Departments of Rural Development and Land Reform & Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on their 2014 Strategic Plans

NCOP Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy

10 July 2014
Chairperson: Mr O Sefako (ANC, North West)
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Meeting Summary

The purpose of the meeting was to give the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform,  and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry  and Fisheries an opportunity to present their strategic plans, annual performance plans and budgets for the 2014/15 financial year to the Select Committee on Land and Mineral Resources.

The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) present on three programmes, at the request of the Committee.   Programme 4 dealt with restitution, and the targets were to settle 1 457 new claims and finalise 983 claims in the MTEF period. The Programme would contribute to policy and legislation development: the reopening and exceptions to the 1913 Natives Land Act cut-off date policies and legislation. The Programme would prioritise the settlement of claims in the 27 priority districts.  To realise the vision and mission, the strategy had three key components: firstly, land rights restored in order to support land reform and agrarian transformation by 2019; secondly, lodgement of restitution land claims reopened for people who had not met the 1998 deadline; and thirdly, organisational change management.

Programmes 3 & 5 aimed to achieve agrarian transformation.  The Department had seven strategic goals for this term, of which goals two, three and four were to improve land administration, to promote equitable access to and sustainable use of land for development, and to promote sustainable rural livelihoods.


Members asked whether the Departmental budget was enough, whether there was a connection between the budget and the vacancy rate of more than 10%, and how the vacancy rate affected service delivery. Members also asked which Bills the department was processing and what stages they were in. They also asked about the nature of the technical support which the Department was offering municipalities and how it was coordinated. What was the reason for the huge increase in spending on geometrics and cadastral services, and did the Department had a plan to minimise the spending on consultants.

The presentation by the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) was attended by the Minister and Deputy Minister.  The presentation outlined the compliance statement, overview of the Minister, strategic overview, goals and objectives, outcome orientated goals, Annual Performance Plan, organogram and budget.

The Strategic Plan was premised on key government medium-term priorities that were informed by the National Development Plan (NDP) and the New Growth Path (NGP), which repositioned food security and agrarian transformation high on the economic development agenda of the country.

In his State of the Nation Address (SONA), the President had said that Government would provide comprehensive support to smallholder farmers and support would be provided to communities as well to engage in food production and subsistence farming to promote food security, in line with the Fetsa Tlala food production programme.

Food insecurity was a growing challenge in South Africa and Southern Africa. Climate change and inadequate investment in agricultural production as well as market access for developing producers were other challenges. The challenge facing the sector was to diversify its export destinations, as well as to broaden the basket of commodities and value-added products that were destined for export markets.  The challenge of growing the smallholder sector was closely tied up with the challenge of making smallholder agriculture more remunerative. Currently, more than half of all smallholder households lived below the poverty line.

The Department had four strategic goals, of which numbers two, three and four were to enhance production, employment and economic growth in the sector, to create an enabling environment for food security and sector transformation and the sustainable use of natural resources in the sector.  Planned policy and programme Initiatives were the Integrated Growth and Development Plan (IGDP) for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, developed in response to the policy requirements of Outcomes 4 and 7 that related to job creation, rural development and food security, as well as the Agricultural Policy Action Plan (APAP). The high-level responses offered in the IGDP had been translated into the new APAP, serving as the implementation arm of the IGDP. The encompassing objectives of APAP were to promote labour absorption and broaden market participation, strategic interventions aimed at increasing value-chain efficiencies and competitiveness, focusing on selected sub-sectors/value chains.

The department employed 6 965 people in funded posts and 63 additional staff members. There was a 10% vacancy rate. There was a 54% male:46% female gender balance department-wide.

The departmental budget for the 2014/15 was R 6.69 billion, of which R 1.7 billion would go towards the compensation of employees. The allocation for Ilima Letsema under Programme 2 was R460.6 million.

Members asked whether the programmes of the Department were adequate, whether more were needed, or whether they had to be reduced for more efficiency. Members asked how many smallholder farmers were active in SA, what the breakdown was per province, and whether they were economically viable. They wanted to know what was being done by government to give smallholder producers access to markets, and whether extension officers were still relevant. 
 

