Mechanisation Programme & Tractor Allocation: National Department briefings

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

05 March 2013
Chairperson: Mr M Johnson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The national Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and representatives from three provincial departments briefed the Committee on the progress of implementation of the mechanisation and tractor distribution programmes. The DAFF noted that guidelines had been drawn for household god production and there had been delivery and transfer of tractors to all nine provinces. The DAFF was well aware of the challenges of food security and the high costs of food in the rural areas, and a private public partnership programme had been devised by the Minister last September to try to boost food production and availability in some provinces. The draft policy of the DAFF provided that poor and indigent people were to be provided with assistance, which included use of tractors and delivery of fertilisers and, in some cases, irrigation, free of charge. However, it later appeared that some people were being charged for use of tractors, with figures of R400 per day being raised in relation to Eastern Cape. It seemed that the DAFF mechanisation draft policy did not prescribe exactly how the provinces should support the poor communities, but left the distribution and allocation of procedures to the provinces. 143 468 hectares of land in total were cultivated, using tractors distributed by DAFF. Other initiatives such as the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme also supported farmers with getting equipment. Some of the challenges outlined included the fact that demand was greater than supply, that changing weather patterns influenced planting times, and that, despite training, many people were unable to drive or operate the equipment properly. There were not many centres maintaining the tractors, despite procedures that should be followed, there were difficulties transporting tractors from place to place and they proved difficult to use on smaller areas of land. Delivery of fuel was highlighted as a problem in one province, and vast distances that the tractors had to be transported from one agricultural area to another was particularly a problem in Northern Cape.

Members were not impressed with the presentation, which they felt did not address a number of issues and which was not specific enough. Several questioned exactly when DAFF would finalise its policies and present them to the Committee, and said that they did not agree that each province should be implementing in a different way, as uniform practices were needed. They called for full reports on exactly how many tractors were distributed, where, in whose names they were registered, and the names of beneficiaries. They wanted also full studies to be done on the impact of the initiatives on the lives of the poor. They were also not happy with the lack of information on servicing and maintenance and wanted this also to be specified. Members were generally not happy with the principles around distribution of tractors and felt that the national Department should retain more accountability, and should be able to get the information on a regular basis from the provinces. Members commented that some people were not benefiting from the programme at all and its implementation still seemed haphazard. There was no breakdown given of all crops planted, and Members were concerned that in some areas ploughing had not even started. They asked for details of crop yields, comparisons with yields on government-assisted land, and comparisons also to the previous years. One of the problems, according to one Member, was that when government made promises to assist, people would not even try to use draught animals and initiate their own planting but would simply sit back and wait to be assisted, so far more improvements were needed in the whole programme. Members asked for more information on the status of testing facilities, asked why the colleges could not be used to store tractors, rather than seeking to build new facilities, and asked how many engineers were employed. They also wanted reports from the DAFF on the investigation into officials who allegedly had rented out tractors and boats to family members. Members asked if the programme involved soil testing and met market needs, as also whether the tractors were suitable for use in certain areas, and questioned why they were being imported. They urged that people working the communal lands should be paid for their work, and that the value of the programmes must be assessed. Members noted that they needed to get reports from the provincial departments, and suggested that a meeting be called with the NCOP, to get reports from the  national and provincial departments, with another Member suggesting that it would be useful also to involve the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and National Treasury. They were critical of the fact that the DAFF had started this programme without having proper policy in place and asked when exactly that policy would be presented to the Committee. One Member suggested the need for an audit into the programme, but the Chairperson said that this would be a final step and that more research and presentation of figures was first needed, as the information should all be available. 

Meeting report

Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson said that this meeting would focus on the mechanisation report from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF or the Department). Much had been said about the progress or lack of progress in this programme, across provincial departments. He noted that the Committee had originally intended that the provincial legislature should had been present but the administration had not communicated this to the provincial legislatures.

He briefly outlined some changes to the programme. Because Parliament was only tabling its strategic plan on 13 March, the Portfolio Committee would had to re-arrange its programme.  Consideration of the strategic plan and budget of the DAFF, and issues around the Marine Living Resources Fund would be heard on Friday, and he called for Members to submit comment to the  Committee Secretary by Thursday.

The Committee had been advised, by the House Chair, that all legislation must be done by the end of the term. The Committee had applied for permission to do a study tour, with suggested dates from 7 to 14 April, but this had not been finalised. He noted the apologies from two Members.

