Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform on the Outcome 7 Delivery Agreement, and the Department on progress with targets set in the Performance Agreement.

Rural Development and Land Reform

14 June 2011
Chairperson: Mr S Sizani (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The Minister and Department of Rural Development and Land Reform briefed the Portfolio Committee on Outcome 7 - Vibrant, equitable and sustainable rural communities and food security for all, which was central to the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme.

The Minister stressed the importance of reaching understandings with sister departments. Infrastructure development involved a range of departments. The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries would lead food security outputs through the driver of farming. The central challenge was that of co-ordination. A second challenge was how best to serve commercial and emerging farmers through interacting with them. He said that the system was new and was constantly being upgraded. A broad span of relationships at national and district level was cultivated. Regarding the policy dimension, he said that there were outstanding issues on the Green Paper on Land Reform. Challenges beyond Departmental reach included Environmental Impact Assessment. There had to be infrastructure development to increase jobs in agricultural processing. It would not be an overnight matter. Agriparks and smart villages were being established, but it took time. Emerging livestock farmers received assistance. Five low water bridges would be built, four in Mpumalanga and Limpopo, to build both social and economic infrastructure.

The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform briefed the Committee on progress with targets as set in the performance agreement, as it related to the five outputs of sustainable agrarian reform with thriving farming sector; improved access to affordable and diverse foods; improved rural services to support livelihoods; improved employment and skills development opportunities; and enabling institutional environment for sustainable and inclusive growth. He noted that mere acquisition of farms could not yet guarantee a rapid progression to commercial farming. Financing was a challenge, with the question being if the Micro Agricultural Financial Institutional Scheme of South Africa could provide more ready access to loans. There was sustained technical support to increase food production and jobs. More water licences were being granted. Some acquired farms had been sold without water rights. There were efforts to revitalise irrigation schemes.

Discussion was extensive.  African National Congress Members and the Chairperson had comments and questions about the training of rural people; exploitation of employees on commercial farms; access to Micro Agricultural Financial Institutional Scheme of South Africa loans; budget capacity; interventions over and above those by the National Rural Youth Service Corps; the exceeding of targets that may have been set too low; the need to engage with economic development on a larger scale; expenses related to viewing villages, and the leverage that the Department had to exert on other departments. The Chairperson advised the Department to move from a project to a programme approach and publicise its progress and success to get people motivated and on board.

A Democratic Alliance member had comments and questions about the lack of an official definition of “rural areas”, and the need to join hands with such groups as Afrikaner women’s associations which had a tradition of household food production. She felt that social and economic challenges had to be separated, seeing that the latter was not being dealt with innovatively. She also posed questions about helping poor people to be economically sustainable, and about what was meant by strategic land.

On the whole, the briefings by the Minister and Director General were favourably received, and a spirit of optimism prevailed. There was hardly any evidence of splits along party lines. The Democratic Alliance placed more emphasis on large scale economic development, but the Minister, the Department and the Chairperson seriously considered and even endorsed the need for that.

There was agreement that successful co-ordination of a broad range of other departments and interested parties was the crucial challenge facing the Department.

Meeting report

Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform. Briefing
The Hon. Gugile Nkwinti, Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, emphasised the importance of accounting to all interested parties, for the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR). With reference to Outcome 7 (Vibrant, equitable and sustainable rural communities and food security for all), he said that there had to be an analysis of outcomes  and an understanding of partnerships with sister departments. Regarding Output 1 (Sustainable agrarian reform with thriving farm sector), he said that the driver would be farming. Questions had to be asked around what would be required to make that work. The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) would assume a dominant role when it came to outputs related to food security. Co-operation with DAFF would follow a step by step approach. That department had resources like research institutions, and was qualified to lead outputs.

With regard to the building of infrastructure, the Minister remarked that a range of departments would be involved. The DRDLR faced a challenge of co-ordination. Infrastructure was critical for Output 3 (Improved rural services to support livelihoods). Co-ordination had to be sharpened, also for the benefit of Outcome7.

The Minister identified a second challenge as being that of service, both to commercial and emerging farmers. There had to be interaction with them. The challenge was to keep the relationship dynamic. He stressed that the system was new, and was continuously being improved. There was work in progress to establish and improve a broad span of relationships at national, regional and district levels.