Meeting report

The Chairperson opened the meeting by quoting Napoleon Bonaparte when he was incarcerated on St Helena. It read as follows:”My true glory is not having won forty battles; Waterloo will erase the memory of my many victories.  What nothing will erase, what will live forever, is my Civil Code, and the proceedings of the Council of State”. He said the outcome of the engagement of the Select Committee (SC) with the departments over which it exercised oversight, through presentations and questions, would determine the product which would be achieved.

He expressed dismay at the way in which the Committee had received information from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR).  In future, the Committee had to receive presentations seven days before the meeting, so that Members could familiarise themselves with the content and engage with it meaningfully during the meeting.

The Committee adopted the minutes of a previous meeting.
 

Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR)
Mr Mduduzi Shabane, Director General (DG), DRDLR,  apologised for the late distribution of the presentation and committed to rectifying the situation. He said the presentation would span only three programmes of the department, namely Programmes 3, 4 and 5, at the request of the Committee.

Programme 4:
Ms Nomfundo Gobodo, Chief Land Claims Commissioner, presented the section of the Strategic Plan which dealt with Programme 4, Land Restitution.

The mandate for restitution emanated from section 25 (7) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 (Act No108 of 1996).  Restitution (of land rights) was one of the four pillars of Government’s Land Reform Programme, the others being redistribution, tenure reform and development.  Restitution of land rights was implemented under the Restitution of Land Rights Act, 1994 (Act 22 of 1994). This Act established the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR) and the Land Claims Court (LCC). The functions of the CRLR were to solicit and investigate claims for land restitution and to prepare them for settlement. The LCC adjudicated disputes emanating from the restitution process.

The context for the strategic plan for 2014-19 was the National Development Plan (NDP), the Medium Term Strategic Framework 2014-19 and the revised land reform policy, legislative and implementation framework (green paper and subsequent policies).  Restitution planning was therefore aligned to the NDP and the National Growth Path (NGP), the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme (and outcome 7), the reopening of lodgement of claims for five years, and other priorities of government as set out in the State of the Nation Address.

The Restitution Programme will contribute directly to the NDP goals of building a united country and resolving historical injustices, by restoring land rights or providing alternative redress to persons and communities dispossessed of rights to land as a result of past racially discriminatory laws or practices.

The redress to be provided to restitution beneficiaries would be a catalyst for development and social cohesion.

The strategic plan of the Commission for the Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR) was aligned with the strategic objectives and goals of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR)

The targets were to settle 1 457 new claims and to finalise 983 claims in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period. The programme would contribute to policy and legislation development, the reopening and exceptions to the 1913 Natives Land Act cut-off date, policies and legislation. The programme would prioritise the settlement of claims in the 27 priority districts.

To realise the vision and mission, the strategy had three key components: firstly, land rights restored in order to support land reform and agrarian transformation by 2019; secondly, lodgement of restitution land claims reopened for people who did not meet the 1998 deadline; and thirdly, organisational change management.

Targets for the 2014/15 financial year were:
Number of land claims to be settled – 379.  Number of claims finalised – 239.Number of phases of projects approved – 53. Number of claims lodged by 1998 to be researched – 1 445. The Commission planned to have 14 lodgement offices open and functional during this period.

The original baseline allocation for financial year 2014/15 was R3.1 billion. The Commission had requested R4.3 billion and R2.3 billion was allocated, which was 53% of the budget. (For breakdowns per province, see presentation.)

The Chairperson said this Committee dealt with a very critical matter. The ANC-led government was more serious than ever to deal with poverty, and as long as land was concentrated in the hands of the few, the status quo would be maintained.

Programmes 3 and 5:
Mr Eugene Southgate, Deputy DG, Corporate Support Services, DRDLR, presented on Programmes 3 and 5.  The presentation outlined the 2014-2019 Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), 2014-19 Strategic Plan, Policy & Legislation Initiatives, Strategic Goals, as well as the 2014/15 Annual Performance Plan.

The MTSF served as the principal guide to planning and resource allocation across all spheres of government, and also set out the country’s developmental challenges. 

The main challenge for rural development has been marginalisation of the poor, with mutual acknowledgement of, among others, the problems of apartheid’s spatial design patterns, land ownership patterns, and the fact that reform had not yet translated into the establishment of sufficient numbers of sustainable new black farmers.