Mr Sipho Ntombela, Acting Director General, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, noted that he had invited some Heads of Department to attend this meeting, and there were representatives present from  Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Northern Cape provinces. These provinces were accountable to the provincial legislature, but Parliament had the power to request their presence.

Mechanisation Programme and Tractor Allocation: Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries briefing
Mr Siphiwe Mkhize, Deputy Director General, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, noted that in South Africa, 143 468 hectares of land had been cultivated. The mechanisation programme was one way to address food insecurity in the country. Mechanisation could increase household food production. The cost of mechanisation was not affordable at household food production level, and it was recommended that poor people should be provided with mechanisation so that they could grow their own food. In the past, people used donkeys and cows to cultivate, but now those animals were scarce, which meant that government needed to make interventions. He noted that the DAFF did believe that there was sufficient land available in the communal areas and in private areas. Transport costs increased the price of food in rural areas. Food insecurity existed in rural areas, and this was due to high costs of food, accessibility and increased value chain and increased dependency on social grants. It was estimated that two million households had access to land but no ability to produce food on that land, because of input supplies and inadequate manual labour to work the available land.

Mr Mkhize highlighted the equipment provided to provinces so far, which included:
24 x 42 kW 4WD Tractors
36 x 65 kW 4WD Tractors
12 x 90 kW 4WD Tractors
12 x Ripper- 5 Tine auto
22 x Trailed Offset Disc Harrows -18 discs of 26”
12 x Trailed Offset Disc Harrows- 24 discs of 26”
26 x Offset Disc Harrows -10 discs of 22” on 3-point linkage
15 x Mouldboard ploughs –  4 row Auto reset heavy duty
30 x Mouldboard ploughs – 3 row frame plough
40 x Disc plough s– 4 row Disc heavy duty plough
20 x Planters –Mechanical 2 row planter with fertilizer bins [maize & beans]
20 x Trailers – E-Natis registered , 4 wheel dropside
20 x Crop Sprayers – 75 liter/min piston pump , 600 liter tank , 12m boom
20 x Cultivators – 4 row cultivator with fertilizer bins
40 x Rotary slashers -1,5 meter cutting width , four blades
25 x Ridgers -1 row disc ridger
30 x Bin fertilizer spreader – 300 liter , 3- point linkage

The provinces that benefited were the Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo, Northern Cape, North West and Western Cape. In some, maize planters were exchanged for wheat drills. Mpumalanga and KwaZula Natal had received 85 tractors and associated implements earlier.

The Chairperson interrupted, and said the main interest of the Committee was the extent and impact of the implementation of the mechanisation programme, not its background.

Mr Mkhize noted that point, and described the status of what the Department was doing. He noted that delivery, transfer, registration, and distribution to operational sites and services of implemented equipment were done in all nine provinces. Only the Western Cape and the Northern Cape did not register equipment and services implemented, because this province had not yet developed the mechanisation programme at that time. There had been some developments in the Western Cape and Northern Cape. The implements had been distributed to the districts in most provinces, with the exception of Western Cape, at the time of preparing the report. When the implements and tractors were forwarded to the Provinces, the Director General had to sign off, because that was viewed as a donation in terms of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) to the Provincial structures.

The mechanisation policy did not prescribe how the provinces should go about supporting communities. Basically the policy indicated that the poor and indigent in local municipalities and communities should be provided with mechanisation support for free. Other inputs were also needed, such as provision of fertiliser, and some provinces went further and provided irrigation. The amount of land that had been cultivated using government tractors in provinces was 143 468 hectares. In the Eastern Cape, for instance there was a special intervention by the Minister as a result of high food prices in September and October last year, with figures now available on the amount of land prepared by the provinces, communal land prepared by provinces and the new interventions. By end January, there was 9 000 hectares prepared in Eastern Cape. Ploughing and planting continued and elsewhere in the country there were people planting potatoes. Beans were planted in most areas in the country but the hectares provided for this were slightly less than what was done on the ground as of 31 January 2013.

Mr Mkhize summarised the total hectares cultivated in each province, as follows:

Eastern Cape - 9 112
Free State - 2 912
Gauteng - 2 036
KwaZulu Natal - 27 104
Limpopo - 3 938
Mpumalanga - 81 338
Northern Cape - 977
North West - 16 051
Western Cape - 16 051
Total - 143 468

The 143 468 hectares indicated the amount of land that was prepared using government tractors. The amount of land prepared in other ways, including land that was prepared by using government funding, was four times larger than this amount. Other initiatives, like the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) supported farmers in other ways. Provinces also farmed maize, grain, beans, and vegetables like carrots, spinach and groundnuts. The focus was to ensure food security and to ensure that tractors were used to benefit the poor.

