Food security and Fetsa Tlala initiative: Committee section introduction, Department & NAMC briefings, Departmental entities' collaboration, in presence of Minister

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

02 September 2014
Chairperson: Ms M Semenya (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

An official from the Committee Section gave a preliminary outline, to the Committee, on the food security issues, in preparation for the later presentation by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF). The South African government had an obligation to ensure food security for all citizens, an agriculture was a prime part of this obligation. The food security was marked by indicators on the number of children malnourished, and whilst it was noted that the figure had declined, from 88 000 to 23 000 children in South Africa there remained a problem with the quality and balance of their diet, as indicated by many still showing stunted growth, and this had to be addressed. Low-income earners were known to suffer from problems around security of food and agriculture offered the potential for income-earning, particularly for rural people. However, the Fetsa Tlala initiative on national Food and Nutrition Security was inadequate in that it focused on food security in rural communities, ignoring the fact that food security was a problem also in the urban and other settlements. The Food and Nutrition Strategy was initially produced by the Department of Social Development, but the Departments of Basic Education, Health, Rural Development and Land Reform also played a part, whilst DAFF focused on crop production. Other issues that needed to be addressed included the land allocation, declining production of crops, land use, and district management. It was suggested that focus needed also to be put on income generation, as well as food production for own use. There was also a need to link the Fetsa Tlala initiative to other similar initiatives, to avoid duplication and wasting of time, and to provide the full policy to the Committee.

Members asked questions of clarity around research on land cultivation, the need to research why those provinces that offered access to land still had the most hungry people, income generation, and the need to organize the departments to complement each other and to have good working relationships, paying sufficient attention to social impact and commented that the food banks could be an excellent intervention if properly managed. They also felt that other challenges, such as mechanization, needed to be addressed. 

The DAFF, in the presence of the Minister, then presented the Fetsa Tlala production plan for 2014/15. It was noted that this initiative aimed to have one million hectares of land under production by the 2018/19 production season. The department had reprioritised 70% of the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) infrastructure grants towards the Fetsa Tlala production initiative. The plans for the rural provinces were outlined, which showed that whilst Limpopo had managed to achieve 187% of targets, Eastern Cape, despite the fact that it had more land, had severely under-performed. It was explained that the total yield estimates for each commodity would be correlated to the hectares planted, to determine the cost-benefit analysis. Provinces were expected to monitor harvesting activities and report on actual yields realised. Marketing strategies included linking producers to formal markets to sell yields harvested and to negotiate off-take agreements with retail stores, as well as negotiate the export destinations with the World Food programme (WTP) food procurement process. Models for delivery included government-run service delivery mechanisms,; use of state owned agencies, use of accredited intermediaries and use of farmers and cooperatives. DAFF noted that it would establish a focused National Task Team (NTT) comprising government departments and the private sector to manage the implementation and the delivery of Fetsa Tlala targets. Monitoring and evaluation would be done by verification exercises that would result in preliminary and final reports, to defined time-frames, and the national and provincial departments’ coordination was outlined.

The Committee expressed concern that 70% of CASP grants were to be reprioritized to Fetsa Tlala, and wondered why it had no specific budget if it was such an important programme. Some Members questioned whether it was anything more than a mere change of name, questioned why so many new programmes were being set up, and asked how exactly it was aligned and coordinated with other projects. Some Members felt that the presentation was not detailed enough and pointed out that the Committee needed the policy itself. Members asked how the targets had been justified, and what the identified problems and successes had been. They asked the role of the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) in ensuring that producers got access to the markets. It was suggested that DAFF should take the lead over other departments in their work on food security, needed better plans and monitoring in the provinces, and whether there was a possibility of the DAFF signing up with another programme similar to the World Food Programme (which was due to end shortly). The Chairperson stressed that Fetsa Tlala was an important intervention programme and the Committee needed to know how exactly it would be achieved, and needed to be told of other problems and challenges, such as mechanization, coordination with farmers’ organisation, inter-govermental relations and full use of budgets. The role of the NAMC was briefly outlined.

