Food Emergency Scheme: briefing by Department

Social Development

12 March 2003
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


12 March 2003

Mr E Saloojee (ANC)

Document handed out:
Briefing on the Food Emergency Scheme

The Department briefed the Committee on the background and conceptual framework of the food emergency scheme: the cost involved, its implementation to date and future implementation across all provinces. The discussion that followed centred on the sustainability of the scheme, how recipient areas were determined and the need for Members to be given specific details of the scheme in order to give input, carry out their oversight role and inform their constituencies.

Ms T Nwedamutswu: Deputy Director General of Integrated Development, Department of Social Development, introduced her colleagues from the Department, and representatives from the National Development Agency (NDA) and the Independent Development Trust (IDT).

Ms Nwedamutswu said that last year a report on the television programme Special Assignment showed that 168 people had died from malnutrition in the Eastern Cape. Immediately after this food prices increased substantially. The government initiated a Food Emergency Scheme, a sub-programme of the Integrated Food Security and Nutrition Strategy, in order to address the problem of malnutrition and hunger. On 29 October 2002 the Government announced the allocation of R400 million for emergency poverty relief: R170 million was allocated to Southern Africa through the Department of Foreign Affairs by the World Food Programme and R230 million was for local intervention in the form of food parcels.

Ms Nwedamutswu conducted the presentation, broadly discussing the following issues:
-The background to the Scheme.
-The conceptual framework: immediate relief through food parcels for three months, thereafter development of linkages with community production centres, ensuring access to Social Security Safety Net and so forth.
-The budget for the Scheme over the next three years: 2002/2003: R230 million, 2003/2004 and 2004/2005: R400 million.
-Specific allocation of monies to direct and indirect costs and to provinces.
-Identification of recipients: initial R230 million allocated to those in Band A Expenditure Level.
-Lessons learned from the Pilot Project which ran from December 2002 to January 2003.

Ms Nwedamutswu made additional comments. He noted that the community had assisted them in identifying recipient households. In some instances households demanded that the Department help a neighbour before them if they felt they were more urgently in need.

With respect to partnerships with other Departments, parastatals and civil society. In addition to that presented in the document Ms Nwedamutswu reminded the Committee that the Government agreed to a 'Commitment of Food Supplement' after the National Association of People With AIDS (NAPWA) organised hunger strike. The programme has already been launched in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Free State and will be launched in other programmes by the end of March 2003.

Mr E Salojee (ANC) said that it was vital for the Committee Members to get further details about the Scheme and for them to see the Scheme in action in order for them to carry out their oversight role and to provide their constituencies with information. He asked for specific locations of the launched programmes.

Ms Nwedamutswu said that they could provide some locations to Committee Members as the information came in; they do not have all information for all provinces. In certain places they use, for example, clinics or schools, depending on the available infrastructure.

Ms G Smith (Department of Social Development) agreed with Mr Salojee and noted his comment. The Department of Social Development was approaching the Committee belatedly due to the time constraints of having to get the Scheme off the ground so quickly. They would have to seriously think about ways to involve the MPs more actively.

Ms C Ramotsamai (ANC) said that she was proud of the Government and Department's achievements with the Scheme. However, she wanted to reiterate Mr Saloojee's comment. They needed as much information as possible in order to monitor the Scheme.

Ms Ramotsamai added that IDT was not operating in all areas and as the IDT was the implementing partner in the Scheme this would affect the Scheme's effectiveness.

She also referred to the need to ensure that people did not jump on the bandwagon when parcels and assistance were handed out.

Ms Ramotsamai referred to the conceptual framework of the Scheme: from three months of food parcels to getting people registered for social security grants to developing community production centres, market gardening and so forth. In many instances people relied on having aid handed to them. The Scheme had to look at ways of ensuring that the recipients did not rely only on the aid but were encouraged to develop their own means of production. She also asked whether the Department was taking into account the fact that in urban areas there was often little space for market gardening and subsistence.

Ms I Mars (IFP) asked whether Ms Nwedamutswu's mention of provinces referred to provincial government or the National Department's infrastructure within the provinces. She asked if communication between all the Departments was clear and whether the MEC's were well informed and ensuring that there was no unnecessary overlapping. The Department of Agriculture has a Tool and Seed Programme for many of the targeted areas, for example.

Ms Mars reiterated Mr Salojee and Ms Ramotsamai's comments on the need for keeping the MPs informed and involved. She said they could play a role in helping the Department in reporting difficulties experienced in the community.

A Member asked if the 3% of the R230 million allocated to the first phase of the Scheme (2002/2003) for indirect costs, would decrease in the following year as much of the infrastructure would already have been set up in the initial phase.