The NDP identified six policy imperatives, which provided the focus areas for this MTSF period.  The first three were improved land administration and spatial planning for integrated development in rural areas, sustainable land reform (agrarian transformation), and improved food security.

2014-19 Strategic Plan
This plan aimed to achieve agrarian transformation.  The following Bills would drive the required transformation:

 

The Electronic Deeds Registration Bill would facilitate the enactment of electronic deeds registration provisions;

The Regulation of Land Holding Bill would provide for the establishment and composition of the Land Commission;

The Extension of Security of Tenure Amendment Bill would attempt to find lasting solutions to tenure insecurities;

The Communal Property Association Amendment Bill would amend the Communal Property Associations Act of 1996.
The Land Commission Bill would enable the establishment of the Land Commission (LC);

The Extension of Security of Tenure Amendment Bill;

The Land Rights Management Board (LRMB) and the Property Valuation Bill.


The Department had seven strategic goals for this term of which goals two, three and four were to improve land administration, to promote equitable access to, and sustainable use of, land for development and to promote sustainable rural livelihoods. (See presentation)

Under the heading of Strategic Objectives, Objective 2.1 was improved spatial planning, 2.2 was an integrated and comprehensive land administration system and 3.3 was facilitating the establishment of rural enterprises and industries. (See presentation).

Annual Performance Plan (APP) for 2014/15
The APP set out the targets for FY 2014/15 under the Programmes: (1) Administration, (2)Geo-spatial and Cadastral Services, (3)Rural development, (4) Restitution and (5) Land Reform.

Strategic Objective 4.1, under Programme 4: Restitution, was to facilitate the restoration of land rights and alternative forms of equitable redress by 2019, and 4.2 was to facilitate the reopening and finalisation of the lodgement of restitution land claims for people who had not met the 1998 deadline.

Strategic Objective 5.1, under Programme 5: Land Reform, was to promote equitable land redistribution and agricultural development by acquiring 1 140 000 hectares of strategically-located land by 2019.

Discussion
Mr A Nyambi (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked whether the Department’s leadership felt that the number of programmes were enough, or whether they had to be reduced for more efficiency.

Mr Nyambi asked, in the light of this being a select committee representing the provinces, how the department planned to address the challenges in Mpumalanga and KZN. He expected that the Department would explain in Programme 3: Rural Development, what it was going to do in all the provinces, as it did with the other programmes.  It would also have assisted the Committee when doing oversight visits.

The DG replied that the Department had the details of the projects, broken down by name, by province and by district, and would make them available to the Committee.

Mr Nyambi asked whether the Department’s budget was sufficient. He also wanted to link it to the vacancy rate, which seemed to be a problem. The Department could not meet its targets as a direct result of its vacancy rate.  He asked how the Department intended to deal with the vacancy rate, because it was more than 10%.

The DG replied that the vacancy rate was a challenge. The Department had made a commitment to fill available posts faster and more efficiently, but there was another challenge.  Due to the government-wide budget re-prioritisation, some of the approved posts were not funded, and the departments had been informed that they would not get more funds. This meant that it was impossible to appoint people in the posts, making a 100% staff complement impossible. This also meant that the Department had to look at the staff situation, decide which posts needed to exist and could possibly be filled and funded out of its existing resources, and which had to be abolished altogether, while making sure it did not impact negatively on service delivery.

Mr Nyambi asked that the Department gave an update on the Bills it was dealing with and the phases they were in, so that the Committee could see where and how it could assist to move the processes along.

The DG replied that the Department was processing five Bills. There was a legislative programme which had been approved by the Minister, and submitted to the leader of government business. The Department would provide the Committee with a copy of the legislative programme.

The Bills were all at the draft stage, and the Department had consulted extensively on most of them. It was hoping that the Bills would be with Cabinet by the end of this calendar year, when the Department would apply for approval to go through the consultative process, so that it could go back to Cabinet for approval to be tabled to Parliament. Hopefully, the Bills would get back to Parliament early 2015.

Mr J Parkies (ANC, Free State) asked what the nature of the technical support was, which the Department was going to give to the municipalities, and how it was going to be coordinated. How would it differ from what the provincial governments were doing, especially as it applied to small emerging farmers and black farmers in particular?  He was referring to agricultural projects which dealt with food security. The projects of this nature, of which he was aware, were very weak in his opinion, and fell far short of the objective of addressing food security, poverty and hunger.  If the Department thought these projects were going to solve those challenges, it was deceiving itself.

