Policy on Extension & Advisory Services; Department of Agriculture briefing, in presence of Minister; Fisheries International Agreements: Committee Content Advisor briefing

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

10 March 2015
Chairperson: Ms M Semenya (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), with the Minister present, briefed the Committee on the development of the National Extension and Advisory Services Policy (the policy) which was intended to guide the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors in the provision of extension and advisory services, to provide a common framework and set of principles to achieve shared over-arching objectives and priorities set out in the National Development Plan, Industrial Policy Action Plan and integrated growth and development plans, as well as to achieve efficient extension and advisory services. Consultation had been done on the policy with a number of relevant stakeholders, in public entities and provincial departments, and referred to MinMEC, which had approved it, but it still needed to get Cabinet approval.


Its long-term goals were to ensure that all sectors in the value chain enjoyed equitable and optimum excess to knowledge and skills, and had the capacity to explore opportunities for the advancement of their livelihoods and enterprises; and to respond to the needs and ambitions of the circumstances of the users. In order to broaden the focus and advance the extension education system, it was intended to review and develop multi-disciplinary training curriculums for extension practitioners, and to ensure continuous professional development through systematic maintenance, improvement and broadening of knowledge and skills, and development of personal qualities. The policy was also looking into how best to facilitate demand-driven research and extension services, by promoting action-based and producer-led research processes, including participatory on-farm trials, research-station based research and inclusion of both producers and extension practitioners. The policy should contribute to sustainable food and nutrition security, produce self reliant and confident producers through shared knowledge, and offer an integrated intervention through the establishment of provincial directorates.

Members asked why it took so long for the Department to get funding approval, when the policy had already been to the Cabinet in 2008. They wanted a provincial and regional breakdown for the 3 000 recruited extension officers, asked how transformation of core competencies would assist existing practitioners, asked if experience would be recognised, who were the training institutions, and whether Ntinga was included. They highlighted that some extension practitioners were employed, but basically also wanted more detail on whether this policy was intended specifically for the agriculture sector or would extend to fisheries and forestry, how it would be monitored and how effective implementation would be ensured.

The DAFF was due to present the implementation plan for the Small-scale Fisheries Policy, but this was postponed as the Committee had noted that documentation was not signed.

The Committee's Content Advisor provided a detailed analysis and comment on the three international fishing agreements that had been brought to the Committee, namely: The Agreement for the Establishment of the Indian Tuna Commission (IOTC); Convention for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT); and the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Agreement on Port State Measures. Firstly, she highlighted some important omissions. The three agreements were not accompanied by any Draft Resolution. Because the tuna agreements were quite old, it was possible that there might have been amendments to the original agreements, and information was needed on whether any other states had acceded or joined as members. There was also a misleading implication that the two agreements in relation to tuna were to be considered in the same way, whereas they were two different agreements, addressing different aspects, administered differently and not with the same requirements around accession. The explanatory memorandum by DAFF fell short in not providing a clear briefing on each instead of attempting to combine them. No information was set out on the ratification processes to be followed in terms of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation and National Assembly rules. In relation to the Port State Measures agreement, the Department also did not highlight that it would be enter into force after 25 member states had signed, not ratified: 92 had approved the agreement in 2009 and 11 had ratified so far. DAFF should have explained the basis for the decision to accede rather than ratify. Again, more information was needed on the process. In addition, the explanatory memorandum fell short in giving detail. It highlighted the increased foreign revenue and employment opportunities if South Africa acceded, but did not address the implications for vulnerable groups, additional human and financial capacity that would be needed (as the ports of the country were likely to be open to more foreign vessels) nor the implications for national security as officials at Fisheries did not work 24 hours but an 8-hour day. It was also misleading in suggesting that South Africa would have an opportunity to make use of the assistance that FAO offered to developing states, failing to mention that South Africa did not qualify for priority as it was not considered a least developed state. The legal opinions of the State Law Advisers from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and International Relations and Cooperation had been prepared, but several years ago. These were not attached to the agreements tabled to the Committee, and it was necessary for DAFF to explain whether those opinions were affected by subsequent developments, most specifically the reconfiguration of the Department itself. DAFF also failed to be specific on the financial implications, and had not explained whether South Africa, as a cooperating and non-contracting party, had already received assistance for sending people to meetings. Finally, she pointed out that DAFF already faced a general challenge in terms of technical skills capacity, and this might compromise the ability of the Department to effectively implement the provisions of the international agreements, so that the DAFF would have to specifically address how it was planning to overcome this, what the penalties might be if it failed to comply and what the wider implications would be.

