their literacy level. The green book of the farmers had been translated into seven indigenous languages. As a step towards establishing agricultural colleges as centres of rural wealth creation, all twelve colleges of agriculture have been given feedback in terms of identified gaps as mirrored against the norms and standards for ATIs. The process of developing the ATI Bill was moving very slowly. 646 extension officers against a target of 1 000 were registered for the upgrading of qualifications in different universities. 2 346 were trained in various short skills programmes. It had been discovered that extension officers left their activities unattended to when on training. To remedy this situation, the provinces needed to liaise with training institutions to align their block release with the activity plans of the officer.
As to research and technology development, Service Level Agreements (SLAs) on 10 of the targeted and priority research projects were signed with the Agricultural Research Council (ARC). The projects were currently continuing and the process of gathering evidence through progress reports on the status of each project were also underway. However, there might be a slight variation in commencement and conclusion dates due to the delay in the finalisation of the SLAs. Variations would be taken into account during the review of the projects.
Programme Agriculture Production, Health and Food Safety
The programme's purpose is to identify opportunities and develop strategies in order to optimize agricultural productivity and profitability within the agricultural sector, and to manage the risks associated with animal diseases, plant pests, genetically modified organisms and registration of products
used in the agricultural field.
With regard to plant production and health, no progress had been registered so far though the target was to align spatial planning and support for plant production. The draft primary health care plan that would be a precursor to the MOU that would be finalized between the ARC, DAFF, and provinces had been drafted and consulted within the Branch and was currently being edited to include the views expressed within the Branch.
As to reviewing, improving and maintaining an effective regulatory environment, draft regulations for wheat and potatoes were en route to Ministerial approval. Regulations for plums, and prunes, nectarines and peaches had been submitted to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for notification. Proposed amendments to the Meat Safety Act and Animal Identification Act were still being delayed until negotiations on independent meat inspection was finalised. It was anticipated that changes would be made to the Meat Safety Act.
Programme Forestry and Resources Management
This programme provided policy advice and coordinated the implementation of programmes aimed at ensuring that forestry production was undertaken sustainably within the capacity of the landscape and climate. On Forestry Operations and management, a project implementation plan and business plan were in place for two pilot areas in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Forestry 2030 targets were met. Commercial forest estate expanded. A Draft Forestry Research and development Strategy was developed and approved by FFMC and Forestry Branch. 42 Fire Prevention Associations (FPA) were registered. The FPA annual report was submitted to the Minister for approval. Fire Prohibition Notices for the summer rainfall areas were published in May 2010 on the Government Gazette.
Regarding the number of land users adopting best practices, the records indicated 200 commercial farmers, 234 small holders, and 256 subsistence farmers. In reviewing development of the agricultural land protection policy, terms of reference had been revised in May 2010 and two meetings had been held with Legal Services on review processes. The process of data collection that would inform irrigation schemes which needed to be revitalized was continuing. This work was being done with the support of PMC. Lastly, in its efforts to reduce natural related risks, the Department conducted weather and climate capacity building in North West.
Programme Marine Fisheries and Coastal Management
The aim of this branch was to contribute to maintaining and restoring the productive capacity and biodiversity of the marine environment, and to ensure the protection of human health as well as promoting the conservation and sustainable use of marine living resources. It also aimed to ensure that the degradation of the marine environment from land-based activities was prevented by facilitating the realization of the duty of the DAFF to preserve and protect the marine environment through the application of respective policies, priorities and resources.
Mr S Abram (ANC) was disappointed with the presentation, which contained very little of substance and was full of promises. Moreover, it gave no hope as regards matters affecting agriculture in the country. The problem was that the officials were not taking their work seriously. As a result, there were claims that had appeared in the Landbou WeekBlad that had not been refuted that three governmental officials were not trustworthy. This was not the way a department of state was expected to function. Mr Abram stated he could not understand why successful black economic empowerment (BEE) farmers were not helped by the Government, but got assistance elsewhere.
Mr L Bosman (DA) remarked that the document provided insight of what was going on in the Department, and the Committee needed time to have a discussion in order to understand problems from the Department's side. He wanted to know what happened to money unspent. Micro-agricultural Financial Institutions of South Africa (Mafisa) was last year granted R400m, but had only spent R14m. Secondly, he enquired what the Department was doing regarding bio-fuel challenges because it appeared that the Department was not serious about food security and had no framework for it.
