The Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries is currently developing a project in conjunction with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) to create Agri-parks in locations throughout South Africa. These Agri-parks aim to involve smallholders and local producers in the entire process of agriculture to address both food security and poverty. The Department hopes to fight issues such as the 14 million hungry South Africans, unused potential farmland, and the inequality between private agricultural business and the people. The Department recognised that similar programmes exist, such as the Fetsa Tlala programme, but assured the committee that Agri-parks would take a much more holistic approach to addressing and developing entire communities and exposing the people to economic value chains.
The Committee was very supportive of the project, and recognised that these challenges are in dire need of solutions. They asked questions about the scope of the project and whether it would address individuals as well as districts. The Committee was unclear about how exactly the programme would operate and who would be in charge of oversight and how progress would be confirmed. In addition, the Committee was concerned about DAFF’s ability to provide the infrastructure necessary for such a project to be successful in truly undeveloped areas. The Department replied that, in the initial stages, funding and land development would come from the DRDLR, and went on to explain exactly how responsibility would be allocated. In addition, they maintained that this project is in its early stages, with a completion date tentatively set in 2019, and that they are still in discussions with Treasury about funding.
Development of Agri-Parks and the linkage between Agri-parks and other DAFF programmes
Mr Mortimer Mannya, Deputy Director General of Food Security and Agrarian Reform, Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (DAFF), apologised that the documents necessary for the meeting were sent only last Friday. He explained that he would emphasise agriculture because rural development has already been explained to the committee.
Mr Mannya noted that this venture is following the President’s State of the Nation announcement that seven agriparks would be completed at a cost of R2 billion. Agri-parks consolidate many aspects of agriculture in district municipalities. The goals of Agri-parks are to promote greater land use, increase the processing of products, establish networks and improve infrastructure, focus on small-holders, bring about connections between producers and the market, and provide skills training.
DAFF’s role would be to handle vulnerability analysis, skills development, and strategy for funding and rollout; however, the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) and other existing programmes will assist in the development of Agri-parks. He noted that this project is in cooperation with the Department for Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR).
Mr Mannya focused on charts explaining the differences between Fetsa Tlala and the Agri-parks project. He noted that Fetsa Tlala is focused more on food security, while Agri-parks focus on promoting job creation and exposing smallholders to the entire value chain. He conceded that common areas between the two programmes include improvements in production, economic local growth, and the preservation of natural resources.
Mr Mannya explained that the goal of these programmes is to have 1 million hectares of farmland in use by 2019. Originally, the focus of these projects was on food grains, but this emphasis has since been widened to include feed grains and fuel grains.
Charts showed that to date 280 000 hectares of farmland have been planted, with maize being the overwhelmingly most common crop.
Mr Mannya then moved on to another DAFF initiative where DAFF provided storage tanks to allow storage for excess grains. He noted that the tanks do not rust, hold 10 tons, and have a 20-year life span, eight years at minimum.
Mr Mannya broke Agri-park development down into three stages of development: first a Farmer Production Support Unit, then an Agri-Hub, and finally the Rural Urban Market Centre.
He ended by explaining the future budget, where he noted that funding between provinces for the 2016/17 budget is evenly allocated. Fetsa Tlala’s target this year is 128 000 more hectares of farmed land. In addition, DAFF intends to provide more storage tanks. By the conclusion of the project, Mr Mannya hopes to have 44 Agri-park sites spread throughout all provinces.
The Chairperson thanked the Department for the presentation, and asked whether the Fetsa Tlala programme deals with individual gardens or single households.
Mr J Parkies (ANC, Free State) asked the department if it is checking progress on the ground against budget allocations, and if so who is responsible. Secondly, are the basic units from slide 17 connected with provincial offices? He was concerned that the size of the tanks may either prohibit expansion or be insufficient. Mr Parkies commented that we must be vigilant to protect the people, not the private sector, through these projects. He then asked what criteria is used to select the sites of the Agri-parks, who are the processors we currently have, and from where will additional processors come?
Ms C Labuschagne (DA, Western Cape) asked about the role of the different levels of governments and which levels have what responsibilities for Agri-parks? Specifically, what is the role of district municipalities? Also, how will the DAFF promote communication between role-players? In order to have reliable data on which to assess this project, will there be a new version of the agriculture census? If not, how will a baseline be established and how will job creation be measured? Ms Labuschagne requested a breakdown of the interventions both completed and planned. Finally, she enquired about the requirements of these processing facilities for each province.