The final briefing related to the alignment of the activities and services of the five DAFF entities, and noted that their outputs were described in the Annual and Strategic Plans. The sequence of planning and drawing of strategic plans and priorities was described. Strengthening the strategic alignment of DAFF to its public entities and governance oversight had the potential of increasing DAFF’s capacity to respond to developmental challenges faced by the sector. Members commented that all entities should be working hard to meet common goals and support the Minister in the outcomes for the sector, and suggested that the Ministry needed to ensure that all entities were relevant to the final objectives. They asked that details of the entities’ work be given in subsequent presentations.

Members adopted the minutes of the meeting on 26 August, with amendments.

Meeting report

The Chairperson noted the apologies of the Deputy Minister and some Members.

Committee Support Official preparatory briefing, in preparation for the presentation by Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and National Agricultural Marketing Council.
An official from the Committee Section staff briefed the Committee in preparation for the later briefing, on food security initiatives, to be given by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF or the Department) and National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC). The South African government must in terms of the Constitution and African Union obligations, ensure food security for all its citizens. She highlighted how agriculture was related to ensuring food security, outlined the food security situation in South Africa and how many people were affected by it. The figure for children suffering from malnourishment had started to slowly decline, from 88 000 children to 23 000, but it was noted that the figures for children showing stunted growth was not decreasing, which meant that these children in South Africa were not getting an adequately balanced diet for them to grow and develop normally. Therefore, the Department needed to be questioned on its initiatives to address stunted growth in children. She further highlighted how the agricultural sector offered income earning opportunity for the rural people, and said that people who were food insecure did not earn enough income to get good quality food.

Speaking to the policy and the strategy behind the initiatives of the DAFF, she noted that in 2002, a study document was published and in 2010 Food Security was prioritised as an issue in the State of the Nation Address. In 2013, the National Food and Nutrition Security Policy was drafted by the Department of Social Development (DSD). The Fetsa Tlala project fell under that Food and Nutrition policy. Other Departments that shared the initiative on Food and Nutrition Security included the Departments of  Basic Education (DBE) Feeding Scheme, the Department of Health (DOH), whilst DAFF was focused on crop production.

The strategy focused on indigenous communities, and it was noted that food security in South Africa was not only an issue for rural areas but also for the urban and formal settlements. Land allocation in urban areas should be addressed. The issue of declining production land in South Africa should be addressed. On the national scale, if there was a continuing decline in land available for agriculture, because of land rather being used for mining, games and social development, that would affect the land available for food production. Important issues also arose around district level management of land use and loaning of land.

The strategy should not only focus on production, but all other issues should be catered for to achieve food security in urban areas, such as income generating opportunity.

She commented that the costing of the plan was slightly overestimated. The programme was targeted at households on a small scale level and she suggested that this needed to be reviewed. There was a need for the department to link the Fetsa Tlala initiative with other programmes, and it would be important to ensure that the programme achieved the desired results. At the moment, the DAFF was working to link the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) to the Fetsa Tlala, using CASP funds. There was a need to identify the most food-insecure communities in the country. DAFF should try to cover these issues in the strategic document.

Mr T Ramokhoase (ANC) commented that the Department needed to do some research around land cultivation and the capacity for land cultivation.

The Committee official replied that challenges around access to underground water could be resolved by providing boreholes. Rainfalls in targeted areas should be looked into, and how these impacted on production.

Ms A Steyn (DA) commented that Limpopo and Eastern Cape provinces had the most numbers of hungry people, although there was access to land in these provinces, and more research was therefore needed to verify the results and the reasons behind them. The research between 2002 and 2012 had shown that less people experienced hunger, and she wanted to know the reasons. She asked what the Department was doing about income generating opportunity.

