Norms and Standards for the management of damage-causing animals in South Africa

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

01 November 2010
Chairperson: Mr M Johnson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Predation Management Forum spoke on the state of small stock farming in South Africa, and the threat that pending Norms and Standards that prohibited certain harm-causing animal management mechanisms such as gin traps and poisons posed to the small stock industry in South Africa. The industry was losing R1.3 billion a year to predators, and the pending legislation would worsen the state of things. The Forum appealed to the Committee to have a senior official appointed to the matter, to make an effort to stop the N&S from being passed, and to provide a budget to the beleaguered industry. The Forum emphasised that they had received very little support from DAFF, and that DEA did not seem to be willing to cease moving forward on the N&S document.

The Committee responded that they were very concerned about the situation. The situation was unacceptable, and that a meeting with DEA and DAFF was urgently required to address this issue. There was not enough communication between the two departments and the Committee. The Committee expected to receive more feedback from DAFF, and to be briefed by DEA on anything relevant to agriculture. This matter had a huge impact on food security, and was thus a priority of the Committee. The matter brought forward by PMF was urgent, and would be urgently addressed.

The Committee was very dissatisfied that the Department of Environmental Affairs and executive management level delegates from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestries had failed to attend. This showed disrespect and disregard for the Committee. 

Meeting report

The Chairperson began by noting that this was the third time that the Department of Agriculture, Forestries and Fisheries (DAFF) had not sent senior officials to appear before the Portfolio Committee to account for themselves. In addition, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) were supposed to have attended, but had made the excuse that they had not briefed the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs yet, and thus could not come before this Committee. He said that his Committee reserved the right to call whichever bodies were relevant before them.

Ms M Mabuza (ANC) said that it was a tendency from DAFF to send people who could not commit themselves or respond. This had happened at a delegation in Kwazulu Natal (KZN), and also at a public hearing where DAFF had sent junior members who could not respond to issues raised.

Mr S Abram (ANC) expressed his great disappointment at the non attendance, that the Committee was being disrespected, and that the failure of the senior members to attend undermined Parliament. He asked if there had been any apologies from DAFF. Were those representing DAFF in a position to go back to the department with the issues noted and ensure they were dispensed with? The department had a tendency to engage sectors, but there was no fulfilment of engagement with regard to the way forward. There was a lack of feedback. The country could not afford to carry on the way the department was carrying on. The Committee expected results and resolutions as a matter of urgency. The problem of non appearance needed to be taken up.  In the mean time the industry was suffering, and help was not forthcoming for people that had been placed on land. They had failed them as a state.

The two DAFF personnel present were Dr Miranda Visser, Chief Director: Agri-Producing, and Keith Ramsey, Acting Director Of Animal Productions. Dr Visser could not offer any apologies that she knew of.
Dr Kgabi Mogajane, Deputy Director-General: Production and Resource Management was supposed to have been there, but late the day before Dr Visser had been instructed to attend. She made it clear that they were not part of the decision making executive body, and thus could not make decisions based upon the proceedings. They were there to listen to the issues raised.

Ms M Mabuza (ANC) said that this was the time to make a decision that would be unpopular with DAFF. This would be to not approve some of their budget, or whatever DAFF wanted them to approve. That was what the Department of Water Affairs had done regarding annual reports, and it caused departments to have a reaction.

The Chair noted this as a display of arrogance, disrespect and disregard from DAFF. This oversight on their part would be happening for the last time. He noted that DEA had sent a copy of their presentation to the Committee, but the DG had sent a letter saying that officials would not be able to attend. He then handed over to Mr Petrus de Wet from the Predation Management Forum (PMF).

Predation Management Forum (PMF) presentation
Mr de Wet (Chair of PMF, commercial farmer, President of National Woolgrowers Association, Chairman of the Environment and Animal Welfare Committee) introduced those present: Stephen Mitchell, Wildlife Ranching SA (WRSA); Lardus Van Zyl, the Chair of the Red Meat Producers Organisation (RMPO); Coligny Stegmann, executive member of the SA Mohair Growers Association (SAMGA); Prof H De Waal, Chair of the African Large Predator Research Forum. All these individuals were part of the PMF – which was comprised of: SAMGA (900 producers), the National Woolgrowers Association (10 000 producers), the RMPO (35 000 producers), and the WRSA (4 600 producers). SAMGA contributed R620 million to the economy in exports, and the South African wool clip contributed roughly R2 billion. He brought attention to the embargo
on South African wool by China, and hoped that the impending visit would do something about that. RMPO brought in about R6.3 billion. SA was a net importer. WRSA brought in about R4.2 billion.