The main problem experienced was that the equipment provided catered for only a small portion of the demand. Supply chain processes hampered effective utilisation of the equipment. The cost of providing input supplies associated with the mechanisation exceeded the budget available in provinces. An order had been issued for the micro-dots to be etched in the Western Cape.

Mr R Cebekhulu (IFP) expressed disappointment that the provincial departments were not present to give information on the processes of the mechanisation programme. He asked how the tractors and structures were distributed, because in some areas they were distributed in abundance.

Mr Cebekhulu wanted to know what the departments did to ensure planting after the rainy season. He commented that there may be a lot of land, but because of the lack of equipment, people could not work on the land, and they needed to prepare for the next season.

Mr Cebekhulu felt a sense of lack of commitment on the side of the officials. He urged that applications be made for servicing of the tractors. He noted that when the Committee had visited Msinga, there were 26 tractors that needed to be serviced, and fourteen tractors were lying idle, because they needed tyres or spare parts before they were fit to work in the fields. Tractor operators were expected to service more than two areas and there was, in general, lack of necessary support to the poor communities.

Mr Cebekhulu wanted to know exactly what was happening, how the provinces were doing their work, and how they were providing implements. People in rural areas were being charged high prices in their shops, because of the transportation costs. The Department must be seriously committed to land use, in order to reduce this burden on rural people.

Mr L Gaehler (UDM) raised a question about the money that locals paid to have tractors cultivate their land. In Mdinga, in the OR Tambo region, people were apparently being charged R400, and in Athlone they were asked to pay about R1 800 per hectare.

Mr Gaehler asked how the tractors were distributed in the Eastern Cape, and by whom. He stressed that it should be officials doing this work. Although Mpumalanga seemed to be working quite well, he wanted to know what was happening in other provinces, where there was a lot of communal land, and who decided upon the pool of people who must be assisted, as well as attending to the distribution of tractors on the ground. There were still poor communities who had not been assisted by the mechanisation programme.

Ms A Steyn (DA) was not pleased with the progress report. This presentation did not give a breakdown of all crops planted, and she asked DAFF to clarify if the figure of 74 000 plants planted in Mpumalanga was the correct amount, or whether it was a typing error. There was a concern that a lot of planting was still happening, although the deadlines were past. Members had seen that in north eastern parts of Eastern Cape, in December, ploughing had not been started, and she wondered how much had been done in January, pointing out that there was very little maize growing. She also asked what the harvest yields would be, and  how much was harvested in the previous year. She had visited Free State and was informed that farmers had to plough twice because there was a problem, and the yield was not worth the effort. The amounts spent were “disastrous”.

Ms Steyn stressed that there was a need to get more information from the Department and provinces. She reiterated concerns around the location of tractors, parked tractors in the provinces and missing tractors. She asked that the Committee be given full reports on the status of the tractors, the persons using the tractors, and an update from the Western Cape Province on the mechanisation process in that province.

Ms M Pilusa-Mosoane, (ANC) asked that the Eastern Cape Province officials explain why there were no statistics for ploughed crops and the type of crops that were ploughed, although the mechanisation process was operating in the province. She also wanted clarity about the statistics of plants ploughed in Gauteng, and reports on missing tractors in other provinces. She asked what the problems were in implementing the mechanisation programme, as the land was available in provinces.  She asked for the exact amount of money spent on the mechanisation programme.

Mr C Msimang (IFP) requested a report on mechanisation in rural areas. He was glad that the officials had been honest that there were more challenges than solutions in implementing the mechanisation programme. Due consideration must be given to the fact that food security was in jeopardy, and rising figures of unemployment meant that people were dependent on ploughing. He asked what the Department would do to promote planting, but also said that poverty arose because so many unemployed and rural people were totally dependent on the Department to promote planting. They were not taking their own initiatives to plant, because of advertisements that governments would provide implements, so they would not use draught animals to plough. Another problem was the constantly-changing weather patterns, the fact that planting had to be done before December, and the need for irrigation. He asked if the Department had a plan to improve the mechanisation programme.

