Zero Hunger Programme provincial implementation: Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries briefing

NCOP Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy

15 May 2012
Chairperson: Ms A Qikani (ANC, Eastern Cape)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) briefed the Committee on the Zero Hunger Programme and Food Security Policy. The Zero Hunger Programme was designed as a strategic policy response to identified challenges, and the areas of intervention, specific objectives and municipalities in which it was to be implemented were described. The Programme sought optimal use of land, agrarian reform, ensuring land tenure for food security, enhancement of government’s food purchase programme and better production inputs. Food distribution strategies included provision of social safety nets and linking of beneficiaries to broader development initiatives, including  agro-industrial development. Centralized food safety control systems, food risk management, including attempts at regional food security, research and technology and establishment of databases were all envisaged. So far, the Department had established a National Steering Committee, and developed an action plan, supported by CASP, started a spatial planning and mapping exercise. Cabinet still needed to approve the Food Security Policy, which would lead to a White Paper and Bill. Baseline information was still being gathered, and the business case had to be finalised. The proposed implementation paths would include youth involvement.

The Food Security policy was designed to address availability, accessibility and utilisation of food in South Africa. A person consuming less than 1729Kcal daily was regarded as food insecure, and food poverty line was defined as a person spending less than R260 a month on food. Six pillars of the policy were set out, as economic transformation of food production and distribution sector, improved market participation, improved food distribution, improved awareness about nutrition education, better Risk Management, and establishment of an institutional framework.

Members expressed dissatisfaction with this presentation, as with other previous presentations of the Department, stating that none of the plans seemed to translate into real action and, despite this Department being long-established, it had yet to demonstrate real success. The Chairperson decried the Minister’s consistent absence from Committee meetings, and asked that officials convey this message. Members asked if the Department could give assurances on its ability to deliver the minimum requirement on the Zero Hunger Programme, enquired when it was to commence, what the budget would cover, how the food gardens would work, how water scarcity would be addressed and what the targets for production were, and whether profits were expected. They pointed out that the Department intended to establish fisheries, but previous attempts at this had failed, and also noted that the Department had still not provided a list of projects to this Committee, despite previous requests. They expressed great dissatisfaction at the answers to some of these questions, and said the Committee was no longer interested in hearing the same excuses and explanations. A representative of the Ministry requested that the Committee assist in providing the Ministry with practical ideas that could help synergise the programmes of the Department. The Committee responded that this was not its function, but Members thought that the Committee should, in private, discuss how it could ensure that the Department became more effective. The Chairperson closed the meeting and the Committee continued to deliberate.

Meeting report

Zero Hunger Programme: Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries briefing
Mr Bonga Msau, Chief Director: Food Services, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, outlined the Zero Hunger Programme and Food Security Policy for South Africa. He noted that the Zero Hunger Programme was a strategic response policy by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries  (DAFF or the Department) to identified challenges.  The programme identified a number of strategic areas of intervention. Firstly, it sought optimisation of land and agrarian reform contributions to economic empowerment of the vulnerable groups. This involved land tenure, for achieving food security, enhancing the government’s food purchase programme and enhancing provision of production inputs. Secondly, it set out food distribution strategies for access by all. This encompassed provision of social safety nets, linking beneficiaries to broader development initiatives and agro-industrial development. Thirdly, there should be centralized food safety control systems. Fourthly, it included Food Risk Management, which aimed for regional food security, promotion of employment creation, research and technology development and alteration of agricultural land use. In the fifth place, there should be databases established on availability, access and utilisation, to isolate where there was food insecurity. The various information systems should be stabilised and integrated. Lastly, there was a need to improve food utilisation.

He outlined the objectives of the Zero Hunger Programme, the selected district municipalities for the programme, and discussed the overview of the strategic concept (see attached document). He then noted the progress made to date by the Department on the programme. The Director-General had established a National Steering Committee, comprising of representatives from the Departments of Agriculture, Health, Social Development and Education, supported by a Technical Committee. The Food Security Policy for South Africa had been developed. An Action Plan with a key focal area framework had also been drawn. The Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme(CASP) had a particular focus on the Zero Hunger Programme objectives. The Department had done a spatial planning exercise, assisted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). There was mapping done of schools, hospitals, existing cooperatives and current market led operations. Finally, the Department was strengthening the integrated Zero Hunger Programme Task Teams at national, provincial, district, municipal and ward level.