Mr de Wet began by underscoring that the PMF had been driven to the Committee because of their experiences with DAFF and the DEA, which had comprised of many closed doors. He understood that food security was high on the government agenda, and was the responsibility of this Committee. Each commercial farmer fed 270 people per day in South Africa. He appealed to the Committee to give the budget to people who could and were doing the work, and who were currently living off DAFFs ‘crumbs’.

He noted that the producers and their contribution to the economy were being threatened by predation by jackals (55%) and lynx (30%) for the most part, and negligibly by leopards. The theft of stock (R400 million per year) was a much smaller issue than predation. The population of the lynx and jackal was estimated to have doubled or trebled in the preceding twenty years. In 1990 South Africa had produced 103 million kg wool, while in 2010 that amount had been reduced to 48 million kg. The mohair industry had been similarly reduced. He highlighted the study tour to the US that had been undertaken, and of which many of its policies could be directly implemented in South Africa. Half the sheep and two thirds of the goats in South Africa had been lost to predation. For every 1000 sheep lost, an estimated five jobs were lost, along with 25 dependants. This did not include the multiplier effect. The total estimated economic loss caused by these predators to the small stock sector per year was R1.3 billion (2010). They did not have estimates for game and large stock. The food pyramid had been disrupted by the eradication of those that fed off the current predations in question. Some of the reasons that these losses continued unabated included the high cost of fencing (R50 000 per km) – most of which were getting old, economies of scale (the need to increase the scale of farming to be economically viable), labour, the lack of support from DAFF and DEA, and other issues such as absent landlords and exotic species.

There was a need for uniform policies across the two relevant departments, and the breakdown of silos. DEA was responsible for the predators, while DAFF was responsible for agriculture. They had approached Mr van Schalkwyk to address the issue. There were gaps in standards between various provinces. In 2009 a public forum was formed and a subcommittee put together. Those included were not the best people for the purpose, and their work formed the basis for the Norms and Standards document that was currently under discussion. He brought the Committees attention to the N&S document that had been developed through DEA, signed into a draft by the Minister of Environmental Affairs in the past week, which placed prohibitions upon various devices used to manage damage causing animals such as gin traps, hounds and poisons. Certain devices were to be used only with a permit, and he said that issuing these would be a problem in view of DEA’s capacity constraints, and the need to do sight visits for each permit issued. He stated that gin traps had evolved, and were not the same devices used in the past. Soft traps (which killed 53% of predators) were to be phased out after three years. These policies were said to be influenced by the “green organisations” and green labelling, which was a commercial brand which was finding its way into legislation. This legislation stated that losses were due to negligence, and he stated that it was ludicrous. He intimated that there were organisations affiliated to the
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) working in South Africa. However, he said they did good work, but were against sheep farming, etc. The DEAs ear had been bent by the ‘green people’. He said that the policy was tantamount to taking the producer’s tools away and expecting them to keep producing. He asked for a revision of the process. Their organisation had set up 96 courses and thirteen demonstration farms had been set up in the past year – was this not the task of the Agricultural Research Council? They would be willing to contribute financially to research, in partnership with the relevant departments.

He appealed to the Committee to get DEA and DAFF to work together, to allocate a top official to the issue, and for a budget to be allocated that fit the size of the problem. He had received feedback that Dr Mogajane was supposed to have taken responsibility for this matter fourteen days before. South Africa received a very small amount of support when compared to other countries (3%), and most of that money went towards products that had a surplus worldwide. He highlighted that in five years China would be absorbing the agricultural surpluses because of their fast growth rate (10% – 12%), and that South Africa’s imports were currently less than the sectors annual losses. Meat was a staple diet in South Africa. He also emphasised that the increased breakdown of rural livelihoods and economies was one of the drivers of urban migration. When sheep farming became extinct in South Africa, this process would be escalated. Putting support behind the PMF would help solve urban housing problems in urban areas.