Ms Nwedamutswu said that the R400 million for 2003/2004 was allocated via a conditional grant to the provinces. It would be rolled out after April 2003. The administration of R400 million would require more infrastructure than the Department since it requires more personnel and so forth but that this extra cost had not been factored into the R400 million. They had therefore asked the partner organisations to assist. The 3% was primarily for co-ordination and communication (e.g. the newspaper campaign). She added that the R400 million was allocated to reach people in Expenditure Band B, C and D whereas the R230 million was allocated for B and A.

Mr G De Klerk (Department of Health) said that Social Development would need a minimum of 10% (R40 million) versus 3% in order to administer a good programme. He noted that the World Food Programme used a maximum percentage of 10% on administration /implementation costs.

Ms Nwedamutswu responded to Ms Mars's question. She said that 'provincial' referred to the provincial social cluster Departments. MECs were well informed in Social Development and they expected to find the same in the other social cluster Departments. Ms Nwedamutswu emphasised that they were working closely together with the other Departments but that time had been a major constraint in not allowing them to go into the communities together. For example, the Department of Agriculture was looking at the appropriate crops to help people with in different areas.

Mr Salojee said that from his experiences in the Limpopo province, in those areas where supporting infrastructure for agriculture was available for people, they were utilising this support with positive results.

Ms Nwedamutswu agreed and said that her colleague form the Department of Agriculture should be at the meeting. Answering Ms Ramotsamai's question, she said that alternatives to food gardens in certain areas and for those people who were not interested in agricultural production were incorporated into the Scheme and that there was flexibility. For example, people had formed production units to sell ice blocks. They were also aware that in child headed households certain production options were not open to them if they were to go to school.

Ms Nwedamutswu added that they were trying very hard to stick to the developmental model they had initiated rather than simply handing out food parcels.

Ms Nwedamutswu said that, with regards to monitoring, each social cluster in the provinces had set up a team with Members from the NDA, IDT and CSIR on board. It was vital that MPs and civil society helped with monitoring the Scheme as they had limited human resources.

Prof L Mbadi (UDM) said that the Department had spoken of mobile Home Affairs offices around the country to register those people who were falling through the social security net. He was particularly concerned about the lack of registration of many of the children. He knew of one mobile office in the North Eastern Cape that could not possibly handle all the registrations.

A Member asked if the Department would let them know what were in the food parcels. She asked if the Department had learnt from past experiences: such as the collapse of the School Feeding. She asked what had happened to a feeding scheme for mothers of young children. She asked if this scheme would collapse too.

A Member said that in many squatter areas NAPWA was not operating. She asked what would happen to people with HIV/AIDS in these areas where NAPWA could not implement the Scheme. Would NAPWA primarily be looking after its own Members?

Ms Nwedamutswu responded that they were not limited to NAPWA for ensuring that those with HIV/AIDS were reached. She said that a host of people were responsible for identifying those in need: caregivers, school (and the school children alerted them to their families needs), social workers etc.

Ms Nwedamutswu said that they had learnt from other feeding schemes. It was vital to get the input of the community before initiating the Schemes. For example the school feeding scheme had put a number of women out of business as they used to sell basic food at the school gates.

Ms Nwedamutswu said that they were worried about sustaining the beneficiaries of the Scheme after the food parcels were no longer handed out after three months. The development of links with community production centres, ensuring access to the social security safety net was therefore vital. They were working with Home Affairs and the other cluster Departments on this. The heads of the social cluster Departments had committed to talking to the Director-General of Home Affairs in order to get the mobile Home Affairs offices moving.

Ms Smith said the food parcels contained the following: milk powder, dry beans, peanut butter, maize meal, sugar, cooking oil, tea bags, rice, salt, soup, Soya mince, Soya instant meal, body washing soap and detergent soap.

Ms S Rajbally (MF) asked if the business sector was involved in the Scheme. She asked if the Scheme only targeted rural areas.

Mr Saloojee asked if the Department has reached out to crucial organisations such as Operation Hunger.

Ms J Chalmers (ANC) said that she was worried about the recipients after the three months of food parcels were over. She said once Band A had been given their parcels and the Scheme moved on to Bands B, C and D, those who were poorer (Band A) would not be getting parcels when those with more money did.

Ms Chalmers asked if the Department was looking at more sustainable feeding schemes such as soup kitchens, which had worked for generations, especially in those areas where the kitchen grew their own vegetables.