The Committee official replied that agriculture contributed significantly to household income. Even if there was a well functioning system it was important to know the numbers of hungry households and hence there should be an information system that assisted government on a national level.

The Chairperson commented that the whole national Food Security strategy, with interventions from a number of departments, should be organised so that each department’s role complemented the others. The interventions had to be focused, in order to relieve pressures on the budget. Food security was not only a challenge in the rural areas but the programme was presently targeting the rural areas and communal land, in order to make the land productive. The plan of the Department was supposed to be ready by now, ahead of the rainy season, so that the land could be properly prepared for land cultivation. Clarity was required on policy and strategies.

The Committee official replied that the Department had not provided the Fetsa Tlala policy document that guided what that Department planned to do. Only the Fetsa Tlala production initiative was provided. There should be food banks throughout the country, run by government, where hungry household could go to get packages.

Mr M Filtane (UDM) commented that it was of critical importance to have a good working relationship between the departments on the matter of poverty alleviation. He added that Chief Directors in various departments liked to guide their territories by ensuring that they worked within the budget, and perhaps did not pay enough attention to the social impact. He added that it was important for the Committee to engage with the Ministry on the need to work together with other departments. The Department of Social Development wanted more people to be covered the social security system, and so there should be a structured programme to achieve this.

The Chairperson commented that food banks could be a good intervention if the departments worked together. DAFF could get information about hungry households from the social workers. DAFF should be able to come up with intervention programmes on food security and employment, in order to make people more productive. The intervention policy should respond to the other challenges identified by government, such as mechanisation.

Mr Filtane agreed with the need for the departments to work together. He said DSD got food parcels from the SPAR, who in turn sourced their food from KwaZulu Natal (KZN) and Western Cape, and such initiatives could be overseen by DAFF for a period of a few years, to ensure that food was specifically made available to the people whose land was not producing food.

2014/15 Fetsa Tlala Plan: Briefing by Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
The Chairperson welcomed the Minister, Director General and the team from DAFF to the meeting, and repeated that the Deputy Minister had provided an apology. She clarified that this meeting hoped to clarify issues raised in the Strategic and Annual Performance Plans, and to deal with the Fetsa Tlala Policy and implementation plan for the second term. The Committee expected an analysis on the implementation for the next financial year and would like to hear how the Department would intervene where gaps had been identified.

Mr Senzeni Zokwana, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, thanked the Committee for an opportunity to look at the previous performance and the future plans.

Prof Edith Vries, Director General, DAFF, tabled her presentation which would include the production plan for 2014/15 and how to address the identified gaps. She provided some background into the Fetsa Tlala initiative, saying that it was aiming for a target of 1 million hectares of land under production by the 2018/19 production season. An estimate of R11.4 billion was required over the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) period and the Department had prioritised 70% of the CASP infrastructure grant towards the Fetsa Tlala food production initiative.

She set out a table showing the plans for 2013/4, what had been achieved, and the numbers of hectares planned for 2014/15. In Limpopo, 26 691hectares (ha) were planned, and 51 970 achieved. The achievements were at 187% of target. Future plans for 2014/15 involved 46 175 ha. In Mpumalanga, the figures were, respectively, 27 208 ha planned and 43 969 achieved, with future plans for 33 960 ha. In Eastern Cape, the figures were 13 415 ha planned, 6 579 ha achieved, and 17 200 planned for the 2014/15 year.  

Outlining the yield Estimates, Prof Vries noted that Fetsa Tlala focused on crop production only, as the total yields (t/ha) for each commodity would be correlated to the hectares planted, to determine the cost-benefit analysis. Provinces were expected to monitor harvesting activities to report on actual yields realized.

The Marketing strategy required that producers must be linked to formal markets to sell the yields harvested and off-take agreements with retail stores and export destinations must be negotiated, including the World Food Programme (WFP) food procurement process.

Models for delivery included the use of Government-run service delivery mechanisms, use of State owned agencies, use of accredited intermediaries, and the use of farmers and cooperatives.