He again brought attention to the standards document that had been developed in the United States, and said that the PMF believed this would be appropriate to be developed for South Africa. The policy needed to be implemented urgently, and a budget allocated as soon as possible. Research also needed to be done and coordinated into a strategic plan.

Lastly, he noted that estimates predicted that the small stock industry would be at an end in between five to ten years time if the situated continued unabated.

The Chair noted that the two major issues at play here was sustainable food security and the effect that the rise in demand and lack of supply would have on food prices. He asked if the DAFF representatives had any response.

Mr Ramsey responded that he was aware of the problem. It would affect many lives and jobs. He stated their need to be aware of the support needed, in order to make a structured presentation to the department.

The Chair asked what the department was currently doing about the situation.

Dr Visser responded that the Animal Production unit had done a lot of work on the issue, and that they had attempted to stop the N&S document from being signed. She agreed that synergies needed to be found. Decision making occurred at higher levels, that the DAFF respondents present were not privy to.

Mr Ramsey added that he sat on the PMF, and he had been working on a proposal with the Woolgrowers Association on what had been done and to find the gaps, and had created a draft MOU for submission in order to get funds for research.

The Chair interjected to ask why further research was required. It seemed to be a straight forward matter. Prevention needed to happen immediately. There was a need for all levels of government to cooperate, as government was seen as a single entity by people on the ground. Government needed to cease working in silos.

Ms D Carter (COPE) said that the situation was not acceptable. Urgent intervention was needed. The department was non existent, and they needed to present themselves at the Committee as soon as possible. She asked Mr de Wet what had happened since meeting with the Minister in September 2009, and if they had had any contact with Dr Mogajane since it was made apparent that she was the point person on this matter. Whose responsibility was it to make contact?

Mr de Wet responded that they had met with then Minister van Sckalkwyk, and he had quickly come back and set up a task team. They had had a meeting in July and a follow up in November. His ministry had then split, and he had gone to tourism. That ended the engagement. He noted his frustration with engagement, citing experiences of meeting with a DAFF Director General (DG), and then having another meeting to find a different person in the position. The Rift Valley situation read like a horror story. He was emotive in expressing his position that the department was supposed to be public servants working for the people, and extending their help where needed. He said they were currently making things more difficult. Regarding Dr Mogajane, he said that he had not had the time to get in touch, and would do so when he was in Pretoria.

Mr Abram noted that this was not an isolated case of one industry in agriculture going through this type of problem, and that it was an endemic issue. People in high positions in DAFF may be listening but do not understanding the extent of the problem. There was both an animal (predatory) and a human (theft) problem. Drastic action needed to be taken. Performance monitoring was not at an acceptable level. There was a tendency among departments to be loathe at discussing issues and coming to a way forward. He asked the ministry to take note of this. There was no coordinated effort. He asked if this was Mr de Wet’s experience as well. He asked what the Wildlife Service did, and if the US standards that PMF had brought to the Committee’s attention had been given to DAFF. He said that the price of meat had rocketed. For poor rural families, having meat purchased at a butchery was a complete luxury. On developing farms, how would predator control be of use to them, and what was the extent of the damages they were suffering? He noted that Dr Ramsey was a renowned animal scientist.

Mr de Wet explained that Wildlife Services was a USA document that expressed the right to protect ones’ property and land. This was enshrined in the South African Constitution as well, but seemed to fall by the wayside once issues surrounding biodiversity and ‘green people’ got involved. They ‘whipped up’ emotions, and ended up changing legislation. They had given a copy of the aforementioned policy to Mr Ramsey and the DAFF DG. South Africa had drafted the international standard on small livestock’s’ code of best practice with regard to the rules of engagement, partly because of the attention that they had received on predator management and the treatment of sheep. The producers received 45c out of every R1 for their products. Where was the rest going?

Dr L Bosman (DA) thanked the PMF for the briefing, which highlighted issues that needed to be looked at. It had brought a broader perspective to food security issues in South Africa. More effort was needed to change the situation. The numbers presented were very serious. The circumstances discouraged wool farming. If farming activities were declining below the profit margin levels, then people would be getting out of the industry – which was currently happening in South Africa. More attention was being given to “green people” than to putting food on the table. A holistic policy approach was needed for conservation and productive areas. There was expertise in the conservation sector. DEA was hugely responsible for the situation. An intergovernmental committee that included experts needed to work out a plan. It was important to remember that only 14% of South Africa was arable land, with the rest comprising of grazing areas that needed to be supported in order to be profitable.