The activities that were still outstanding were set out. These included Cabinet approval of the Food Security Policy, and the onward review to a White Paper and a Bill. Food insecurity baseline information was still being gathered. The business case still needed to be finalised, as well as the plotting of current functional interventions and output estimates. Approval and final implementation of the spatial mapping process was needed. Finally, there was a need for concurrent mapping of commodities for further support.

The proposed implementation paths identified included improved logistic systems, commodity development through proper business planning and smallholder development, community works programmes, which would be mobilised and facilitated through increased youth involvement, a concurrent analysis, and support for existing market led initiatives.

Food Security Policy for South Africa: Departmental briefing
Mr Msau went on to outline the Food Security Policy. This was based on sections 27 and 28 of the Constitution, which named access to sufficient food and water for all adult citizens and nutrition for all children as a right. 

The Food Security Policy was based on the availability, accessibility and utilisation of food in South Africa. In terms of accessibility, he noted that even though the majority of the country’s food was produced in the rural areas, markets were generally not geared to serving the rural areas. A study revealed that rural areas consumers paid, on average, R16.74 more for the same basket of food than consumers in urban area. Factors that led to instability in the supply of food included climate change and change in use of land patterns. Liberalisation of the food markets led to ill managed surpluses and shortages in food production.

Food Security was defined as adult daily consumption of 2650Kcal of food, and adults who consumed less than 1729Kcal daily were regarded as food insecure. The food poverty line was earmarked at spending less than R260 on food per month per person.

There were six pillars of the Food Security Policy, which were identified as:
1.  Economic transformation of food production and distribution sector
2. Improved market participation through application of the Black Economic Empowerment Charter,  preferential procurement to broaden the supply base, and a prescribed percentage of processed production from small holders and emerging farmers
3. Improved food distribution, achieved through improved safety nets, planned spatial development to ensure necessary supply and support for local production
4. Improved awareness about nutrition education and appointment of nutrition officers in every district, as well as school and community nutrition training
5. Risk Management through aiming for regional food security and making investment in research
6. Establishing the right institutional framework.

The Department recommended that the Food Security Policy for South Africa be approved by Cabinet.

Mr M Makhubela (ANC, Limpopo) asked for an assurance that the Department had the ability to deliver the minimum requirements on the Zero Hunger Programme in South Africa.

Mr Makhubela asked whether the Department had any information on the volume of food available in the nation’s reserves.

Mr Makhubela asked what the cost implication on infrastructure, and the logistical implications would be if more resources were dedicated to rural area food security.

Mr Makhubela asked what exactly the ‘Zero Hunger Programme’ meant.

Mr Msau explained that the Zero Hunger Programme was the Department’s strategy to ensure that, by the year 2030, no South African suffered from hunger. This programme was aimed at combating hunger and its structural causes, which continued to perpetuate inequality and social exclusion.

Mr Makhubela noted that one of the strategic areas of intervention under the Zero Hunger Programme was land tenure for food security, which prioritised women having equity in land ownership. He asked what progress the Department had made on this so far.

Mr G Mokgoro (ANC, Northern Cape) highlighted that although this Department was one of the oldest in the country, it had still to produce any definite success stories. The Department seemed always to have grand policies and plans, but these did not translate into real implementation. He stated the Zero Hunger Programme would only be successful if the policies were directed to the places where the small emerging farmers were. If this was not done, then the Department should take up the responsibility of creating emerging farmers, using available human resources.

Mr Mokgoro asked if the budget of R1.8 billion was expected to cover the entire country, or was earmarked for specific provinces.

Mr Mokgoro asked how the Department intended to market the programmes and whether it was targeting schools, hospitals, Correctional Services facilities and others. If so, it seemed that the target was very small market. Ideally, it should cover the whole country.