Institutional arrangement and leadership were then outlined. She noted that DAFF would establish a focused National Task Team (NTT) comprising government departments and the Private sector. The NTT would manage the implementation and the delivery of the Fetsa Tlala targets. DAFF would be the convener, coordinator and act as the secretariat for the NTT.

Monitoring and evaluation methods included verification and ground-truthing (using GPS coordinates); and district municipalities would be randomly sampled and verification visits organised. The harvest figures would be compared with planting figures, to determine the correlation with the projections, and this would be the cost-benefit analysis. The monitoring process would be gauged against the annual target. At the end of the monitoring process, reports would be compiled.

Reporting would be done at predetermined timeframes, which could be monthly progress reports. Planting reports would be done in October 2014 and March 2015. Consolidated reports (combining the progress and final reports) would encapsulate both planting and harvesting figures. The reports must be sanctioned by the Heads of Departments (HODs) of the provincial Departments of Agriculture.

The Minister concluded that a meeting would be held by the Department on the following Tuesday to discuss all pending issues, plans and measures to be taken to ensure proper monitoring.

Mr L Ntshayisa (AIC) asked how the reprioritisation of 70% of CASP grants towards Fetsa Tlala would impact on other programs, since Fetsa Tlala did not come with its own budget. He asked if there were other ways of budgeting for Festa Tlala. He required clarity on money that was supposed to be transferred to provinces, what percentages this represented and when it would be transferred.

Prof Edith Vries replied that money was transferred quarterly.

Mr Filtane asked how the Department intended to achieve 17 200ha in the Eastern Cape in 2014/15, if it only achieved 6 579ha in 2013/14, well below the target of 13 415ha, and also questioned what the justification had been for setting the target at this figure. He noted the achievements of Limpopo in the 2013/14 year, and asked how this was achieved. He added that the document did not explain how the plan would be implemented. He expressed concern at the continual establishment of new programmes or entities by Government, and wondered if the current manpower could not be merged to deliver similar programmes, as a multiplicity of programmes involved time management. He wondered why the Department was planning to achieve a new delivery tool/entity.

The Minister replied, in respect of the Eastern Cape, that the Department initially budgeted R6.8 billion, out of which R4 billion was distributed to provinces as grants. Some provinces were able to plan and the money was used in development in agriculture. Some provinces had achieved well above the allocated amount. In the Eastern Cape, contributing factors to the lack of achievement included drought, in areas where there were no irrigation methods used. Work had been done to find what type of crops could grow best in some of the provinces.

Prof Edith Vries replied that the Department was not putting in place new entities.

Mr Ramokhoase commented that there was a lot that had not been addressed in the presentation, such as the issue of radical changes in economic development in the agriculture sector. He asked how marketing was to be linked to the local farmers. He wondered if future presentations would unpack the models of delivery. He asked what lessons were learnt from existing programmes on institutional arrangements. He asked for the role of district and local municipalities in monitoring and evaluation.

Prof Vries replied that the monitoring system had been weak in the past, and verification was done by the same people on board and commodity groups.

Mr C Maxegwana (ANC) commented that the policy needed to be finalised, as it formed the basis of the work of the Department. DAFF was a complex department and the nation was looking to it to deliver food and address food insecurity in South Africa. He asked if there was a similar programme to this initiative running elsewhere. He also commented on the need for development of small farmers to feed the nation.

Ms T Gasebonwe-Tongwe (ANC) commented that there was a need to know if other departments had similar programmes that addressed food security and poverty alleviation, which could only be identified if departments worked together.