Members agreed that it was not acceptable for the DAFF to fail to sign documents sent to the Committee and that the agreements could not be considered without the supporting information. The Chairperson indicated that she had already been in touch with the Minister and Department to complain about the general attitude of the DAFF to the Committee and called for increased cooperation. 

Meeting report

The DAFF was due to present the implementation plan for the Small-scale Fisheries Policy, but this was postponed as the Committee had noted that documentation was not signed.

Extension and Advisory Services Policy: Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

Mr Mokutule Kgobokoe, Deputy Director-General, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries stated that the purpose of the Extension and Advisory Services Policy (the policy) is to deliver and maintain a pluralistic, harmonised and co-ordinated extension and advisory service that operates on a common set of principles and values. The policy is intended to recognise the overall livelihood context within which extension and advisory services operates and to support producers on a wider livelihood system and sustainable development initiatives.

Long term issues pertaining to the policy centred around setting a regulatory framework to guide the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors in the provision of extension and advisory services. It was necessary to provide a common framework and set of principles to achieve shared over-arching objectives and priorities set out in the 2012 National Development Plan (NDP), the Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) and integrated growth and development plans, and to facilitate the establishment of effective and efficient extension and advisory services.

The long-term goals of the policy were thus to ensure that all sectors in the value chain would enjoy equitable and optimum excess to knowledge and skills, and have the capacity to explore opportunities for the advancement of their livelihoods and enterprises, as well as to respond to the needs and ambitions of the circumstances of the users.

The policy seeks to transform and align the core competencies of extension practitioners towards the comprehensive development agenda, and to promote and implement the value chain approach for integrated and holistic support services. It applied to all three sectors in all rural and urban areas of South Africa and it applied to all modes of extension and advisory service delivery by government, the private sector, NGOs, and producer organisations and producers.

More specifically, he explained the role of the Extension and Advisory Services unit of the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF or the Department). It was to provide information to research institutions on production constraints of the producers, so that appropriate basic, applied and adaptive research could be conducted. This service would assist producers to identify and overcome production, enterprise and marketing challenges, through the exchange of information among producers, extension practitioners, input suppliers, creditors and marketing agents. The service was intended to empower and build capacity of producers, producer organisations and commodity groups to ultimately become self-reliant, for improved living standards. The unit was working with producers in technology development and innovation processes.

Mr Kgobokoe highlighted that in recent decades the concept of extension had broadened. Current approaches emphasised the concepts of advice, facilitation, empowerment and learning. Facilitation and learning-based extension was believed to be placing the extension worker in a more responsive role as a ‘knowledge broker’ or as a guide through unfamiliar institutional or technical landscapes to direct users to relevant information and advice.

In order to advance the extension education system and broaden service focus, the policy seeks to review and develop a multi-disciplinary training curriculum for extension practitioners, and to ensure their continuous professional development through systematic maintenance, improvement and broadening of knowledge and skills, and development of personal qualities necessary for the execution of the professional and technical duties.

The DAFF was presently seeking to recruit competent extension practitioners to augment the current human capital, and also trying to ensure the competence of extension professionals through registration with a recognised and credible professional body. It advocated that extension practitioners must become champions of the value chain approach, to integrate comprehensive value chain aspects into farming operations. It was promoting the support of market access opportunities for producers, especially smallholders, by negotiating for marketing outlets, including preferential procurement opportunities by state agencies.

Mr Kgobokoe then spoke to how the information was being disseminated. The policy sought to design user-friendly ICT knowledge sharing platforms, such as social networks, to effect mass communication which would ensure free accessibility to research outcomes. It was using a multi-lingual approach to enable open access information by all sectors across the value chain.

The DAFF was also looking at ways of facilitating demand-driven research and extension services by promoting action-based and producer-led research processes. It was, for instance, supporting programmes based on participatory on-farm trials, and research-station based research processes in order to ensure the inclusion of producers and extension practitioners in all research.

He noted that this policy would also enable the Provincial Departments of Agriculture to provide a holistic, well-coordinated and collaborative approach. This would provide different actors with a platform to play specific roles in the development of a prosperous and sustainable agriculture sector. Further, it would improve, implement and monitor extension and advisory services strategies, norms and standards across the whole country.