Mr C Smit (DA, Limpopo) asked how would these programmes link up with tribal areas with no infrastructure? He observed that, at least in Limpopo, the programmes seem to only target existing farmers. He asked what exactly a comprehensive support package is. Finally, he requested clarity on how the sixty tanks being sent to Limpopo would be distributed.
Mr M Rayi (ANC, Eastern Cape) lauded the cooperation between two departments and the clear definitions provided. He asked how districts are identified. He noted that provinces are broken down but not districts. He asked when will Agri-parks begin to operate? He pointed out that money has been received by the locations but operations have not started. Can districts that are not included request inclusion in this programme? How will this effort be affected by legal land claims?
Ms N Mokgosi (EFF, Northern Cape) asked where a specific site will be in the Northern Cape and if Fetsa Tlala is working in the Northern Cape.
Ms B Masango (DA, Gauteng) asked what are site selections leveraged on and is it possible to correlate hectares with jobs?
The Chairperson asked how is progress monitored.
Mr Mannya offered a general explanation before answering specific questions: DRDLR provides land and infrastructure to support projects in local areas initially, taking leadership in the early stage. After these things develop, DAFF will check progress and assume responsibility.
Mr Mannya replied to the Chairperson’s first question that the programme’s main focus is grain, though there are vegetables as well. The programme sees all levels, including single households, but Fetsa Tlala generally focuses above that. Other programmes also support household gardens.
Mr Mannya addressed Mr Parkies’ enquiry by explaining that sites are identified by levels of poverty, but beyond that, potential of the land. After identification, structures develop a business plan. After all this, money becomes available for land purchase and infrastructure development. Production comes in the third quarter of the year at earliest. DAFF intends to bring more alignment between programmes. Support offices may not currently be in the correct area, but this will be fixed. Storage facilities predate agriparks; going forward agriparks will be prioritised. He agreed with Mr Parkies that DAFF must be conscious of benefiting 'the people', not the rich, and that producers must be a part of processing.
Mr Mannya repeated that funding comes from DRDLR, at this stage. While site selection is handled by the DRDLR, the DAFF will deal with production and marketing in the later stages. DAFF also monitors CASP and are accountable to provinces for that. He assured Ms Labuschagne that structures have been established at all levels of government. The agricultural census ended in 2007, but it had never counted the smallholder sector. Budgeting for such a survey would be R300 million, and DAFF is currently lobbying Treasury for such funding, but in the meantime a baseline is being determined in other ways.
Mr Bonga Msomi: Chief Director, National Extension Support Services, added that there will be no new extension offices, unless the Agri-park is in a new area with a new crop. He explained that various mayors and department heads do studies and see if it meets criteria to select a site. The price is about R45 million per Agri-park site, and Treasury is supposed to supply 75% of the money to buy land from smallholders in order to stimulate their local economy.
Mr Msomi replied to Mr Smit that road development is very important, and that DAFF will work with local districts along with the Department of Transport (DoT) to create roads and other necessary infrastructure.
Mr Mannya continued and said that some abandoned infrastructure may contribute to Agri-parks, and that the DAFF’s goal is to strengthen current systems, not just to create new areas. Mr Mannya recognised the problem of lack of infrastructure in some places, and these gaps must be closed. He added that DRDLR will acquire some tribal land for this project.
Mr Mannya replied to Ms Mokgosi that although the Northern Cape is not ideal for grain, Fetsa Tlala has encouraged farms developed in this area to tend livestock.
Mr Mannya replied to Ms Masango that the linkage between hectares and jobs is complex: various commodities produce different numbers of jobs. He repeated that he is very concerned not to disadvantage smallholders.
Mr Parkies asked about allocation of resources and how the department intends to balance the need for food now with long-term planning for profitable growth.
Mr Mannya responded that CASP allocates resources by size of province, commodities produced, and needs. The exact figure will be finalised when a business plan is presented. He asserted that Agri-parks would promote local food networks and access in order to remedy uneven distribution.
In reply to the Chairperson asking for final word from the Department, Mr Mannya said that he appreciates the guidance of the Committee.
The Chairperson commented that land must become available to those who have been hurt by our troubled past.
Committee Minutes: adoption
The Committee adopted the minutes of a previous meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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