The Minister turned to the policy dimension. There were still outstanding issues related to the Green Paper on Land Reform. The recommendations of national consultative workshops would be considered. Challenges beyond the reach of the Department included EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment), which could sometimes hamper initiatives.

Infrastructure development for sanitation would received due consideration. Jobs had to be increased in agricultural processing, but this could not be an overnight matter. There was a dire need for infrastructure development. It took time to establish an agripark processing plant. It had taken 15 months to establish one in the Eastern Cape. Mpumalanga had been singled out as an area where agriparks could flower. A complete design and model had been created. There were two variants, one of which was the smart villages developed in KwaZulu-Natal. Agriculture formed an integral part of smart village life.

Five low water bridges had been planned and designed, and would be constructed at a cost of R100 million. 300 people would be working there. Two bridges were intended for Mpumalanga, and two for Limpopo.

Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR). Briefing
Mr Mduduzi Shabane, Director General, DRDLR, said that sustainable agricultural reform was not a mere matter of farm acquisition. Farmers on acquired farms could not be expected to become commercial farmers right away. There was suspected collusion between sellers and buyers. There was sustained technical support to increase food production and to provide jobs. Experienced farmers who had failed on their own farms were appointed as mentors to the inexperienced. Some strategic partners expected the Department to provide money, but others provided money up front. The DAFF had to determine the expertise of mentors. The DRDLR had to go beyond exclusive reliance on strategic partners.  

Mr Shabane noted that there had to be income generation to obtain Micro Agricultural Financial Institutional Scheme of South Africa (Mafisa) loans. Land Bank loans were hampered by red tape. There were efforts to increase the number of water licences, and to improve water allocation. Farms for land reform were sometimes sold without water rights. There had to be a revitalisation of irrigation schemes. He drew attention to progress made with Output 2 (Improved access to affordable and diverse foods). Household, community and institutional gardens had been established. There was increased productivity at household level, with diverse food production. 8 125 695 learners were receiving nutritious meals at schools.

The Minister added that although it was not mentioned in the report, he wanted to draw attention to successful emergency interventions to provide housing.  He singled out steel houses and the use of sandbag technology to build solid wall structures. He referred to the development of energy centres, and said that there was a commitment to the use of solar energy.
Ms P Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC) said that to experience challenges did not imply failure. She was favourably impressed with achievements around the establishment of co-operatives. She opined that rural communities also had to face the challenge of the market. Such communities could benefit from co-operatives. Regarding the training of rural people, she noted that training seemed to be limited to household provision. The question was what additional training could be provided to make people self-employed and employable.

The Minister responded that the revitalisation of Prince Alfred Hamlet was an example of hands-on training. 30 people had worked at the renovation of the village, under the supervision of Department members. Women worked in the school gardens, on a paid or voluntary basis. The school was upgraded. It was an example of integrated development. Before and after pictures had been sent to him. Communities could be revitalised through the building of community roads and old age homes. Computers were installed in the school, linked to the University of Stellenbosch. Skills development and job creation benefitted.

Ms Ngwenya-Mabila continued that employees were being exploited on commercial farms. The Department of Labour had to step in to ensure that employers complied with legislation. She noted that security teams were hired to protect fencing in rural areas, whereas it would be better to educate communities about the protection of fencing. People had to realise that it was in their own interest to do so. She found it a challenge that some information was not yet being provided on time. Other departments had to have clear deadlines for submitting information.

Ms Mohla, DDG, DRDLR, answered that there was a toll free line for farm workers facing eviction issues.

Ms Ngwenya-Mabila asked if Mafisa was really providing the financial help needed, and whether it had managed to simplify application criteria. The Land Bank was fettered by red tape. She asked if small farmers were benefitting from the Comprehensive Development Programme. She said that percentage reporting could be confusing. It would be sufficient to simply provide statistics.

Ms S Mbatha, Registrar of Deeds, DRDLR, responded that percentages were crucial to formulating targets. Figures were informed by scientific evidence available in the country. There was an outcome based approach, with improved validity of data and quantification. All departments used the same sources for figures. Quality of data sources was being improved.

Mr Shabane responded that a report was needed from the Department of Agriculture and Forestry, to see whether Mafisa worked. The Department was looking at a new funding model.