Mr Kgobokoe summarised the intentions that this policy should:
- provide effective and efficient linkage mechanism between research, extension and producers
- improve access to quality extension and advisory services that were professional, reliable, relevant and accountable
- provide advance extension education system and broadened service focus
- promote a commodity value chain development approach
- provide sustainable food and nutrition security
- produce self reliant and confident producers through shared knowledge
- offer an integrated intervention, through the establishment of provincial Directorates for extension and advisory services, to ensure effective implementation

Mr Kgobokoe stressed that the government remained committed to providing extension and advisory services without charge to those who could not afford to pay. A user-pay principle would apply in the case of producers and members of producer organisations that could afford to pay for the services rendered. To solve the problem of fiscal sustainability, it was felt that outsourcing, co-financing, contracting and private funding should be implemented.

He noted that consultations on this policy had been held with all relevant stakeholders, including the Chief Executive Officers Public Entities and heads of provincial Departments of Agriculture.  It was presented to the DAFF Exco, which recommended that it be tabled at MinMEC, and MinMEC then approved it on 26 September 2014. Still to be done were the consultations with the Directors-general and Ministerial clusters on Social and Economic Development, Cabinet Committee tabling and Cabinet approval.

Discussion
Ms A Steyn (DA) asked why it took so long for the Department to get funding approval, when the policy went to the Cabinet for the first time in 2008. She also requested the Department to provide a provincial and regional breakdown for the 3 000 recruited extension officers.

Mr Kgobokoe replied that the conceptualisation of the Extension Recovery Plan was done during 2008/9 period. It was then presented to and accepted by the National Treasury, and funding was approved. However, there was no policy at that stage to regulate the extension service. The policy development started in 2010, and it would be expedited.

In relation to the provincial breakdown, he said the Department had a register of extension officers which indicated their names and locations. The document would be sent to the Committee.

Mr T Ramokhoase (ANC) wanted to know more about the policy objectives, and asked how the transformation of the core competencies of extension practitioners was going to assist the existing practitioners. Concerning the role of extension and advisory services, he wanted to establish how authentic the information to be provided to research institutions would be. Also, he enquired how the Department was going to improve and monitor extension and advisory services strategies, norms and standards in provinces. Finally, he asked for clarity on Provincial Directorates.

Mr Kgobokoe agreed that one ambition of the policy related to the transformation core competencies of extension practitioners. It could be done through reshaping the curriculum so that it was multi-disciplinary, and this would enable the officers to service all the actors in the value chain. In regard to authenticity of information he stated that information dissemination and exchange was critical. The officers must be the "reservoir of information" that was needed by producers. That was why the Department was about to introduce IT gadgets to provide information to farmers. For instance, the Department was using a smart pen tool that assisted in locating where the extension officer was and what he/she was doing. If the pen was not active, that meant the officer was not working.

Mr Kgobokoe reported that insofar as provincial monitoring went, the Department was trying to forge a conversation so that people could have inputs in the services offered and add value to them. There were already Provincial Directorates in place but the emphasis would move to having ones specifically for extension officers.

Mr L Filtane (UDM) wanted to find out if extension officers had access to labourers who were working regularly on the big, white commercial farms. He asked if the Department was going to make use of pre-existing institutions like Ntinga, which had extension officers who were not actually doing any work because of budget cuts. He asked if prior learning or experience was going to be considered for the qualifications of extension officers, pointing out that some may not have these although they did have vast  experience in the field. He asked if there were colleges that offered studies in extension and advisory services. Finally, he asked the Department to comment on the issue of Provincial Agriculture Departments that had no budget for operations although people were drawing salaries monthly.

Mr Bonga Msomi, Chief Director, DAFF answered the question on access to labourers, explaining that the extension officers dealt only with farmers. He also spoke to the provincial budget cuts, and acknowledged that the Eastern Cape does have a problem on its operational budget, and DAFF had held a meeting with the Provincial Treasury. The Department had managed to buy vehicles for operations due to the Extension Recovery Plan which was discussed with National Treasury. He also acknowledged there were problems in Mthatha, and that was the responsibility of the National Government.

Mr Msomi also confirmed that prior learning and experience was to be incorporated. The target was to review the curriculum to make sure the student had done the necessary basics. There were plans to ask for a four-year qualification in agriculture before an extension officer could be appointed. Some of the current extension officers had been sent to workshops for upgrading their skills.  Institutions like Ntinga would also included, as the intention was to establish partnerships with the aim of improving the extension service and for experiential training. There were existing colleges that produced both farmers and extension officers, Fort Cox being one example.

Ms Z Jongbloed (DA) asked if the extension officers were going to work in all three sectors of the Department or if each sector was going to have its own set of extension officers.

Mr Msomi said the extension service would be tailored by the different branches of the Department to suit their needs. The policy did not exclude Fisheries and Forestry, but the Department was moving in the direction of finding solutions and alternatives there too.