Mr C Smit (DA, Limpopo) asked what the Department was doing to ensure that land reform projects were successful and sustainable, as successful projects had decreased from 92% to 73%.

He asked about the plan for Agricom, and how communal, traditional and public land would be handled for maximum benefit.

The DG replied that the roles of the Department overlapped with the roles of the provinces. The DRDLR focussed on land reform projects -- in other words, where it was responsible for the acquisition of land for land reform purposes, it provided support for smallholders through its Development and Recapitalisation Programme.

The department also assisted smallholder farmers in areas where the land was communal property, through its Rural Enterprise Development Programme. Provinces had their own budget allocations, as well as the money they received from the national Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF). This department and the provinces helped different people, and hardly ever overlapped. The partners, however, believed that if the DRDLR, the DAFF and the provincial departments involved in land reform and agriculture worked together in a coordinated manner, they would be able to help smallholder farmers more efficiently. This process had started, as the partners had met the previous Friday.  He, the DG of the DAFF and the DG of National Treasury (NT) had met to discuss a holistic approach to assisting smallholder farmers across SA. The departments, led by the DG of NT, were in the process of developing a plan to streamline government programme support to smallholder farmers and were aiming to support 300 000 smallholder farmers.

Ms Leona Archery, DDG: Rural Infrastructure Development, added technical support to municipalities, and the coordination thereof, was done in a number of ways. The first method was through a bilateral agreement between Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), where project management units (PMUs) were set up at the level of municipalities to assist them, to ensure that they delivered basic services more effectively, with the focus on rural areas. The Department then made sure that those PMUs had the necessary technical skills, like engineering, to make sure that planning and project execution were done correctly. There was an inability to spend the Municipal Infrastructure Grants (MIGs) that were allocated at that level. It was a joint effort by this Department and CoGTA.

The second way in which the Department provided technical support was a new mechanism, previously managed by NT, namely the Neighbourhood Development Partnership Grant. This grant was used to revitalise towns and to help municipalities with economic development.  This Department had made an agreement with NT to take over these functions, as well as the funds for all rural municipalities. The projects varied in nature -- they could be bulk services, or taxi ranks within rural towns. The Department assisted the municipalities in terms of packaging and delivering these projects.

The third way was disaster mitigation in rural municipalities. The Department had established disaster help desks and trained young people to staff and manage them within municipalities, helping and supporting rural communities in times of disaster.

Mr Parkies asked for a detailed description of the department’s Rural Enterprises and Industrial Development Strategy, which was going to be developed.

Mr Moshe Swart, DDG, Rural Enterprises and Industries, DRDLR, replied that the Department, in collaboration with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) had developed the first draft of the strategy. The strategy followed a value chain approach to the assets which rural people had. It focussed on five commodities. These were grains (maize, wheat, brown beans, soya), red meat (cattle, sheep, goats, game), poultry, wool and arts and crafts.  In each of these sectors, the approach was to enhance the quality of the product through modern, efficient methodologies, and then to add value and package the product professionally for the market, as well as marketing it more effectively so as to make it commercially more viable.

Mr Parkies asked what impact the electronic system was making, because he noticed that more resources were earmarked to be spent on it.

Mr Smit said he had noticed that a large amount was earmarked for geometrics and cadastral services.  What was the output of this work?

The DG replied that the first reason for the large increase in spending on the programme was that it was a specialised programme, and the Department had to implement the Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD) for this group of professions. This meant that the compensation of employees had shot up. Secondly, the Department had to invest extensively to do the national land audit. Thirdly, it was doing a survey on state domestic facilities across the country. The state owned land in the former homelands, but there were facilities on this land which belonged to other state departments. This Department had to do the survey and redistribute the land to the different state departments to which it belonged.

The fourth reason for the increased spending was the preparation to implement the Deeds Electronic Registration Bill. Up to this point in time, the process of deeds registration was paper based. The Department had a programme of modernising its deeds registration offices.  It was at an advanced stage of developing the system.  Building the system would require 10-15 years of continuous investment from the Department. The system was not operational yet. The Department had to fund this process.