Ms Steyn commented that Fetsa Tlala seemed merely to be a change of name, as there was no budget and no proper programme for it. She expressed displeasure at the document, saying that it was not detailed enough for oversight purposes. She wanted to see the actual policy on food security. She added that part of the reason behind the food security programme was to provide income-generating opportunities for the people. Speaking to the links with other departments, she added that DAFF should be the main leading department on food security, hence DAFF should draw up plans that would guide the provinces. She asked for the specific role of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) in the food security programme, and the discussions with the cooperative organisations, and any link between Fetsa Tlala and the National Development Plan (NDP) in relation to food security. With the World Food Program (WFP) coming to an end, she asked if there was a possibility of signing another programme, to allow people to plan, pointing out that there remained a need to help people access markets in order to sell their food.

The Minister replied that provinces were encouraged to use their equitable share to make sure that the Fetsa Tlala succeeded. He disagreed that Fetsa Tlala was merely a change of name, and asserted that it was designed to meet identified challenges. In subsequent presentations, the dialogue with other departments would be outlined.

Ms Z Jongloed (DA) commented that there was no clear explanation of what Fetsa Tlala was about, and how it hoped to reduce household hunger. She asked when the Department would be presenting the policy document, its five year plan, and what those plans entailed. She asked about the Ilima/Letsema programme, noting that 70% of CASP grant funding was now reprioritised into Fetsa Tlala.

The Minister replied that there was an overlap between what government was doing and DAFF’s initiatives, and subsequent reports would be clearer on the role that other departments were playing.

Prof Vries added that the policies would be sent to the Committee, and that the five year Strategic Plan had been presented to the Committee before the budget vote.

Mr B Joseph (EFF) asked how much lands was actually now available to the black people of South Africa (which included Indians and Colored) and how much was available to Afrikaans people in the Western Cape. He asked what type of capacity building was available to small farmers to help them move up in terms of producing more products, and what type of training they could access to enable them run their business successfully.

The Minister suggested that the issue of land reform should be addressed after participation on the current debate by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.

The Chairperson commented that Fetsa Tlala was an intervention program on food security. DAFF had the opportunity to improve production, and the main question was that if the programme was deemed necessary, how would DAFF achieve it, with the current challenge of budget. She asked if DAFF had made any rural community interventions, and the role of the NAMC in ensuring that products were properly marketed. She asked if the Committee members could be provided with the policies, and said that if these policies were lacking in any way, they could present challenges, citing examples of mechanization and coordination with farmers’ organisations as an example. She asked for the role of NAMC in protecting farmers from being cheated by large supermarkets like Shoprite or Spar, and asked if there was any body that regulated the food prices. She asked how DAFF would ensure that other departments played their role, and acted to integrate inter-governmental relations. She added that the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform had a budget that in part addressed agricultural issues, and asked how DAFF would ensure that both budgets were used to make sure that land was productive, in order to attain the target of 1 million ha under food production by 2018/19.

The Minister replied that DAFF had met with the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, and agreed that DAFF should be advised of whatever land was to be distributed, as the two departments had to plan together on distribution of land. He added that the Directors-General of both departments were meeting to outline programmes on land distribution and production, and that details would be provided to the Committee on what was happening. DAFF had met with the Department of Tourism, to see how tourism could be promoted through agriculture, and the two departments were also looking at possible areas of synergy. DAFF had held meetings with farmers, on their safety concerns.

He confirmed that there was a good potential market for South African farm produce in Japan, and the country thus had to make sure that its production improved. DAFF was working on processing of food.

Prof Vries noted that there was a unit that looked at the markets and it produced the quality requirements for the small holders to have access to the open market. There were specific quality standards that had been developed for commodities, which the small scale farmers used in their production planning. The Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB), South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) and others assisted in certifying the quality of produce from smallholder farmers. More than a hundred audits had been undertaken to certify the production system. Tariffs would be handled at the Ministerial cluster level, as tariffs were not imposed by DAFF.

Mr Tshilo Ramabulana, Chief Executive Officer, NAMC, said that NAMC was part of the management team that oversaw the WFP contract and ensured that participating farmers met the conditions before they got into the WFP supplier database. After the WFP contract ended, small farmers would continue to bid for other requests that WFP handled for the rest of the African market. All commodity organisations that wanted to participate in the Fetsa Tlala programme would do through NAMC. NAMC assisted and provided an additional market and also addressed arbitrary issues that could exist between a supplier and a buyer, which could relate to price and quality of product delivered.