Mr Shabane continued that small farmers experienced problems. In Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal small farmers had to spend a large part of their profits on transport of sugar cane to sugar mills. It was projected that there would be 50000 new farmers by 2014. When a farmer owned more than 100 cattle, for instance, the question arose where to place them.

Ms A Steyn (DA) thanked the Minister for assisting the Committee with oversight. She saw it as a challenge that there was no official definition of “Rural Areas”.

The Minister responded that it was a question that kept cropping up. The Cabinet Committee had attended to the question in depth, but it was not a problem to be solved easily. It was a philosophical issue. Rurality was a way of life and a state of mind that revolved around livestock and community cropping. The Rural Transport Strategy had provided a working definition of rurality.

Ms Steyn pointed out that in the Delivery Agreement, government was the key partner.                                                                                                                            
The Minister answered that Outcome 7 reflected what the Presidency defined as a performance agreement.

Ms Steyn said that there was a monument of a koeksister (a kind of sweet pastry) erected by the Oranje Vrouevereniging (the Oranje Women’s Association). It was done to commemorate the fact that after the Anglo-Boer war, Afrikaner women launched a drive to produce sweet-stuffs and canned and preserved foods as household industry. Hands had to be joined with such associations. There had to be thinking out of the box. People had to go beyond what they thought they knew. There were people who planted certain kinds of flowers from which the scent was extracted to make perfume in Europe. That could be done in the rural areas.

The Minister responded that there had to be reflection about how far partnerships with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) could be taken. He cited the example of an old Coloured lady in the Eastern Cape who could cure children with colic by using “rate” – traditional herbal remedies. Indigenous knowledge could be valuable.

Ms Steyn agreed with Minister Manuel that the Planning Commission needed contributions from everyone. Rural development could be a powerful instrument for nation building. There was a tendency to focus exclusively on social issues. Social issues and economic challenges had to be separated. Rural Development had taken over the work of Social Development, in some instances.                                            
The Minister answered that it was a valid question. Outputs 1 and 2 were the business of Agriculture. There had to be streamlining between the DRDLR and Agriculture. The current report had been written with Agriculture. Yet it was also true that projects to build social infrastructure could have economic impact as well, as was the case with the building of bridges. The DRDLR used Social Development tools for analysis, to understand households. Social Development currently provided food parcels. The DRDLR assisted production from the land that would take the place of that. The Department was doing a scan of household types. There were many child headed households in Natal. There was work towards less dependence on social grants. Social infrastructure backlogs would not be dealt with through Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), but through the National Rural Youth Service Corps (NARYSEC) youth. A database of backlogs was being developed. There was a draft plan based on CRDP norms and standards. A first draft would be made available by the Department, and then other departments had to join in. Rural areas would receive the impact of work already done, over the following five years.

Ms Steyn said there was a need to think in terms of big economic schemes. Current thinking was too small, considering the magnitude of the challenges. She referred to the three categories of farmers (commercial, subsistence and small farmers), and ventured that small farmers had to be assisted to become economically viable. The question was how poor people could be helped to become economically sustainable. She asked about strategic land, whether that also meant that it could provide access to jobs. Land acquired for strategic purposes had to be situated near infrastructure.

Mr Shabane responded that the Department and universities were tracking the land reform progress, especially with regard to strategically allocated land. Some reports showed that beneficiaries received inferior land. Infrastructure at farms was being discussed. It could be expensive to get farms operational. Natural resources like rainfall determined whether land was arable. Farms to buy had to be selected carefully. There was a high risk of acquiring unstrategic land. Beneficiaries had to receive land with a fighting chance. Access to markets was important.

Ms H Matlanyane (ANC) expressed satisfaction with the presented document. It could provide valuable assistance. She asked if the required capacity in terms of budget, was available. The role of the Treasury was crucial. She said that she was seeing the beginning of something good. The question was how to go about setting targets. She said that the Minister had spoken of NARYSEC. She was worried that attention was focused too exclusively on youth. There were many elderly people in rural areas, and they were seldom discussed. On the issue of poverty, she remarked that rural people were saying that government was not taking them on board. Traditional leaders could have a role to play in that regard.