Mr Smit asked how the Ddepartment intended to minimise its spending on consultants.

Mr Thapelo Motsoeneng, Acting CFO, DRDLR, replied that the Department took heed of what the Auditor General (AG) had said in his report about consultants. It had tightened the conditions under which managers could appoint consultants in the department. It demanded that managers develop business cases to justify the use of consultants. The acquisition of consultants had been formalised, and there were special units which would ratify the use of consultants -- for example, the DDG for Corporate Support Services. Internal capacity had to be built and there had to be a reduction plan to phase out the use of consultants for certain functions. There were instances where it was necessary for the expertise to be objective and come from outside, or where the Department did not require the specialist skill routinely -- for example, information technology (IT). The use of consultants had to be managed, and the Department had reduced its use of consultants over the last few years.

Mr Smit asked whether the Department was investing in agricultural schools and colleges to ensure skills development in this field.

The DG replied that the Department did not invest directly in training and development. It was the jurisdiction of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), but the Department had partnerships and memoranda of understanding with those colleges to the extent that they provided training to the National Rural Youth Service Corps (Narysec).

Mr Smit asked for more information about the Ngonyama Trust.

The DG said the Department would provide information on the Ngonyama Trust Board to the Committee.

Mr Smit asked what the budget allocation for recapitalisation was.

Ms Gobodo replied that the acting CFO had presented the budget allocation for the Recapitalisation and Development Programme, which was about R910 million. This amount was divided into two categories. R504million was meant for leasehold farms and R400 million was meant for beneficiaries of the former household grants system that were used for land acquisition. The programme focussed on production inputs, farm infrastructure, mentorship and training. The allocation per province varied. The allocation was not enough. This was why cooperation with other departments was necessary, to maximise the support provided to farmers.

Mr Smit asked what the expected number of claims to be finalised per annum was.  He noticed that for the FY 2013/14, it was 262.

Ms Gobodo replied that in terms of the MTEF, the Department said its target would be 1 457 claims settled and 983 claims finalised. This was related to the budget that was currently available. The CFO had indicated that the Department was in constant communication with NT in terms of this Department dealing with the re-opening of land claims. Since 1 July, new claims had been lodged and the Department needed additional funding to deal with the new wave of land claims. The current budget allowed for the current targets to be reached, but the Department would need additional funding to deal with new claims.

Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries – with the Minister
The Chairperson welcomed he Minister, Mr Senzeni Zokwana, and Deputy Minister, Mr Bheki Cele, to the meeting. Agriculture was one of the pillars identified by the ANC-lead government, to address the scourge of poverty.

The Minister said that he or his deputy would try to be present at all committee meetings.

The Minister, the DG and the CFO delivered the presentation. The presentation outlined the compliance statement, the overview of the Minister, the strategic overview, goals and objectives, outcome-orientated goals, the Annual Performance Plan (APP), organogram and budget.

The Strategic Plan was premised on key government medium-term priorities that were informed by the National Development Plan (NDP) and the New Growth Path (NGP) which repositioned food security and agrarian transformation high on the economic development agenda of the country.

In his State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Zuma had stated “we have to embark on radical socio-economic transformation to push back the triple challenge . . . We have identified agriculture as a key job driver.”  The President went on to say that Government would provide comprehensive support to smallholder farmers and support would be provided to communities as well, to engage in food production and subsistence farming to promote food security, in line with the Fetsa Tlala food production programme.

Agriculture was a concurrent function, while Forestry and Fisheries were national functions. The constitutional mandate of DAFF is derived from sections 24(b)(iii), 27(1)(b) of the Constitution. The legislative mandate of DAFF is derived from 31 Acts of Parliament related to agriculture, forestry and fisheries, which are managed by the DAFF.

The Department said thousands of hectares of underutilised arable land could be put back into production, with support for input access, mechanisation services, technical support and linkages to local markets. There was a necessity for increased measures to anticipate and prevent possible introductions of animal diseases, plant pests, and other undesirable articles such as unsafe food and feed.

Other challenges were the growing food insecurity, not only in South Africa but in Southern Africa, climate change, and inadequate investment in agricultural production, as well as market access for developing producers.  The challenge facing the sector was to diversify its export destinations, as well as to broaden the basket of commodities and value-added products that were destined for export markets.  The challenge of growing the smallholder sector was closely tied up with the challenge of making smallholder agriculture more remunerative. Currently, more than half of all smallholder households lived below the poverty line.