Mr Thabethe replied that a report would be made available to the Committee and it contained a breakdown of figures of how much was spent, and included Mafisa and other grants.
Mr Thabethe replied regarding food security that the Department was currently re-working the issue, as there was no strategy to deal with it. There had been no directive on how to deal with food security. The Cabinet had given the Department a target on how to develop agriculture and deal with food security. The Department should present this to the Committee. So far, a draft had been done, and it had been circulated to other stakeholders for input. By October the Department would put up a forum on how it was going to be funded. Input would be solicited from the Government, private sector, and municipalities.
Ms E Pilusa-Mosoane (ANC) raised three points. She complained that the strategic plan and first quarter report were not congruent. Secondly, the Department did not suggest or indicate timeframes on when vacancies would be filled. Lastly, the Department stated that there were no challenges and corrective measures, yet it trained only 13% of personnel against a target of 16%.
In response, Mr Thabethe explained that the strategic plan provided guidelines, and that the implementation plan focused on the actual things to be done and costs. Indeed, in reporting, the Department had combined the two but they could be presented separately. Further, timeframes had come out clearly on the implementations that went hand in glove with quarterly reports. Lastly, he stated the Department did not reflect on challenges. The Department should have reported on failures and things that could not be done.
Mr N du Toit (DA) asked the Department to brief the Committee on the goings-on of Programme Coastal management because it appeared to him that certain departments had left DAFF in the lurch and this programme seemed not to feed the Department with information.
Mr Thabethe explained that the problem with Coastal Management lay in its reporting format. Coastal Management did not report according to the format the Department needed. Some of the things it raised on its report were detrimental to the Department. The Department had instructed Coastal management to revise it, and once that was done, the report would be forwarded to the Committee. It could be sent in the existing format if the Committee agreed.
Mr Du Toit seized the opportunity and requested the Department to send the report from Coastal Management to the Committee as it was.
Ms M Mabuza (ANC) asked five questions. First, when would the laws and policy documents be revised? In the Agriculture Conference of February 2010 it was agreed that some laws were irrelevant. Secondly, when was the Department intending to fill senior critical posts? She did not entertain the NIA excuse about World Cup security. Instead, the officials of the Department were fighting amongst themselves over positions. Thirdly, she wanted an explanation on employees getting ICT training. Fourthly, she asked why the Department had failed to respond to a call by Vrystaat Ko-orperasie when it has maize in abundance. Lastly, she asked how far the Department had progressed in implementing the Maputo Declaration.
Regarding laws and policy revisions, Mr Thabethe elaborated that the Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Programme had set up a committee on challenges facing agriculture. A joint presentation would be made to the Committee when the Programme's committee had completed its findings, and the report would be made public. The reviewing of Acts was work in progress.
The Chairperson intervened and stated the reviewing of Acts by the Department was something that has been on-going for a very long time and the Department should stop presenting on-going activities; instead it should give the Committee something convincing.
To which Mr Thabethe responded that internal consultation on law reviews was conducted with the provinces. A list has been completed on Acts that needed review. The list would be sent to the Committee in two weeks time.
Mr Thabethe, on the issue of critical senior posts, stated those at the lower level were being filled. Challenges were at senior level.
Mr Thabethe promised the Committee a detailed report on ICT training. Equipment was bought and given to extension officers to use. Training on how to use the equipment was given.
Mr Thabethe, responding to the maize surplus problem, explained that his Department had met Grain South Africa (SA) to discuss the issue of maize. As a consequence, Grain SA was invited to go to China with the Government delegation to see how it could market its product but there were other things that needed to be solved like price issues. A meeting had been organized between the Competition Commission, Grain SA, and DAFF to discuss the maize issue.
Lastly, Mr Thabethe stated that the Maputo Declaration was one of the tasks that the newly appointed Chief Financial Officer (CFO) would focus on. Facts would be collated and suggestions made.
The Chairperson reminded the Department of the issues that it needed to consider thoroughly. He asked the Department to forward detailed reports on the distribution of seeds; the establishment of the Service Delivery Forum; the rehabilitation programme for irrigation schemes; and provision of tractors in Mpumalanga.
The meeting was adjourned.
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