Mr D Worth (DA, Free State) referred to the planned R5 000 per garden, under the Zero Hunger Programme, and asked what this entailed.

Mr Worth asked what the Department’s plans were to overcome water challenges in areas without access to sufficient water or irrigation systems, to ensure that there would be no setbacks in the Zero Hunger Programme.

Mr Worth referred to the planned small scale fisheries under the Zero Hunger Programme, and remarked that a similar fish farm programme, also sponsored by this Department, had recently collapsed in East London. He therefore asked why the Department believed that this fishery would be any more successful.

Mr Worth noted that under the Zero Hunger Programme the Department had outlined plans to sell food to hospitals, correctional services facilities and schools, when there was increased food production. However, he wanted to know what the target for increased food production was, and whether it was intended to make a profit, or to ensure food security for the nation.

Ms B Mabe (ANC, Gauteng) noted that at a previous Committee meeting, the Director General had promised to forward a list of all projects of the Department to Members. She requested that the Department now expedite this, and suggested that once this list was received, Members should make oversight visits to all project sites.

The Chairperson expressed the Committee’s dissatisfaction with the presentations of the Department. None of the plans so far presented actually seemed to translate into real action. The Committee had visited a number of municipalities and had found no active projects, as reported in the Department’s previous reports. She asked whether the Department received reports from provinces and simply accepted them as the true state of things, without ensuring any proper monitoring procedures. She opined that it had become necessary for the Committee to ensure that, in future, officials of the Department would be present during the Committee’s oversight visits.

The Chairperson decried the Minister’s consistent absence at Committee meetings, when the Committee had requested the presence of the Department’s officials. She expressed the Committee’s frustration that the Committee was yet to receive the list of projects, despite the Director General having promised to send this to the Committee.

Mr Msau apologised for the Minister’s absence, but made the point that on occasion the Minister had appeared, and he would convey the message and the Committee’s concerns.

Mr Msau noted that the list of the Department’s projects had been submitted to the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, through the report that was done by the CASP Secretariat. He would ensure that it was also forwarded to this Committee, without further delay.

The Chairperson asked when the Zero Hunger Programme was expected to commence.

Mr Msau responded that the programme commenced in the current financial year.

Ms Rowena Joemat, Acting Director, DAFF, noted that the Department acknowledged its past record on failed projects and this acknowledgment was a contributory factor to the formulation of the Zero Hunger Programme. This intervention was hoped to ensure that small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) would be able to be absorbed into the value chain market, which was presently still dominated by a few big players.

The Chairperson interjected to state that the reality on the ground did not mirror the several intervention programmes that the Department had previously described. She questioned why the Department’s programmes were not realistic and practical.

Ms Joemat attempted to explain to Members that the Department had realised this and had chosen the option, to cease perpetually supporting projects that were not working.

Members stalled further explanation from the Department at this point. Several Members expressed their frustration at the  Department’s explanation.

Mr Mokgoro said that the plans were “all theory and no action”. He was of the opinion that officials of the Department were ignorant of the issues on which they were trying to speak, and that was the point where change was needed. He suggested that the Committee should meet in private, to reach a strategy defining clear steps as to how the Department could become effective.

Mr David Moeketsi, Representative, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, apologised to Members for the absence of the Minister, and acknowledged the frustration of Members, which he promised to convey to the Minister. He requested that the Committee assist in providing the Ministry with practical ideas that could help synergise the programmes of the Department.

The Chairperson responded that the Department had the internal resources to come up with the necessary ideas for its transformation, and to ensure that its programmes were successful. It was not the duty of the Committee to come up with ideas on behalf of the Department. The Committee was to oversee and monitor the activities of the Department and make recommendations where necessary.

The Chairperson, on behalf of Members, formally expressed great displeasure at the Department’s continued failed projects, and stated that the Committee was no longer interested in entertaining further explanations from the Department. The officials of the Department were excused.

The rest of the meeting was closed to the public.


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