One of the main limitations with fisheries was that catch volumes depend on fish stocks, which vary naturally and/or are subject to depletion owing to overexploitation.  Inshore species, especially, tended to be in a state of stock depletion, leading to an increase in illegal fishing and poaching, and increasing demand for access to the finite marine resources. Transformation in the sector needed to be promoted by modifying the licensing regime, as per the Small-scale Fisheries Sector Policy in South Africa.

There was a decline in both softwood and hardwood plantation areas planted since the mid-1990s, and there had also been a marked increase in the area used for pulpwood purposes, as compared to the area for saw logs and mining timber. There were shortages of timber products, and the impact of natural hazards which threatened food security. It was important to note that the competitiveness of agriculture was being eroded by high and rising input costs. Unsustainable land-use practices were intensifying and this had contributed to the deterioration of soils.

The presentation set out the Departmental programme to be executed throughout the FY.

The Department had four strategic goals of which numbers two, three and four were to enhance production, employment and economic growth in the sector, to create an enabling environment for food security and sector transformation and the sustainable use of natural resources in the sector.

Under Programme 2, the Department intended to ensure that an Integrated Animal Disease Management Plan was developed and implemented, and to ensure access to primary health care services for 23 district municipalities.

Under Programme 3, the Department planned to institutionalise the national policy on food and nutrition security by facilitating the development and implementation of the Food and Nutrition Security Implementation Plan, coordinate the establishment of food security committees and provide support to 80 000 smallholder producers

Under Programme 4, the Department planned to organise smallholder and commercial producers in rural areas and to link them to mainstream markets, establish new cooperatives through mobilisation of smallholder producers into organised structures, and provide support (training) to existing cooperatives.

Under Programme 6, the Department planned to develop the Aquaculture Bill to create an enabling environment for the sector growth, to conduct aquaculture research projects to support sustainable development of the aquaculture sector, and to develop a framework for the allocation of fishing rights (access to harvest fish for a specific period of time) to commercial fishing sectors to ensure sustainable utilisation, as well as equitable and orderly access to the marine living resources.

Under Programme 1, 14 Bills would be tabled in Parliament during this financial year.

Planned Policy and Programme Initiatives
The Integrated Growth and Development Plan (IGDP) for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries had been developed in response to the policy requirements of Outcomes 4 and 7 that related to job creation, rural development and food security.

The high-level responses offered in the IGDP have been translated into a new Agricultural Policy Action Plan (APAP), serving as the implementation arm of the IGDP. The encompassing objectives of APAP are to promote labour absorption and broaden market participation, strategic interventions aimed at increasing value-chain efficiencies and competitiveness, focusing on selected sub-sectors/value chains.

The Integrated Food and Nutrition Security Policy was another policy initiative.

Staff Situation
The Department employed 6 965 people in funded posts and 63 additional staff members. There was a 10% vacancy rate. There was a 54% male:46% female gender balance Department-wide, and in the senior management structure, it was 59% male:41% female.

Budget
The CFO presented on the budget. The Departmental budget for the 2014/15 was R 6.69 billion, of which R1.7 billion would go towards the compensation of employees. The allocation for Ilima Letsema under Programme 2 for 2014/15 was R460.6 million. The allocation for Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) under Programme 3, was R 1.37 billion.

All of these allocations were geared toward the smallholder producers.  The budget was to cover smallholder farmers’ support requirements for infrastructure, appropriate skills, marketing and technical advisory services.  It had to be emphasised, however, that 70% of the infrastructure allocation went to Fetsa Tlala integrated food production. 

Discussion
Mr Nyambi asked whether the Department felt that its programmes were sufficient, or whether the number had to be extended or reduced.

Ms C Labuschagne (DA, Western Cape) was aligned with Mr Parkies.  She asked that at a follow-up meeting, the Department should present its total strategy in terms of how it planned to ensure market access with a focus on the smallholder farmer in the sectors of agriculture, forestry and fishing. More than R56 million had been allocated for that purpose in the current FY. Was it enough?