The Chairperson wanted to find out if the Department had a tailor-made curriculum in order to develop all-rounders who would also be developers, and who could guide the Committee in developing better policies.

Mr Kgobokoe replied that the Department was working around the issue of the curriculum, and it was intended to be a multi-disciplinary curriculum.

Mr Filtane asked if there would be punitive measures for defaulters.

Mr Kgobokoe reported that it was felt that the service should be professionalised, through the Extension Recovery Plan. Each officer had to register as a member, and abide by the code of conduct, and the body would be guided by the general procedures in the public service. He agreed that if an extension officer had done something wrong, then punitive measures would be applied. .

Ms Steyn asked how the policy was going to be funded if there were budget cuts.

Mr Kgobokoe stated there was an annual budget of around R258 million from the Extension Recovery Plan, which served as the base line.

Mr Senzeni Zokwana, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, commented that he had taken note of the questions from the Members. There were several policies that were being developed that would answer some of the questions around training development, curriculum improvement, and capacity to support both Fisheries and Forestry. He mentioned that in a recent engagement he had held with farmers they indicated that some of their problems had to do with extension officers, and the Department was therefore looking into this and deciding on the ideal numbers to be allocated to farms, rural villages and towns, and cities. Lastly, he indicated that revitalising of agriculture colleges was being done, with three already receiving attention, in Eastern Cape, Limpopo and North West.

Fisheries International Agreements: Committee Content Advisor briefings
Ms Nozuko Mgxashe, Content Advisor to the Committee, reported that the three International Agreements that DAFF tabled in Parliament and referred to the Committee for approval were not accompanied by any Draft Resolution. These three agreements were: The Agreement for the Establishment of the Indian Tuna Commission (IOTC); Convention for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT); and the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Agreement on Port State Measures.

Because the tuna agreements (CCSBT) were quite old, it was possible that there might have been amendments to the original Agreements and other states/parties might have since acceded to the agreements. DAFF had not provided this information to the Committee. Although Japan, Australia and New Zealand initiated the CSSBT, the Fishing Entitys of Taiwan, Indonesia and the Korean Republic have since joined the Convention as members.

While the IOTC and CSSBT related to tuna-like species, they were in fact two different agreements that addressed different aspects. They were administered differently and will have different requirements upon accession. The Explanatory Memorandum provided by the DAFF should have included a clear briefing on each agreement instead of combining them in one paragraph, and it would have helped if, for each agreement, DAFF had provided information as set out in the Ratification/Accession Procedures of  DIRCO and Rule 306(2) of the National Assembly Rules.

In terms of the FAO Port State Measures on IUU Fishing which deals with the prevention, deterrence and elimination of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, the Department did not highlight the fact that the agreement would enter into force after 25 parties had signed the agreement. 92 countries approved this agreement in 2009. Currently, 11 countries had ratified it the last being Mozambique, which was the third African country to do so, on 19 August 2014. She suggested that the DAFF must explain the basis for the decision to accede to, rather than ratify, the agreement.

She added that DAFF had said very little about the Port State Measures on IUU Fishing in the explanatory memorandum, except that South Africa was already implementing the National Port State Measures. Similar information was required as for the IOTC and CCSBT, as per the Ratification/Accession procedures of DIRCO and the Rule 306 (2) of the National Assembly should have been provided for this agreement.

While the Department highlighted increased foreign revenue and employment opportunities if South Africa acceded to the agreements, it did not address implications for vulnerable groups, additional human and financial capacity that would be needed (as the ports of the country were likely to be open to more foreign vessels) nor the implications for national security as officials at Fisheries did not work 24 hours but an 8-hour day. Most illegal activities at sea took place at night.

In summary, Ms Mgxashe noted that the DAFF's explanatory memorandum was misleading in mentioning that membership to the CCSBT “would allow South Africa to table its concerns and to influence decisions taken at these regional fisheries management organisations”. In addition, the explanatory memorandum mentioned that in accepting the Port State Measures on IUU Fishing of FAO, South Africa would have an opportunity to make use of the assistance that FAO offered to developing states, but although the agreement did mention that, it also specified that priority was given to the Least Developed States and Small Islands, and South Africa does not fall into that category.