Mr P Van Dalen (DA) highlighted that the presentation done by the Department did show the spread of the tractors in the provinces. However, he wanted to know more on the impact of the equipment in the provinces, the beneficiaries of the mechanisation programme, how many full time jobs had been created, and wanted also to be given addresses of people that he could contact to follow up on the progress of the programme. Members would like to visit the places where the mechanisation programme was running and assess the impact.

Mrs M Phaliso (ANC) said that there was very little information from the Forestry and Fisheries sector on the draft mechanisation policy, and wanted to know of its involvement in the making f that policy. Forestry was generally a neglected policy area. She also made the point that importing agricultural equipments did not promote any empowerment. There were 20% of Agricultural testing facilities operative in the country. She asked about the condition of the testing facility at the University of KwaZulu Natal. I

Ms Phaliso said that the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) had initiatives supporting agriculture, and wanted those to be fully implemented. She noted that the reason why Fisheries became part of Agriculture was because of food security. She asked about the number of engineers that were employed by DAFF, in all three sectors.

Ms Phaliso asked for an explanation of why some producers in the Free State had to purchase tractors and how the Department dealt with the situation.

Ms Phaliso wanted to hear of progress that DAFF had made into investigation of the officials who were alleged to have been renting and distributing tractors and boats to family members. The Department must inform the Committee whether there was a policy of renting of out tractors on a commercial, private or subsistence basis.

Ms Phaliso was concerned about the lack of support in provinces and said there must be structures in place for at least three years for the monitoring and distribution of tractors. In Northern Cape there  was land but there was no strong support system for mechanisation.

Mr S Abram (ANC) said that he was not satisfied with the quality of the presentation. He wanted to know the cost of agricultural equipment bought by the Department and whether value for money was achieved from the mechanisation programme. The Department needed to compare the current figures with the cost of equipment given to the provinces in previous financial years. He noted that in the Tshabvu Mapfanyana districts some tractors were delivered yet other equipment was still standing there idle.

Mr Abram noted that in 2012 the Committee was informed that there was a draft policy on mechanisation, and he asked whether this was still a draft, and if it was available. The main problem was that since 2011, tractors and other farming equipment had been distributed without a national policy. The mechanisation programme was implemented haphazardly, with some provinces drafting their own policies, and others having no policies. During a Committee meeting in September 2011, a representative from another organisation had confirmed that the buying of tractors was done without consultation by the DAFF of the farmers.

Mr Abram agreed with his colleagues that more information was needed and asked specifically for details on the status of equipment and testing centres in the provinces, the use of tractors, and who took responsibility for the maintenance of tractors and fuel costs. Information on the number of tractors that were distributed in particular locations was needed. He urged that, after spending millions of rands on the purchasing of equipment and farming equipment, it should not be left idle, and DAFF must therefore take the responsibility to ensure that the mandate of government was carried out, by distributing the equipment to the people. Accounts must be given of the number of tractors that were given in each province, the names of beneficiaries who received the equipment, and the status of tractors in the provinces. He was dissatisfied at the total numbers of hectares cultivated using government tractors. The DAFF should also account for the total harvest of crops from the farms. The expenditure by the Department must be shown to make a difference to people’s lives, and it was on this point that the DAFF would be judged, not by figures in tables. He also questioned the integrity of information that DAFF was presenting, noting that not merely a presentation, but meaningful information, was needed.

Mr M Cele (ANC) asked what the Department had done to correct the problems in the provinces.

The Chairperson said that the Provincial and National Departments should be called to account for the amounts of money allocated to them. The Department had indeed jumped into this programme without preparing a proper policy, and this was incorrect.

The Chairperson noted that a charge was made for use of tractors in Eastern Cape, but asked for details on the cycle for payment and how the actual production in the farms had been conducted. At the end of the day he also stressed that the aim was to promote access to the markets. He also asked where ownership of the equipment vested and in whose names were the tractors registered. He agreed that the DAFF needed to account fully for returns on investments made in the mechanisation programme. The prime aim of the programme was to make a difference in people’s lives.

The Chairperson noted that the University of KwaZulu Natal and the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) had testing centres and asked why the facilities were not being used. He also asked about the tractors being dumped in the provinces and the process of dispatching tractors in the provinces.