Dr M Swartz, Deputy Director-General, DRDLR, said that there were interventions besides NARYSEC. The path followed was that of asset based community development. Profiles were constructed of areas, to determine what assets were in villages. The process would commence with the known and move on to the unknown. Existing institutions other than co-ops, had been found. There were women’s groups cultivating tomatoes, sitting in the sun all day and not eating properly. The question was how they could be assisted to become what they wanted to be. The Department would pay youth groups to help, rather than external service providers. Academic research pointed out that there was food wastage in rural areas. A Kenyan technique to dry food and retain nutrition, was adopted. Methodology varied from village to village. Women were being trained in arts and crafts. Street committees decided about what projects to undertake. Security officials were needed to combat theft of livestock. Security co-ops would be established. Much was happening besides NARYSEC. There were amakrokokroko sports teams in villages for the over 60s to keep fit and retain interest in life.

The Chairperson referred to page one of the document, which stated that 168 farms had been recapitalised in the first quarter. The annual target had been 504. He said that the minister had claimed that 90% of acquired farms were dysfunctional. If there were 168 recapitalised farms, that implied infrastructure and skilling. He requested a list of those farms, so that the Portfolio Committee (PC) could visit them.

The Chairperson noted that four out of five agrarian reform targets had been exceeded. He asked if those targets had been set high enough. The baseline was a problem. He remarked that people had to start home gardens without the help of the Department. To continue that process, help would be needed from the Department of Agriculture. Everyone had to be involved. He agreed with Ms Steyn that it was necessary to think bigger than the budget. Targets had to be realistic, but it was time to tackle things on a larger scale.

Ms Mbatha responded that low target setting had indeed been possible, due to work being performed in haste. The DRDLR as co-ordinating department had to revisit targets to get realistic baselines. The value of numbers had to be weighed against impact. Value added had to be considered, and the impact on the economy. A plan of action would be taken to the public.

The Chairperson wondered who the public would be in this instance. Citizen monitoring was important.

The Chairperson referred to page five of the document. There was no report on Innovative service delivery models implemented, although one model had been completed.

The Minister responded that there was no information about integrated energy systems, because disaster had been dealt with by other means.

The Chairperson asked about Village viewing areas mentioned on page five. 47 had been established in the first quarter, whereas the target had only been 15 in terms of the old budget. He asked what was happening with regard to co-ordination with other departments, and about expenses.

Ms Leona Archary, Assistant Deputy Director, DRDLR, responded that the village viewing concept had given people access to the World Cup tournament and other events. It could increase learning, and give people access to such things as the State of the Nation address. Certainty about costs were lacking, but the Department had found a cheaper model. Challenges arose where it became necessary to use equipment in schools.

The Chairperson asked about households and individuals linked to Community Nutrition Development Centres (CNDCs). The fact that there was no information about that, presented a challenge. It seemed that the DRDLR was unable to instruct other departments. The Portfolio Committee (PC) had asked right at the beginning how much leverage the DRDLR had on other departments. Often other departments could not provide reports. He warned the DRDLR not to wait until the end of the finance year to inform the PC that other departments were not on board. The Comprehensive Rural Development Programme was a good one, and could not be allowed to fail. Other departments had to co-operate.

The Minister responded that the DRDLR had decided about leverage as part of the cluster. He said that Outcome 4 provided for a report on Ministerial intervention, to exert pressure on other departments to do their part. It distributed responsibilities across departments. Challenges were identified.

The Chairperson said that he appreciated the interest shown by the Presidency, represented in the meeting. He stressed that all interventions had to be on time, it would not do to wait until the Minister approached the President. Departments not doing their rightful share, had to be identified. The Department would be held to account about service delivery. Things were being done that could not be seen. The whole Committee had to go and see for itself.

With reference to the Biblical text of John 3:16, the Chairperson said that the Committee was likewise a witness to what it had seen. He suggested that a move occur from a project to a programme approach. The question was if non-CRDP villages were also motivated. He quoted Reverend Stofile, who advocated a hen approach, rather than a fish approach. Amidst some laughter, he explained that a hen lays one egg and tells the whole village, whereas the fish lays many eggs, but keeps silent about it. He told the Department to trumpet its success. People were motivated by advertising, which constantly told them that everybody were moving in a certain direction, and that they would get left behind. Villages had to be motivated to get with the programme. In Cuba, 12 people launched a revolution, and because they made their achievements public, others were motivated to join in. He quipped that koeksisters and bottled fruit would be considered to add to food security in rural areas.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.

Share this page: