Fetsa Tlala Food Production initiative & conditional grants: Provincial Departments reporting Day 1

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

21 September 2016
Chairperson: Ms M Semenya (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) told the Committee that funds were allocated to provinces in four tranches. The monitoring of projects and programmes was conducted on a quarterly basis by both the DAFF and the provincial departments of agriculture (PDA). Funds were 100% aligned to the Agricultural Policy Action Plan (APAP) and the Revitalising Agriculture and the Agro-processing Value Chain (RAAVC). Of the R394 million allocated to each province in the first quarter, 68.7% had been spent. For the revitalisation of the ten colleges of agriculture, a sum of R70.8 million had been allocated.

The programmes of the DAFF continued to perform well in achieving the set targets in terms of creating jobs and improving agricultural productivity, including conservation agriculture, and in that way mitigating and adapting the sector to climate change. Funding remained a challenge, as limited funds limited the achievement of goals. Coordination and partnerships with the private sector needed to be driven consciously if significant progress was to be achieved. Operation Phakisa may provide solution to this challenge. Monitoring of approved projects was ongoing and National Treasury had made funds available to assist the DAFF to increase its capacity and strengthen its programme management.

The Limpopo Department of Agriculture said it had adopted a developmental approach that focused on the priority commodities of the province to ensure that rural communities participated in the economy. Training during the first quarter had concentrated on marketing, by assisting the beneficiaries to create effective and efficient market systems in order to reduce transport costs by initiating bulk cluster production systems. Through the equitable share allocation, the province had set aside an amount of R8m for drought relief purposes, while conditional grants had been supplemented with R13 million. The average dam levels were at 49.1% as at 16 September 2016, compared to 76.0% of last year. A total of 31 boreholes had recently been drilled and equipped with windmills, drinking troughs and two 10 000-litre Jojo tanks, provided at a cost of R7.9 million. A contract had been concluded with Landini to service and repair 72 tractors.

The Mpumalanga Department of Agriculture said it had spent 16% (R42 million) of the R271 million allocated for Quarter 1. During this period, 19% of the budget had been spent on the seven prioritised Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) commodities. There were 45 planned projects that were going to cover all the districts. Reporting on infrastructure progress, the department said 75 hectares of irrigation systems had been initiated, and 17 irrigation pumps that had been affected by the 2012 floods had been rehabilitated. At Nkangala, the construction of an Agri-hub was 90% complete. R33 million from the CASP budget and R7 million from the equitable share had been allocated to provide emergency relief to farmers in the critically drought-affected areas of the province. However, there were also a number of farmers that had not been attended to because of the limited budget.

The North West Agriculture Department said it had spent 95% of the budget allocation for the quarter. Progress had been registered in the procurement of tunnel infrastructure, irrigation systems and water connection and fencing; renovation of existing broiler houses, electricity and water connections; procurement of small stock infrastructure, offices and ablution block for auction sales pens and the Taung agro-hub, which was under construction. AThe department has trained and capacitated 23 farmers during Quarter 1 and 22 in Quarter 2.  provincial database of unemployed youth was administered by the Youth Entrepreneur Services, and was used in prioritising youth either for farm allocation or formal employment. Th

Regarding drought recovery work, T TTe province had declared drought disaster areas. It had revised its request to National Treasury for R113m funding. A draft Bill for the establishment of a credit facility for drought-stricken farmers had been developed and a facility was targeted to be in operation during the first quarter of 2017/18. The department planned to deliver 250 000 litres of water to distressed livestock farmers per quarter and had already delivered 216 000 litres of water during the quarter.

GautengThe Gauteng Agriculture Department reported that out of the R261 744 million allocated for this financial year, a sum of R143 455 million has been spent during Quarter 1. The department also Gauteng   said it had developed an AgriParks Program which emphasised the concept of a one-stop destination for enhancing participation of all farmers. Five AgriParks had been established, and there was a need for two more to cover all the districts. Each AgriPark would be a critical link between the formal markets and the smallholder farmers. The AgriPark would serve as an intermediary and a distribution facility whereby the smallholder farmers’ produce would be aggregated and graded in accordance with formal markets requirements. The management of each AgriPark was to be undertaken on a private-public partnership to ensure a balance between the economic and development goals. The department

Concerning the 2016/17 Fetsa Tlala plans and progress, the department stated itwas interacting with grain producing farmers to ensure that they were ready for the cropping season. The lands were still very dry and not ready to be cultivated. The first summer rains would ensure readiness to start cultivating the lands. The department would support the identified crop farmers with production inputs for the coming production season.

The Free State Agriculture Department reported it was still facing a severe drought conditions. This was affecting livestock and cash crop production, and had had a very negative effect on maize, sunflower and soya bean production. Water restrictions had been imposed in water user association areas as from March 2016. Bags of fodder had been provided to subsistence and smallholder farmers.

Service providers had been appointed to drill and develop 132 boreholes all over the province, and the project had completed four boreholes. The budget for the other boreholes had been re-prioritised to fodder procurement and would be drilled and developed only in the next financial year.

The Agricultural Research Council (ARC) reported that summer crop production areas (Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, North West, Free State) and the winter rainfall regions were currently wetter this year than last year. It was still clear that drought conditions were present over the longer time scale (Sept 2015 - Aug 2016). Seasonal forecasts currently favoured a normal start to the summer rainy season over the north eastern parts, while a slow/late onset was indicated over the central to southern interior. Some climate models predicted a late and weak La Niña, resulting to some extent in a wetter to normal season. Rising temperature was the main cause of shifts in production areas, causing a decrease for some crops (maize, soybean, sorghum, sunflower, potato, Smuts finger grass), an increase for other crops (sugar cane, groundnuts, cotton), or remain largely unchanged (wheat).

The ARC continued to develop and transfer appropriate technologies to mitigate impacts of drought on smallholder farmers. The ARC had registered ten drought-tolerant, Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) DroughtTEGO hybrids. Consequent to the country experiencing a severe drought, the ARC continued to receive requests for seed of the WEMA varieties by farmers. Feedback from smallholder farmers who planted the first WEMA conventional drought-tolerant maize hybrids in South Africa during the 2014/15 season was that they had doubled their yields.

Members of the Committee posed a wide range of questions to the presenters.

They asked the DAFF if it interacted with the Department of Small Business Development when it came to developing smallholder farmers; were there plans in place to ease regulatory access for small-scale farmers; was the Department in a position to tell the Committee about provinces lagging behind in grant expenditure; why had flood disaster funds been allocated now, because the floods had happened a long time ago? They also wanted to know why the conditional grants were uniform, because provinces were unique in their make-up.

The ARC was asked what it was doing to promote principles of agricultural soil conservation. Members wanted to know if the ARC was looking at developing heat-tolerant seeds, not only drought-resistant seeds, because there was an increase in temperatures; wanted to find out if any research was done on aquaculture projects, seeing that there were changing climatic conditions.

Members questioned why provinces were always at the beginning of the planning process on aquaculture, because it presented one of the most important ways the population could be fed; they wanted to know why there was discrepancy in the figures presented by Mpumalanga and Limpopo on the training of farmers and capacity building; they asserted that the figures presented by the provinces and Department on the total number of boreholes drilled were incongruent; they asked if the provinces had started with the “set aside” percentage of budget to support smallholder farmers, because 30% of goods had to be procured from them so they had to be ready to participate in this process. The provinces were also asked how they were planning to protect the dry, arable land and communal land that was being lost to other competing needs in the country, because there was a need to protect agricultural land and improve food security. 

Meeting report

Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) presentation

Ms Elder Mtshiza, Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP)/ILIMA National Project Coordinator: DAFF, took the Members through the conditional grants expenditure of Quarter 1. She said funds were allocated to provinces in four tranches. The monitoring of projects and programmes was conducted on a quarterly basis by both the DAFF and the provincial departments of agriculture (PDA). Funds were 100% aligned to the Agricultural Policy Action Plan (APAP) and the Revitalising Agriculture and the Agro-processing Value Chain (RAAVC). Of the R394 million allocated to each province, 68.7% had been spent. The total allocation had been R2.202 billion. For the revitalisation of colleges of agriculture, a sum of R70.8 million had been allocated for the ten colleges.

On planned CASP activities aligned to the APAP, she said an investment of R44 million had been made on aquaculture. There were eight planned projects which were going to create 124 jobs. 438 farmers from the Free State, Limpopo, North West, Mpumalanga, Western Cape and Eastern Cape stood to benefit from the project. The poultry integrated value chain had seen an investment of R146 million, with 168 planned projects in all nine provinces. It would create 268 jobs, and 315 farmers were going to be participants.

Fruit and vegetables had received an investment of R416 million. 12 718 hectares were planned to be cultivated. 2 636 jobs were going to be created and 1 228 farmers were going to benefit from the project. R23 million had gone to dairy. There were six planned projects which were going to create 30 jobs, and 257 farmers from Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape and Limpopo would be participating in the projects. Grain production had received an allocation of R130 million. 135 636 hectares were planned to be cultivated. 1 021 jobs would to be created, and 7 135 farmers would be beneficiaries. The provincial equitable share and Ilima allocation were not included in this allocation.

Pertaining to farmer training and capacity building, Ms Mtshiza indicated the DAFF had received evidence on what the farmers were trained in, not what the Department thought they needed to be trained in. Of the 3 633 farmers targeted for training, only 2 603 (72%) had been trained.

Regarding the Extension Recovery Plan, 489 extension officers were to be recruited in 2016/17, and only the Eastern Cape had recruited one in Quarter 1. 2 075 extension officers were targeted for training in 2016/17, and 162 had received training in technical skills and generic soft skills (writing, communication skills, etc). The issuing of ICT equipment, as well as uniforms, was on-going in order to improve the DAFF’s image, visibility and professionalism.

For flood disaster recovery, an allocation of R76.7 million for the floods of 2012 had been made to Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the Western Cape.1 806 farmers would be supported during 2016/17. Ten projects in the Waterberg district of Limpopo had been completed in the quarter under review (fencing, pump stations, dam walls, access roads and irrigation equipment). Repair work on infrastructure in the Western Cape had been  delayed by environmental impact assessments (EIAs), and farmers who still had to produce evidence for work completed. In Mpumalanga, repair work and the replacement of water pumps and equipping of boreholes was on track.

In terms of the LandCare programme, the Department had adopted a multi-disciplinary approach to address the degradation of natural resources in an integrated manner, aligned to the government’s developmental programmes. The Department had advanced the APAP and RAAVC through Climate Smart Conservation Agriculture. SoilCare was the main focus, with an allocation of 36% of the budget.

Ms Mtshiza concluded that the programmes continued to perform well in achieving the set targets in terms of creating jobs and improving agricultural productivity, including conservation agriculture, in that way mitigating and adapting the sector to climate change by reducing carbon loss and sequestrating carbon. Funding remained a challenge, as limited funds restricted the achievement of goals. The coordination and partnerships with the private sector needed to be driven consciously if significant progress was to be achieved. Operation Phakisa may provide a solution to this challenge. The monitoring of approved projects was ongoing and National Treasury had made funds available to assist the DAFF to increase its capacity and strengthen its programme management

(Tables and graphs were shown to illustrate budget expenditure, state of readiness by provinces, the number of households benefiting from the Agricultural Food Security Initiatives, and progress on Provincial Performance Outputs for Quarter 1)

Limpopo Presentation

Mr Jethro Nowata, General Manager: Limpopo Department of Agriculture, reported that the Department had put more than 51 840ha under production since 2014/15, of which 391ha was irrigated land.

ItIt had assisted 72 projects with irrigation water at a cost of R87.8 million, at an average cost of R106 094 per hectare. This intervention had assisted farmers to access different markets, including McCain (all potato producers), Tiger Brands (all Nwanedi farmers and Kopano Disable Primary Co-op), Woolworths (Grasp farmers), and PnP (Vhuawelo, etc).

The Department had adopted a developmental approach that focused on the priority commodities of the province to ensure that rural communities participated in the economy. It was also partnering with different funders over the years, such as Anglo Platinum at Mapela Red Meat Cluster; the Jobs Fund, Department of Small Business at Nwanedi; World Vision at Sekgosese Milling; and the Ba-Phalaborwa Foundation (Mining Foundation) Waterbok Irrigation Project.

The Nwanedi Agricultural Development, which was now called Nwanedi Agricultural Agri-Park Development, was unlocking market opportunities for more than 200 farmers. The development had attracted R58 million over three years from the Jobs Fund and R7.6 million from the Department of Trade and Industry. The Nwanedi Incubation programme had increased production from 30 tons to 60 tons per ha. Employment opportunities had increased from three to nine permanent employees per farmer. The Nwanedi Project had already created more than 562 job opportunities during the installation of irrigation systems, and 187 during production.

With regard to AgriParks, primary production was being developed and increased mainly to support AgriParks. The production infrastructure was being developed in a more comprehensive manner, targeting cluster support and the development of production logistics systems (mechanization, production inputs, etc). The knowledge and skills of farmers along the value chain had been improving. Ownership was being instilled within the farming communities through the participatory approach model, and farmers were taking part in the planning processes and implementation of certain activities like fencing, debushing, etc.

The Tomatoes and Baby Vegetables Project, which was being implemented in Mopani and Nwanedi, was being run by female farmers who had received irrigation infrastructure and had started with production. This had created nine to 12 jobs. Production had increased from 30 to 60 tons. The flow of water had improved at the Mopani Prisca canal. The Potato Development project was taking place in the Capricorn District. Its objective was to graduate ten smallholder farmers to commercial level by 2018/19. Currently, the province had five producers, compared to the 95 white commercial producers

Farmer training and capacity building during Quarter 1 had concentrated on marketing, by assisting the beneficiaries to create effective and efficient market systems in order to reduce transport costs by initiating bulk cluster production systems. Invoices had been processed in July 2016, outside the Quarter 1 period. Mentorship had not been provided during the period under review, and to date the Department had recommended 17 companies to provide mentorship to projects.

On the Extension Recovery Programme, 62 officials had been re-skilled in different programmes (35 poultry, 14 irrigation evaluation and 13 project management). No information communication technology (ICT) tools had been procured as planned. The procurement was under way, and would be completed by the end of September. The Department had registered an increase in the usage of smart pens by 19.7%, as compared to the same period in 2015. Maintenance was continuing on a monthly basis. 500 items of protective clothing had been procured and distributed, and 25 signboards were to be procured during Quarter 3.

Regarding the drought status and mitigation strategies, the Limpopo Province had received below normal rainfall during the previous summer months of October, November and December 2015. The situation had not improved since then. No rainfall had been received during the current spring of September 2016. Provincial farmers were continually given early warning information awareness and advisory services regarding the current drought situation.

Through the equitable share, the province had set aside an amount of R8m for drought relief purposes, while conditional grants had supplemented with R13 million. The average dam levels were at 49.1% as at 16 September 2016, compared to the 76.0% of last year. A total of 31 boreholes had recently been drilled and equipped with windmills, drinking troughs and two 10 000-litre Jojo tanks, provided at a cost of R7.9 million by the end of Quarter 1.

Regarding Fetsa Tlala and readiness to plant this season,AA standard operating procedure had been approved to guide the implementation of the Mechanization Support Programme. A contract had been concluded with Landini to service and repair all 72 tractors. Out of 480 ha targeted in Quarter 1, only 43 hectares had been ploughed and planted as a result of incomplete projects in the identified areas, like Mogalatjane.

Mpumalanga presentation

Ms Sindi Xulu, Head, Agriculture Department: Mpumalanga, said her department had received an allocation of R271 million and in Quarter 1, it had spent 16% of the budget (R42 million). There had been no challenges in terms of expenditure. During the quarter, 19% of the budget had been spent on the seven prioritised CASP commodities. There were 45 planned projects that would cover all the districts. Reporting on infrastructure progress, she said 75 hectares of irrigation systems had been initiated, 17 irrigation pumps that had been affected by the 2012 floods had been rehabilitated, and of the 36 boreholes targeted for reticulation and drilling, only one had been equipped and reticulated. Four hydroponic structures were under construction and were 70% complete. At Nkangala, the construction of an Agri-hub was 90% complete. A new site for expansion had been identified.

On farmer training and capacity building, 2 404 farmers had received training and 337 had been mentored. The training offered to farmers included, amongst other things, cooperative governance, conflict management, record keeping, livestock management and veld management.

Pertaining to the Extension Recovery Plan, the main activities planned for Quarter 1 were around the recruitment of 29 contract agricultural advisors, and the procurement of ICT equipment and corporate wear and protective clothing. The procurement of ICT had been delayed due to internal processes, and the procurement of corporate wear had been put on hold following a DAFF directive. The province had a total of 175 agricultural advisors and 19 municipal agric managers. The 175 included the crop and sectional heads for the 18 municipalities. Bushbuckridge had been sub-divided into north and south, with two agric managers. 79 officials had attended a soil sampling workshop conducted by the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), and eight officials had attended the advanced management and compulsory induction programmes by the Public Administration Leadership and Management Academy (PALAMA).

Reporting on LandCare Projects, Ms Xulu said work in progress was around the:

  • establishment of soil conservation structures on communal cropping lands;
  • fencing of communal cropping land;
  • rehabilitation of communal grazing land;
  • establishment of Conservation Agriculture (CA) trials for grain study groups in the province and provision of conservation agriculture equipment to promote CA amongst small scale and emerging crop producers; and
  • erosion control on communal cropping land.

Concerning the drought, she said that her department’s allocation of R33 million accounted for 10% of the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) budget, and R7 million from the equitable share, to manage drought. The allocation had been reprioritised for emergency relief to farmers in the critically drought-affected areas of the province. The department had used the Drought Assistance Implementation Scheme framework as a guideline for the implementation of the scheme, and had managed to utilise the funding fully within the specified period. It was worth noting that there were also a number of farmers that had not been attended to because of the limited budget. The department was also allocated R10m in the last financial year to repair/replace water pump stations and their electric panels in the Nkomazi Municipality. This had not been part of budget. Up to date, the department had spent about R6m of the allocation, and the job was 90% complete.

With regard to Food Security and the Masibuyele Emasimini Food Production Programme, interventions had taken place in terms of providing:

  • water reticulation and infield irrigation and other infrastructure as requested;
  • seeds, fertilizers and agro-chemicals;
  • technical agricultural advisory services;
  • mechanisation services (tractors & implements); and
  • payment of salaries for tractor operators.

In the Masibuyele Esibayeni Animal Production Programme, the Nguni Cattle Project had been established to reintroduce the Nguni cattle breed in large numbers to the province. The “Bull & Heifer” Project, which comprised non-Nguni cattle -- beef and dairy cattle, buck and doe, ram and ewe and boar and sow – had been introduced to improve the genetic material of the livestock in the province, by supplying stud/commercial bulls, rams, bucks and boars and stud/commercial breeding cows, ewes, does and sows. The programme had started in 2011, and to date 4 372 animals had been distributed to 174 projects. This programme contributed effectively to food security and job creation. A total of 5 820 farmers had been empowered through this programme.

On veterinary services, she reported that Mpumalanga had a total of 9 Iveco-sized mobile clinics and three truck-sized mobile hospitals. The Ivecos had been donated by the DAFF in the past year, while mobile hospitals had been an initiative of the province more than five years ago. The Department was making use of other veterinary officials who were suitably qualified officials (veterinary nurses, animal health technicians and veterinarians) to drive the mobile clinics. Mobile clinics were operated on monthly schedules, including vaccination campaigns, sterilisations, general primary animal health care, and extension services (awareness, education, school visits). They were manned by a veterinarian ((Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Land & Environmental Affairs (DARDLEA) and Compulsory Community Service (CCS)), as well as para-veterinary professionals (vet nurse and animal health technician).

Mpumalanga had received a total of 26 CCS veterinarians at the beginning of the year. They had been distributed throughout the province in all disciplines -- animal health, veterinary public health, clinical services and laboratory services -- as well as at a one welfare organisation. This had enabled the department to improve on its performance and minimised the effect of the insufficient and dwindling number of state veterinarians. The province had authorised CCS veterinarians to drive government vehicles in order for them to carry out their duties. This had happened after subjecting them to assessments by traffic authorities, and being found to be competent.

North West presentation

Dr Poncho Mokaila, Head, Agriculture Department: North West, said his department had spent 95% of its budget allocation for Quarter 1. Reporting on planned activities aligned to APAP, he said progress had been registered in the procurement of tunnel infrastructure, irrigation systems and water connection and fencing; renovation of existing broiler houses, electricity and water connections; procurement of small stock infrastructure, offices and ablution blocks for auction sales pens, and the Taung agro-hub, which was under construction. The Zeerust fresh produce site had been identified, while there had been cleaning and testing of boreholes, and reticulation of 32 boreholes.

A The department has trained and capacitated 23 farmers during Quarter 1 and 22 in Quarter 2. A farmers’ excursion had been planned for November in Limpopo and Gauteng. -Beef mentorship was under implementation in Quarter 2. The ARC would attach 80 extension officers to be trained on its Extension Big Five. An allocation of R1.7m had been made, and the programme would be rolled out in Quarter 3. An additional ten officers would be attached to South African Pork Producers Organisation.

A provincial database of unemployed youth was administered by the Youth Entrepreneur Services, and was used in prioritising youths for either farm allocation or formal employment.

The department had performed maintenance on 22 vehicles for visibility and accountability. 22 extension staff had attended the national South African Society for Agricultural Extension (SASAE) conference, the regional SASAE symposium, and the provincial extension conference, which was planned for Quarter 4. This was being done to improve image and professionalism. The department had also signed an agreement with the ARC for the training of 80 officials. Training on vegetable and pig production would follow.

On the provision of ICT equipment, a needs identification had been done and the department was looking at the maintenance of smart pens and the Agricultural Information Management System (AIMS). Extension officers were using energy systems optimisation (ESO). Short-listing for the appointment of 37 agriculture advisors had been finalised, and interviews would follow.

Regarding drought recovery work, The province had declared drought disaster areas. It had revised its request to National Treasury for R113m funding. The disaster risk reduction programme was in line with the department‘s annual performance plan (APP), targeting 24 per quarter, and 31 had been achieved in Quarter 1. A draft Bill for the establishment of a credit facility for drought stricken farmers had been developed, and a facility was targeted to be in operation in Quarter 1 of 2017/18. The climate change response and mitigation strategy had been developed. The department was compiling an integrated plan for funding through the Green Fund. The North West Conservation Agriculture Forum had been launched to promote climate smart agriculture. The department planned to deliver 250 000 litres of water to distressed livestock farmers per quarter, and had already delivered 216 000 litres of water in Quarter 1.

35 food security initiative projects were planned for the financial year, and would commence in Quarter 2 (boer goats, indigenous chickens, backyard gardens, household gardens, starter packs and mini tunnels). The projects were going to happen in four districts - Ngaka Modire Molema, Bonajala, Dr Ruth Mompati and Dr Kenneth Kaunda. The projects were going to benefit 1 295 households.

(Tables and graphs were shown to illustrate the 2016/17 Fetsa Tlala crop programme plan; 2015/16 Fetsa Tlala food production; budget expenditure; and progress on provincial performance outputs in Quarter 1 2016/17)

Up to now, only 71 farmers have been trained and capacitated. The total allocation for the Extension Recovery Plan was R14 982 000. The equitable share allocation was in the form of compensation of employees (CoE). There were 121 extension officers in the province. There would be no additional extension officers recruited. 121 extension officers would be trained, as per the training plan developed by the province. There would be no graduates placed at farms. There had been no progress to deliver against the targets set for the number of households to benefit from food security initiatives at the end of financial year. The lands were still not ready for cultivation due to the lack of rain. Cultivation would commence soon after the first rains.

Gauteng presentation

Ms Thandeka Mbassa, Head, Agriculture Department: Gauteng, said that Gauteng had developed an agri parks programme which emphasised the concept of a one-stop destination for enhancing participation of all farmers. Five agri parks had been established and there was a need for two more to cover all the districts. Each agri park would be a critical link between the formal markets and the smallholder farmers. They would serve as an intermediary and a distribution facility whereby the smallholder farmers’ produce would be aggregated and graded in accordance with formal markets’ requirements. The management of each agri park was to be undertaken on a private-public partnership (PPP) basis to ensure a balance between the economic and development goals.

As part of modernization and re-industrialisation, the department had introduced the latest farming technology in the form of the hydroponics vertical chamber established at the Westonaria AgriPark. It was a commercial system for growing plants or crops vertically in a high intensive, controlled environment. The facility (30m x10m x 6m) had been established at West Rand, and there was a need to replicate it in the other agri parks within the province.

Land owned by the West Rand District Municipality (WRDM) had been allocated for the development of the Isigayo Grain Milling Plant project. Construction of the warehouse was in progress and almost 85% complete. Procurement of the turnkey milling plant and accessories was underway. The business plan and the approved construction plans were in place.

Concerning the 2016/17 Fetsa Tlala plans and progress, she stated The department was interacting with grain producing farmers to ensure that they were ready for the cropping season. The lands were still very dry and not ready to be cultivated. The first summer rains would ensure readiness to start cultivating the lands. The department would support the identified crop farmers with production inputs for the coming production season.

TheShe further stated that the Gauteng government had adopted a ten-pillar programme of radical transformation, modernisation and re-industrialisation for Gauteng over the next five to 15 years:

1. Radical economic transformation;

2. Decisive spatial transformation;

3. Accelerated social transformation;

4. Transformation of the state and governance;

5. Modernisation of the public service;

6. Modernisation of the economy;

7. Modernisation of human settlements and urban development;

8. Modernisation of public transport infrastructure;

9. Re-industrialisation of Gauteng province; and

10.Taking the lead in Africa's new industrial revolution.

(Tables and graphs were shown to illustrate budget expenditure, economic contribution of agriculture in Gauteng, and investment per commodity)

Free State Presentation

Mr Mmuso Tsoametsi, Free State Provincial Government, said

Mr Musso Tsoametsi, Deputy Director-General: Free State Agriculture Department, focused his presentation for Quarter 1 expenditure on the five regions of the province: Mangaung Metropolitan, Fezile Dabi District, Thabo Mofutsanyane District, Lejweleputsa District, and Xhariep District. He took the Committee through the 2016/17 CASP/Ilima projects and investments.

In the the four ostrich projects in the Xhariep District which were supported by the department, were the only registered ostrich projects in the Free State. The Free State did have a competitive advantage regarding the breeding of ostriches. The low supply of ostriches had resulted in a shortage of ostrich produce, and was having a positive effect on the price of the products. Other projects include the Xhariep fish processing plant, the Xhariep fish hatchery, the ostrich feed processing plant, and the Xhariep mega plant. An investment of R21 673 000 had been made on these projects.

In the Mangaung Metro (MM), an allocation of R22 099 000 had been made for projects such as the Mangaung sheep and goats processing facility, the MM beef value chain, MM vegetable projects, MM AgriPark, and Tseki Poultry Trust.