Mr Ntombela agreed that there were policy gaps in the mechanisation programme. The Department still needed to correct the policy guidelines. In situations where there was concurrent accountability across spheres of government, the Minister or Director General did have some difficulty in accounting precisely to this Parliament, as they were not directly involved in the processes on the ground in the provinces and districts. Provincial departments must provide information on what was happening in their provinces.

Mr Mkhize said that when the Department purchased tractors and implements, there was a draft policy in place, which was now at approval stage. People were settled on arable land packages, free mechanisation support by way of tractors was given, to support the indigent and poor people, and the provinces would formulate their own programmes to dispatch the equipment on the ground. The policy position was setting up a structure to give fertilisers and tractors, at no cost, to the poor communities. There was delivery of equipment to the provinces. Tractors were no longer the property of DAFF after they were transferred by the Director General of DAFF to the provinces. When they were taken to the districts, the Heads of provincial departments would acknowledge receipt in writing, and then dispatch them to the districts. There were delays in the registering of equipment in the Western Cape.

Mr Mkhize added that once the Director General had transferred the equipment to the provinces, it was the provinces’ responsibility to allocate and distribute tractors. Many factors affected distribution of tractors, such as the amount of arable land and the number of poor communities in the area. The demand on the ground far exceeded what the government could offer. Mpumalanga had more than 400 tractors, but this province had had tractors before the mechanisation programme, and the province was a combination of large and small plots, and its harvest output was better than other provinces. It had also managed to contract with someone who fixed equipment faster, also increasing their output. Other provinces were changing their programmes and were trying to adopt better structured programmes for the implementation of the mechanisation program.

Mr Mkhize explained that where tractors were broken, there were processes that the communities should follow to ensure that the tractors would be fixed. Provinces would generally measure their progress on the basis of the targets they had set, which may vary according to the type of people that the provinces were supporting.

The provinces faced challenges in that some tractors spent more time being moved than actually spent cultivating on site, at the farms, and the district officials were not always ensuring that they were being operated properly. It took longer for a tractor to cultivate a smaller piece of land. It was difficult to implement the policy speedily.

Mr Mkhize assured the Committee that DAFF and the Department of Social Development invested quite a lot of time to ensure that there was equitable food distribution among poor communities. Under a programme with the Food Bank, the Food Bank bought food from communal farmers for redistribution. He agreed, however, that in general, food produced by commercial farmers did become more expensive when transportation costs were added, saying that a study conducted in December 2012 concluded that a rural person spent R20 more on a food basket than the same food in urban areas.

The cut off time times for ploughing had been localised because of different ploughing seasons in the provinces, so the cut-off times were different. Coastal areas could still plant potatoes in the current season. The reasons were largely to do with when rainy seasons occurred, as well as climate change considerations as the provinces had to adhere to the natural dictates of the weather patterns.

Mr Mkhize noted that all provinces got 72 tractors, except for KwaZulu Natal and Mpumalanga who received 82 tractors and who had got support for their programmes earlier than other departments. He reiterated that once the Director General of DAFF signed off the tractors, the provinces decide on the redistribution. It was difficult for the DAFF to dictate to the provincial departments how distribution should be done, although DAFF would consult the provinces on their targets and progress.

He noted that in KwaZulu Natal one tractor was hijacked and taken across the border to Mozambique. The province opened a case and processes had been taken to ensure awareness that the tractors were still government property. This province should take the necessary steps to ensure that the case was managed properly.

It was not always possible for DAFF to get figures on exactly how much money was spent on cropping since the mechanisation programme started. The Department would, however, request information from the provinces.

Mr Mkhize said that the mechanisation policy encouraged the production of maize and beans. People were good at planting maize and beans, and they had ways of preserving beans. Potatoes could be kept six months after harvesting. The Department did not want to dictate exactly what a farmer should plant, but did provide advice to farmers. The Department had photos of work done on the ground and standing crops in the ground in certain provinces, but had not presented them today, as it had confined itself to what had actually been requested by the Committee.

Mr Mkhize said that the information regarding the crops planted in Mpumalanga was stated correctly, and the hectares that the province cultivated were represented correctly as 81 338 hectares. The information on Public Private Partnerships, as represented in the presentation, was also correct.

Mr Mkhize agreed that some tractors had been imported by government, but that was out of the officials’ control and had to do with governance.

Mr Mkhize said that the ARC testing facility was quite comprehensive. Both ARC and DAFF provided processes for testing of tractors, and all those purchased by DAFF were tested, particularly in relation to engines and oil.