The Minister replied that it would be good to reach the day when the money would be adequate. The NDP policy stated that agriculture had the potential to create one million jobs. The SONA did not say the same thing. The President in the SONA had said that he wanted agriculture to create one million jobs. This would be impossible, without mobilising women and youth for the agriculture sector. It was important to keep the gender balance in mind when working with the youth as well. It was as important to recruit young women as it was to recruit young men.

The DG added that the Department had planned a meeting with the DG of NT and the CEO of the Land Bank, to see what resources were available, and where resources could be redirected. The first five years of the NDP needed to be planned out.  DAFF was responsible for that sub-priority.

The points of convergence were there. The DRDLR coordinated the first five years of the NDP, the MTSF. The DAFF had to report through them.  Previously one would have had the DRDLR competing with the DAFF for funds for functions the DAFF had to perform.  DRDLR was not responsible for what was happening on the land. This confusion had been sorted out and the roles had been clarified, so that funds were now channelled correctly.

The DG said that previously, the focus had not been on trade. There used to be almost a welfare approach to agriculture, but there was now a focus on radical socio-economic transformation. The Department had to re-prioritise how it was going to use its budget.

Mr Nyambi said he differed from the Department of Public Service and Administration, which sanctioned a vacancy rate of 10%.  In his opinion, if there was a vacancy rate of 10%, it meant that the Department was functioning at less-than-optimal capacity, which meant that delivery suffered.

The Minister stated that the Department would go back and try to address the vacancy rate.  It was trying to draw young people into its ranks.

Mr Nyambi questioned the fact that the presentation had the signature of the Minister, Deputy Minister and DG, but it was still labelled as a draft.  According to his knowledge, as soon as the Minister had signed off a document, it was no longer a draft, but a finalised document. He asked for an explanation.

The DG explained that the ‘Draft’ label was a mistake, and that the document was official.

Mr Nyambi said he was happy that the presentation showed how the Department intended to take the conditional grants to all the provinces. This was important for the Committee, because it represented the interests of the provinces. He would, however, appreciate a further breakdown of the projects to indicate in which municipalities they were situated. This information would facilitate oversight visits for the Committee.

The DG replied that the Department had met with all heads of departments on Wednesday, 9 July 2014, and had agreed that the limited resources that there were, had to be used in a more concentrated way. Currently, the resources were spread too thinly and it was difficult to see the results of spending. The resources had to be spent on a smaller number of projects so that the effects of the spending became more apparent. In future the Department would concentrate its spending on the most vulnerable municipalities. Currently, the municipalities were compiling databases of the coordinates of farms for the use of the Department. The Department agreed with the geographic focus. Municipalities did not have an agricultural mandate, but the Department believed that agriculture had to make itself visible in the local economic development plan.

The Chairperson said that agriculture and the land were inter-connected. There was no hope of addressing poverty and unemployment if people were not given access to the land. What was the role of extension officers? Were they still relevant? They were not supposed to be office-based, but had to get their hands dirty in the process of ensuring the success of the emerging farmers.

The Minister replied that the Department was planning a meeting with provincial leaders, because while the provinces received the grants, there was a disjuncture between what the provinces did and what the national department planned. At this meeting, the role, capacity, efficiency and know-how of extension officers would be highlighted.  He agreed that the Department had to develop young people into extension officers. The Department would soon be producing new veterinarians, who would be placed in locations where they would assist emerging farmers with animal care. The Department had 23 mobile veterinary clinics, some of which had been deployed to provinces. They were not enough and more needed to be procured. 

The DG added that in reality, the DRDLR also used extension workers for their work. Analysis had been done on extension services. In response to this analysis, an extension recovery plan had been put into action which NT was funding over a number of years. There was now a web-based system of extension services. However, as long as farmers did not know about this service, the service was ineffective. The Department and the provinces realised that these services needed to be popularised. Part of the agriculture extension plan was to improve the qualifications of the extension officers and getting feedback from the clients.

The DG also said the Agricultural Information Management (AIM) system was an integrated information and communication system which centralised information and facilitated communication for all stakeholders in the agricultural enterprise.  Different pilot versions of the system were in use in the different provinces.  It would be complete in roughly six months.  It would log all calls for help, the information would be available system-wide immediately, and the extension officer closest to the emergency would be activated to attend to it.  It would deal with responsiveness. The Minister would be abreast of all developments country-wide from the comfort of his office.