The Chairperson asked Members to put any further questions in writing, and said that the Department must respond to these before its next meeting.

Ms Steyn requested for clarity on the issue of funds, as R11.4 billion was mentioned in the document while the Minister mentioned R1.4 billion.

Mr Filtane commented on the need to align the Fetsa Tlala plan with the 2014/15 APP, as so many details were missing on the Fetsa Tlala plan.

The Chairperson asked again that the DAFF should send through the Fetsa Tlala policy document. She thanked the Minister for the responses.

Alignment of activities and services rendered by the different entities: DAFF briefing
Prof Edith Vries briefed the Committee on the strategy on coordination, collaboration and alignment of activities or services rendered by the different entities. She pointed out that the government delivered services to citizens through the national, provincial or local government departments, and through public entities. There were currently five public entities reporting to the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. These were the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), the Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB),the National Agricultural Marketing Council(NAMC), Onderstepoort Biological products(OBP) and Ncera Farms.

She noted that the National Treasury framework for Strategic Plans and Annual Performance Plans was applicable to all national and provincial departments, constitutional institutions and public entities. DAFF remained accountable for the outputs of its public entities. The key outputs of the entities were contained in the DAFF’s Strategic and APPs.

She outlined that each April, based on the high level government priorities, DAFF identified and approved second level priorities informed by the MTSF and APP. In May, DAFF developed indicators based on these second level priorities, and informs the provinces and public entities of the second level priorities and the indicators to enable them start planning in turn. MinMEC would discuss and approve transversal indicators. In July, DAFF, the provinces and public entities gathered for a quarterly planning and reporting meeting (QPRM), to present their first-draft strategic plans.

Each entity must submit, to the Director General of the national Department, an annual budget and a corporate plan for submission to the Minister. That had to include strategic objectives and outcomes identified and agreed on, strategic business initiatives, key performance measures and indicators, risk management plans and other indicators.

The Director-General would then meet with the Heads of Provincial Departments and Chief Executive Officers of public entities, at the MinMEC meeting, quarterly, to discuss implementation of the plans.

She noted that for the future, strengthening the strategic alignment of DAFF to its public entities and governance oversight had the potential of increasing DAFF’s capacity to respond to developmental challenges faced by the sector.

The Chairperson commented that all entities must work towards supporting the Minister in the outcomes for the sector, and should be able to align with the objectives of the Department.

Ms Steyn asked who was responsible for doing research on animal production and health in South Africa. She asked about the influence of DAFF in the entities.

Mr Filtane commented that the Ministry needed to take a close look at the types of entities to see if they were relevant to the main objectives the Department sought to achieve, and also should consider whether there was a need to impress, on some of the entities, the importance of closer alignment with the Department and its purposes. He wanted to know how the DAFF would ensure that all relationships and engagement with the entities were in line with the Department’s objectives.

Mr Ramokhoase commented that details of what the entities were doing should be provided in subsequent presentations.
The Chairperson agreed that entities must be aligned to the objectives of the department.

The Minister stated that the Department had met with all the entities and had clear information on what they were doing. He clarified the question on figures asked earlier. Each year, R4 billion was allocated to provinces as grants, and R1.8 billion related to CASP, whilst R11.4 billion was the overall spent over the full period.

Adoption of Minutes: meeting of 26 August 2014
Ms Steyn commented that the deliberations during the meeting with the internal audit units of the Departments, and the feedback on the invitation to the Rural Development Summit had not been captured in the minutes.

The Chairperson commented that the omission would be corrected.

Members adopted the minutes, as amended.

The Chairperson noted that a Joint Portfolio Committee was scheduled for 25 to 27 September, at Johannesburg.  

The meeting was adjourned.

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