Provincial presentations: Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Western Cape
Mr T Maruping, Chief Financial Officer, Northern Cape Provincial Department of Agriculture, said that in the Northern Cape, tractors had been transferred and the province then started the distribution. The final application for distribution was approved in December and the date targeted for final roll out of the tractors was 15 April. 46 tractors had been distributed to beneficiaries. In regard to the allocation, the beneficiaries would make requests to the districts, and the districts and the municipalities would interact on the distribution process. Northern Cape Province faced challenges in the servicing structures for tractors and the distance that tractors had to travel to the communities.

Mrs K Mquzi, Deputy Director General, Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform (DRDAR), Eastern Cape province, said that hiring charges for tractors were determined by different principles. In one area, for example, the hire charge was R400, but this was subsidised. The DRDAR and the Department of Social Justice in this province did not charge anything. DRDAR had planned to charge 30% of the cost to the communities and 70% would be subsidised. There was distribution of 74 tractors, of which 24 were distributed to Amathole, 10 were distributed to Chris Hani and 26 were distributed to O R Tambo. The reason for that distribution was that coastal areas started planting earlier than other inland areas. As a result of the mechanisation programme, 5 910 hectares were planted. Tractor driver training courses were conducted, 45 tractor drivers were employed. Around 15 000 or 20 000 tonnes of grain were consumed by the communities. 90% of the grains were maize and 4% of the grains were potatoes. DRDAR received a R38 million grant from the National Department. The challenges faced were communication and logistics constraints, finding the optimal use for the tractors, and the lack of experience of the drivers with new equipment.

Mr Mohlale, Representative, Western Cape Provincial Department of Agriculture, said that his province had not started the delivery of the mechanisation process because it had received the batch of tractors on 18 October 2012, but transfer was only effected in February 2013. The Western Cape Province was working closely with DAFF on the registration process of the tractors. The province had drawn a delivery plan, which indicated the beneficiaries and the targeted hectares that should be ploughed. The province received tractors from CASP before the mechanisation programme started.

Mr T Van Rooyen, Senior Manager, Provincial Department of Agriculture, KwaZulu Natal said that the policy for this department aimed to help the poor people and people with less than two hectares of land. The policy for mechanisation in the province was signed in August 2010. This Department achieved three hours of effective of ploughing with the tractors, due to the fact that tractors could not plough from one place to another place. The Department had then acquired roll back trucks to make it easier to move tractors from one piece of land to another. It was negotiating with local service providers to conduct maintenance and deal with breakdowns. The supply of diesel to tractors was still an on-going problem since the Department had had problems when a service provider did not adhere to the 48-hour rule of delivery, so it was seeking another provider. In this provinces also, the skills level of drivers were a challenge, but before the planting season drivers were sent to a training course that had improved their ability. It was recognized that there were no people with sufficient management skills in this Department, something that was being addressed, to find the right people to manage the tractors and equipment distribution. In addition, this Department was investigating where service centres could be set up to store and service tractors. This Department used a system of application forms being filled out by community members, from which lists of priority areas and individuals would be identified and assisted. Potatoes were planted on 1 193 hectares of land.

Mr Ntombela added that DAFF had been told also of the need to issue boats.

Mr Mkhize acknowledged that the University of KwaZulu Natal had a testing centre but that centre had not been used by government

Mr T Van Rooyen noted that the Department of Engineering at the University of KwaZulu Natal was testing electric tractors, some eighteen months previously, but that the person who was running the testing was no longer present at the university.

The Chairperson proposed that the provincial legislative committees needed to meet to get sufficient information about the implementation of the mechanisation programme. He also thought that oversight visits were needed to some areas and the ARC testing centre, to get more information in particular on the condition of the ARC centre.

The Chairperson said that his greatest concern was the different mechanisation policies adopted by the provinces, and the principle of whether the provinces should decide on their own policies. There had been concerns raised also to this Committee about the efficiency of tractors for cultivation in some communities. There were gaps in the mechanisation programme.