Mr Parkies urged the Minister and Deputy Minister to engage in a review process of their provincial structures which made agricultural land available to people. People often complained to him that they lodged applications, but did not get any response from the Department. If people in those positions did not do their work, they had to be replaced. If the Department was serious about land restitution and redistribution, it had to make sure that its structures worked.

The Minister replied that the President had reopened the land claims process. What had to be highlighted was what happened to the land after it had been restored to its rightful owner, or redistributed. Food security became a factor. If it was agricultural land, it had to remain productive and become even more so.

The Minister said that agricultural land had to be protected. The instances of provinces and municipalities selling agricultural land for development had to come to an end. The Department would discuss this with the provincial agricultural departments at the planned meeting the following week and get them to agree with this principle. The issue of security on farms and protecting farmers would also be discussed.

Mr Parkies asked the Minister and Deputy Minister to intervene in the process of connecting small producers to the markets.  Small scale farmers would fail, because there was no decisive state-facilitated access to markets to sell their products to.  He saw in the presentation that the Department stated that there would be cooperatives. He wanted to link the ideas of cooperatives to the accessibility of markets to small scale farmers. He felt that this area needed acute attention from state departments in order to ensure the success of small scale and emerging farmers.

The Minister replied that the report on the general household survey stated that currently 2.4 million households were practising some form of subsistence farming, and 299 000 of those were smallholder farmers. The challenge was, how did one get them to grow from being smallholder farmers to being bigger? The Department had approached commercial farmers and they had agreed to work with the Department to mentor and grow smallholder farmers.

The Minister also said the Department had four entities. One did research, another produced animal medicine, another inspected products and made sure they complied with the requirements of the global market, and yet another did market research. All these existed to assist farmers to produce high quality products and then to be able to sell them locally or internationally.

The Department had a team which focussed on climate change. It came up with cultivars which were resistant to climate change. It had to make sure that it extended its reach to farmers located in the remotest places in the country.

The Minister said markets were problematic, because they were highly contested, locally and internationally.  One way to address the market for small producers was to get government institutions like schools, hospitals and correctional facilities, to procure strictly from smallholder farmers.

The DG replied that the Department did link producers to markets. He could cite one example in Mpumalanga, where there were 95 producers, which the Department had formed into a cooperative, which was now collectively supplying the school nutrition programme.  In the previous financial year this cooperative generated an income of R16 million.  The model existed.  It had to be translated into a policy. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) had to develop and implement the policy, but the DAFF had to work out how it was going to impact on that policy. There was a Small Business Development ministry which had to be part of this discussion.

The Department did the trade promotion strategy for agriculture promotion at a technical level, but had not shared it with its principals yet, nor had it gone through the cluster processes. It still needed some work, but would be brought to the Committee in due course.

Ms Labuschagne asked what the total number of smallholder farmers in the country was. Was it possible to have a breakdown per province? How many of them were economically sustainable? She wanted plans with timeframes from the Department, to help the ones which were not sustainable at this stage to become economically sustainable and to help these farmers to get market access.

Mr Parkies said that the Department had been briefed by the DRDLR, who had said that it was getting the relevant DGs together in order to streamline and coordinate its support for small and emerging farmers. It aimed to support no fewer than 300 000 small farmers. The presentation of DAFF had mentioned about 800 000 small producers. He wanted to check the convergence and the linkage.

The DG believed that many smallholders were not economically viable.  The DAFF had available, in draft form, a comprehensive framework on producer support.  Producers were divided into categories. The categories were subsistence, smallholder, pre-commercial and commercial farming. The requirements for each were given, and each category of farmer had a package of support and assistance for which it was eligible.

The farm register was incomplete, but once the framework for classification was complete, the Department would be able to answer the question more scientifically.  If linked to the Agricultural Information Management (AIM) system, all the puzzle pieces would start fitting together and the Department would be able to rely less on estimates. The global household survey was valuable, but it took a small sample and made projections from there. The Department needed a greater degree of accuracy.

The Chairperson asked for the responses from the Department in written form to reach the Committee on Monday, 14 July, before 13h00. He thanked all participants for their contributions.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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