Legal opinion indicators

Ms Mgxashe also noted that the legal opinions of the State Law Advisors from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJCD) and DIRCO did not accompany the agreements when they were tabled to the Committee. However, she had discovered that legal opinions were all provided and signed a few years ago as follows:

  • IOTC signed in September 2008 (DOJCD) and 2009 (DIRCO)
  • CCSBT signed in September 2010 (DOJCD) and August 2011 (DIRCO)
  • Port State Measures for IUU Fishing signed in September 2011 (Office of the Chief State Law Advisor in Cape Town) and March 2012 (DIRCO)

It was possible that certain subsequent developments had taken place, in terms of the international agreements of the country. This was a serious matter that DAFF should address before the agreements could be approved, and DAFF should indicate the implications of the legal opinions signed a few years ago. For example, the IOTC legal opinions were provided in 2008 and 2009. The Fisheries Management Branch, at that time, was the Marine and Coastal Management Division of the former Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. The Department should explain the implications of these changes, and also in terms of the administration of the Marine Living Resources Act, 1998 (Act No.18 of 1998) which had, since 2014, been amended to accommodate small-scale fisheries.

Financial implications

Ms Mgxashe noted that, in respect of the financial implications, the Department only indicated the annual membership fees for the IOTC and the CCSBT and reported there would be no financial implications for the Port State Measures, as South Africa was a member of the FAO, which was the custodian of this Agreement. The IOTC membership fees had been presented in US dollars while the CCSBT were in Australian dollars.

Because South Africa had been a cooperating and non-contracting party to the two tuna agreements and had been implementing Port State Measures already, this meant the Department has been involved in certain activities including compliance to regulations. On accession, the country may need to be involved in additional activities and be subjected to more compliance measures regarding Port State Measures. In this regard, there would be financial implications for additional and qualified personnel and equipped vessels including personnel to operate the vessels.

Specific issues on the International Agreements

Ms Mgxashe highlighted that the IOTC and CCSBT dealt with technical matters relating to the conservation and management of tuna species in the Indian Ocean and adjacent seas and the southern Bluefin tuna respectively. In all sessions of the IOTC and CCSBT, each member state must be represented by one delegate who may be accompanied by an alternate, experts and advisors. Expenses for attending these sessions were the responsibility of the participating governments.

The Exploratory Memorandum stated that on accession to the IOTC, the Department should appoint officials from DAFF to represent the country in these meetings. These should constitute a Commissioner, Fisheries Officer, Fisheries Researcher, Compliance Officer and an International Relations Officer.

Therefore, as a cooperating non-contracting party to the IOTC, the Department should, amongst other things:

  • indicate if it already had qualified personnel to assume the five listed positions to represent the country at the IOTC accession
  • indicate who was previously, and is currently, representing the country as delegates in the IOTC and CCSBT sessions
  • indicate if all the accompanying people were from DAFF or outside DAFF
  • indicate if, for previous meetings, any financial assistance had been received by some DAFF officials to attend the IOTC meetings through the Meeting Participation Fund for Representatives from Developing States
  • provide details of the employment of South Africans currently gained from the 40 tons total allowable catch (TAC) for the southern Bluefin tuna, and what would be the possible gains from a 110 ton increase if the country acceded to the CCSBT

Ms Mgxashe concluded that DAFF, including the Fisheries Branch, was known to have a general challenge in terms of technical skills capacity, and this might compromise the ability of the Department to effectively implement the provisions of the international agreements. It was thus very important that the Department should explain the penalties associated with contravening the provisions of the agreements and the implications of not meeting some of its obligations. Furthermore, the Department must indicate the financial implications for hiring the required personnel or for use of consultancy services, including the specific activities and duration for which the consultants would be used if there was not sufficient internal expertise to execute some of the provisions. Lastly, the Department must specify the financial implication for any plans that there might be to ensure capacitation to execute the responsibilities.

Discussion

Mr C Maxegwana (ANC) wanted to know why the Fisheries Branch of DAFF had not signed the document to be presented to the Committee, when it knew long ago it had an engagement with Parliament.

Mr Z Mandela (ANC) remarked that the Committee could not do the work as expected if the reports were not signed and there was no explanation given for not signing the work.

Ms A Steyn (DA) commented it was hard for the Committee to do its research and make recommendations on reports to be presented to the Committee if the reports were not received in time and not signed.

Mr T Ramokhoase (ANC) suggested that the DAFF should be told to attend to the outstanding issues urgently. It was impossible for the Committee to move forward without this.

The Chairperson remarked that the Department did not appear to take the Committee seriously. She indicated that the proposed presentation would not be allowed if the documents were not signed. The Committee had already written to the Department to voice its displeasure about the treatment it was receiving, and pleaded with the Minister, Deputy Minister and Director-General to take the Committee seriously.

The meeting was adjourned.

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