Ms B Dlamini (ANC) said that the churches should be involved in identifying beneficiaries of the Scheme, as they often knew the communities well. She added that the provinces should communicate with local councillors and those in SANGOCO who could play a vital role in identification and in implementation.

Ms Smith replied that the councillors in the Eastern Cape had played a role in the February launch of the Scheme. They had complied the list of beneficiaries and the list had been confirmed by social workers to ensure that Councillors were not trying to add people to the list to gain support for their office.

Mr B Solo (ANC) made an impassioned plea to the Department to tell him specifically where such schemes in his constituency was working as he constantly had to deal with the reality of abject poverty in his area that was not being tackled.

Mr A Van Jaarsveld (NNP) said that as MPs they needed to engage themselves 'to the maximum' in the Scheme. He appreciated that the Department had little time for consultation with the Committee but even a brief meeting would have highlighted some of the issues being brought up that day. He also questioned the ability of Home Affairs to be involved in the manner that was envisioned as he felt there was a severe lack of capacity.

A Member said that in the Western Cape the nodal points that had been identified were Beaufort West, Khayelitsha and Mitchell's Plain. She asked if they were the only areas to be targeted by the Scheme.

Ms Ramotsamai said that the Western Cape Scheme was only launching at the end of March so there was still time for them to give some input.

She said that the Department could not avoid the fact that there will be opportunists such as officials selling the food rather than handing it out and that a more co-ordinated approach between the sectors would help in keeping this abuse to a minimum.

Ms Smith agreed. When there was visible co-operation in certain provinces between Agriculture, Health and Education, the Scheme worked. She noted, however, that Statistics South Africa's data on the 2.2 million food insecure households pointed to the people falling through the cracks and not being accessed by government. The new feeding scheme hoped not only to address the short term via food parcels but also hoped to build empowerment.

Ms Smith said that both rural and urban areas were targeted. The targeting of certain households over others was a tough decision, but the government was at least beginning to get an idea of where the areas of greatest food insecurity were. Once the nodal areas had been identified for targeting, they then looked at the five beneficiary identification criteria (children headed households, orphans, the disabled, female headed households and HIV/AIDS affected households). In addition to this they were also looking at the known poverty areas and the Committee could alert them to areas they felt were affected but where there were budget constraints.

Ms Nwedamutswu said that a workshop was to be held in Gauteng for Civil Society to give their input on the allocated R400 million for the next phase of the Scheme. She asked if some Committee Members could attend.

Mr Salojee whole-heartedly agreed and said that Committee Members would be excused from their responsibilities in Cape Town in order to attend the meeting.

Mr Solo made an impassioned plea for researchers who design policy to make spot visits to some of the poverty stricken areas of his constituencies to see how little implementation takes place. He demanded to know where in his constituency such feeding schemes were successfully taking place and making a difference. He sited examples of officials taking ten months to process an application form for social assistance while people lived in worsening poverty every day.

Mr Salojee said that it would be helpful if the IDT and NDA also gave a presentation to the Committee on their role in the Scheme.

Ms T Sejane (NDA) agreed and said they would welcome the opportunity to brief their Committee an their role in the programme.

Ms Tshwete asked if the Department could give them the specific dates and locations for when next the Department was handing out food parcels so that they could take a look and then disseminate the necessary information to their constituencies.

Ms Nwedamutswu agreed. She returned to Mr Saloojee's question about consultation with groups such as Operation Hunger. They had consulted them but had encountered some difficulties. They were reluctant to be involved in implementation if they could not be a part of identifying the beneficiaries as this would reflect negatively on their agency if they felt the incorrect people where targeted. In some areas, such as the North West, Operation Hunger have committed to working in both identification and implementation for the next R400 million phase, not the present programme.

She said that another NGO, Gift of the Givers, was working with the Eastern Cape Department on implementation.

Ms Nwedamutswu responded to Ms Chalmers' enquiry about using programmes such as soup to fight malnutrition and hunger. She said that the programme does extend to the use soup kitchens but that other programmes usually took this up.

With regards to the involvement of the business sector, she pointed to the role that some businesses were playing in the Eastern Cape. Tiger Brands for example had donated mealie meal for feeding schemes.

Ms Ramotsamai emphasised the need fort the programme to remain developmental and not simply to hand out aid. There should be conditions for people to receive the aid; they should be prepared to make an effort to become productive and should not simply 'fold arms and criticise'. If people could see successful examples of households who had previously been dependent on the food parcels but were now self-sustaining, they would be encouraged to become part of the process.

Mr Salojee said that the briefing on the Department's progress had been encouraging. He asked that the Committee be kept up to date on further developments.

The meeting was adjourned.


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