Mr N Du Toit (DA) noted that there was a lot of pressure on game farming and hunting, and that the public was not aware of the figures brought to the Committee’s attention that day. Focus was not upon the ‘dirty side’ of the job - which included the killing of animals. There was a need to kill predators. That was where research came in terms of how to do it humanely. The wealth needed to put up fences had been built up over generations, and it would be near impossible to recapitalise on these resources. There was a need to stop this bill. They needed to work together with the DEA.

Mr de Wet said that people were driven by emotions, including himself. Farmers killing animals for whatever reason caused people to see farmers differently. They had to be careful of what they publicised. People had the perception that meat came out of the fridge. Hanging details ‘out there’ would not be useful. He was hesitant to engage in public hearings, as it ‘whipped up the green people’.

Ms Mabuza brought attention to figures surrounding stock theft, which included the loss of 129 000 stock units between 1 April 2008 – 31 March 2009, resulting in a loss of R 365 million. From 1 October 2009– 31 December 2009, there was a total stock loss of 384 089 units, with a value of R105 million. Then there were also losses as a result of predators. How would the industry survive? On the Makuti summit – had any of its resolutions been implemented? Dr Mogajane had been there. What had happened since?

The Chair referred to the department when he said that did not want to hear about dreams and plans, but about actions. Why was more research necessary? They knew what was going on. People in DAFF had cushioned jobs. Spending the budget was not as crucial as getting the actual work done.

Mr de Wet responded that desperate actions needed to be taken. He had also listened to many plans being made. He understood the need for research, as it was a complex issue. His position was that the information from the green sector that only a percentage of jackals catch sheep was nonsense. ‘A dead jackal doesn’t catch any sheep’ He reiterated the impending crisis, and the growing squatter camps. A resolution from the Committee could address both housing issues and food security. He highlighted that South Africa had the best farmers in the world, and they received no subsidies and were still competitive. He was heartened to hear that agriculture was becoming a bigger government priority. It was a difficult industry to work within, and was very specialised.

The Chair noted the need to engage both departments (DAFF and DEA) to present themselves to the Committee. The policy might be gazetted during December, a time when Parliament was not open, so they needed to have comments ready, and to look at adjusting the Committees schedule in order to address this matter.

Ms Mabuza brought attention to the conclusion of the N&S document, which intimated that the Committee would simply ‘rubber stamp’ the bill. They needed to present themselves to discuss the issue. This was problematic.

Mr Abram emphasised that issues were not being discussed with the Committee – they had not been notified about the N&S document. It was a gross dereliction of duty on the part of DEA. There was a need to communicate to DEA that the Committee dealt with agriculture, and thus engagement was needed as the N&S had a huge impact upon agriculture. It was also unacceptable that DAFF had not notified the Committee about the issue. There was a need to get rid of silos. The statements made by the Minister on Agriculture were as yet just words. He asked that the Wildlife Services document be made available to the Committee. There was a need to look carefully at the middle group making money - were monopolies being created that placed the producer into a corner?

Dr Bosman asked if the document had been referred to the Minister, and if the roleplayers on the ground had been consulted? It needed to suit the people that it affected, and who would have to implement it.

Mr Du Toit said that the department was supposed to be providing a service to the people, and that the Committee represented the people. What kind of consultation process had been engaged with? There was a need to ‘cut heads’.

Mr de Wet said that the process for the creation of the document had been flawed from the start. He had approached the DG a month ago, who had said that he would not stop the process. Mr de Wet had even threatened non compliance. He asked if they had the support of the Committee on this matter, or if they were on their own.

The Chair responded that the members had expressed themselves in the interest of food security, and had expressed the urgency of the matter. The Committee would represent them. They would be adjusting their schedule to do so. The Committee would arrange a follow up meeting with DAFF and the DEA, which would be an open briefing that the delegates in attendance were welcome to attend.  

The meeting was adjourned.   


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