Mr Cebekhulu asked for a follow up on the usage of tractors in communities

Mr Abram asked again for an indication of the amounts that were spent in the mechanisation programme, the number of tractors that were allocated, the registration of tractors, including the names in which they were registered, and the beneficiaries who received the tractors. The National Department had been given a budget to carry out a function, and so it had to account, and ensure coherence in the policy. He asked again when the policy would be presented to this Committee. He questioned whether the provinces would implement the policy or run according to their own policies. He stressed that all the funds put to the mechanisation programme should be accounted for and there had to be an assessment of how the funds changed the lives of poor communities, particularly in the 2011 and 2012 years.  He asked also for a report on the forensic investigations that were mentioned by Mr Van Rooyen. He felt that provinces must present reports on the progress of the mechanisation programme, to their provincial legislatures. He wondered if figures of crops planted were being
correlated by the national Department, and stressed that it was up to this Department to ensure that the provincial departments provided full reports. If the provinces were not willing to account, this Committee would have to think carefully about the budget allocations.

Mr Gaehler agreed that there should a meeting with the provinces and they must account for the funds given to them and the usage of tractors in the mechanisation programme. He also agreed that there should be one policy, so that all people received the same services from government. He asked DAFF if there was a master plan to cater for the agricultural demands of the country. He asked whether DAFF tested soil suitability and met market needs when implementing the mechanisation program. The concept of access to the agricultural markets should be carried through in all provinces. He also asked whether the tractors distributed were suitable for the specific areas in the communities and asked where and how departments met to ensure co-ordination of agriculture issues in the country. Some people were not being assisted by this programme. He was worried about the lack of accountability, and urged that provincial and national policies must be in line.

Mr van Dalen asked why government had embarked on a method which enabled the national Department to purchase tractors instead of giving allocations to provincial departments to purchase according to their needs. This was open to abuse. He recommended that an independent auditor perform an audit on the use of funds and tractors in the Department. There was a need for proof and certainty that funds and tractors were given to the rightful beneficiaries.

Ms Steyn noted the statement that the mechanisation policy was developed in February 2011 in the Eastern Cape but said that when she had visited some areas, she had seen nothing being done on the ground. The Department had to come up with proper plans. Soil conservation must be part of the mechanisation policy. It was the function of the Department to ensure that it trained people on the management and care of the whole mechanisation programme. In the Eastern Cape, people were paying for their land to be ploughed but there was no set hiring price, and this was open to abuse.

Ms Pilusa-Mosoane asked exactly how much had been spent, since June 2011, on the mechanisation programme. She agreed that a full account of the work done by the provinces needed to be presented to the Committee. She too wanted to know exactly when the draft policy would be finalised. The National Department needed to follow up on the progress and use of funds by the provinces, and give specific information to the Committee on how the funds were spent. Commenting on the remark that KwaZulu Natal was trying to find a venue where tractors could be stored, she noted that agricultural colleges existed in every province, and suggested that these premises be used. She asked Western Cape for a date on which it would start to deliver the tractors.

Ms Phaliso asked who would conduct testing of the tractors. She wanted more details from Mr Mkhize as to what policy encouraged the planting of maize and beans. She said that greater emphasis should be placed on creating remunerated employment for people who worked on the lands in the communities, and the mechanisation programme must add value.

The Chairperson agreed that those working communal lands should be paid. He agreed that a full report was needed showcasing the distribution of tractors in the provinces and the allocation methods. He supported Mr Dalen’s suggestion that full information was needed on the use of funds and equipment, and suggested that more research had to be done into this.

Mr van Dalen suggested that an independent auditor should do an audit of amounts spent.

The Chairperson thought that more research was needed before any audits were done.

Ms Phaliso said that provincial departments had reports on the use of funds and distribution of tractors, and they must simply provide all the information, as a forensic report would be expensive. She suggested that the Chairperson invite the provincial legislatures, and possibly also heads of districts, to attend a meeting with the Committee, to ensure that all relevant information on the mechanisation programme was given.

Mr Gaehler said that the duty of the Department was to cater to the poor through the mechanisation program. The provincial departments must identify the needs in their provinces and ensure that the tractors were allocated to rightful beneficiaries.

The Chairperson said that more research was needed on the impact of mechanisation. He agreed that it would be useful to have a meeting with the DAFF, provincial departments and committees, and the NCOP. He asked how long it would take for the DAFF to come up with a standard policy.

Ms Phaliso suggested that the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and National Treasury also should be invited to the meeting suggested by the Chairperson.

Mr Abram said that researchers should also brief the Committee on what other methods there were for lawfully getting the provinces to account in parliament.

Mr Ntombela said that the Department would call an urgent meeting with the provinces and then would provide a summary on the challenges and expenditure of the mechanisation programme, as well as evaluation of its impact.

The meeting was adjourned.


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