The Lejweleputswa District saw an allocation of R28 300 000 going to projects like the Brandfort Piggery, Lejweleputswa AgriPark, Virginia Poultry and the youth development project, which looks at vegetable production, fencing, soil preparation, electricity, water source development, etc.

R20 225 000 went to projects in the Thabo Mofutsanyana (TM) District. The projects focus on areas like three piggery cooperatives, Thabo Mofutsanyana AgriPark, the Ficksburg female vegetable processing facility, TM fodder production, the veld management and processing project, Diyatalawa Agri-Village, and the Wilhelmina deciduous fruit project.

The Fezile Dabi District received an allocation of R24 million for the Fezile Dabi poultry hub, the Cornelia piggery, Tweeling piggery, and Tweeling vegetables.

Mr Tsoametsi also commented that the Free State was still facing a severe agricultural drought situation for the second year since 2012, and this was affecting livestock and cash crop production. This had had a very negative effect on maize, sunflower and soya bean production. Water restrictions had been imposed in water user association areas from March 2016.

35 342 bags of fodder had been provided to 2907 subsistence and small-holder farmers as from 13 November 2015 to 15 March 2016, at a cost of R10 million. 86 subsistence/small holder farmers in the Welkom area had received 172 bags of protein-based pellets of fodder in December last year, which had been procured and distributed at a cost of R48 667. 4 594 bags of feed had been also distributed to 400 subsistence, smallholder and commercial farmers in the Zastron/Rouxville area, which also helped the 20 farms that had been affected and had lost grazing of about 3 000 ha of land due to runaway veld fires experienced in December 2015, as well as another 13 that had lost grazing land in other fires. In the Fezile Dabi District, 25 white commercial farmers were also provided with fodder in the Koppies/Edenville/Parys/Vredefort areas, where 750 bags of protein-based pellets of fodder were distributed at an cost of R212 212.

Service providers had been appointed to drill and develop 132 boreholes all over the province. This had commenced on 13 November 2015 and the project had completed four boreholes. The budget for the other boreholes had been re-prioritised to fodder procurement and would be drilled and developed only in the next financial year. Service providers were also appointed for the drilling and development of 31 boreholes under the Prevention and Mitigation of Disaster Risk (PDMR) funds of R6.4 million allocated from DAFF for the 2015/16 financial year, and the project had been 100% completed. An amount of R2 million was also allocated for the procurement of veterinary medicines, which were procured and distributed to farmers.

In his conclusion, he maintained that the department would continue to provide support to the farmers linked to the activities indicated in the approved Departmental Agricultural Disaster Risk Management Plan, with special emphasis on the following:

  • fodder provision;
  • drilling of boreholes linked to the current drought situation;
  • training and awareness;
  • development and management of early warning systems;
  • pre- and post disaster hazard assessments;
  • making of firebreaks linked to budget availability.

Agricultural Research Council (

ARC) presentation

Dr Mitsuru Tsubo, Research Team Manager: Agrometeorology, ARC, highlighted that the summer crop production areas (Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, North West, Free State) and the winter rainfall region were currently wetter this year than last year. It was still clear that drought conditions were present over the longer time scale (Sept 2015 - Aug 2016). Seasonal forecasts currently favoured a normal start to the summer rainy season over the north eastern parts (southern Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KZN, eastern North West, eastern Free State), while a slow/late onset was indicated over the central (western North West, western Free State) to southern interior (Eastern Cape). Some climate models predicted a late and weak La Niña, and were expecting to some extent a wetter to normal season.

Rising temperature was the main cause of shifts in production areas. These production areas could decrease for most crops (maize, soybean, sorghum, sunflower, potato, Smuts finger grass), increase for other crops (sugar cane, groundnut, cotton) or remain largely unchanged (wheat). It was noted that rainfall predictions differed amongst models, indicating uncertainty of the predictions.

The current six-month period to August had been wetter over much of the interior, as well as the western parts of the winter rainfall region than last year, which was important for wheat. The southern parts of the country (Garden Route and parts of the Karoo) were wetter last year than this year. Information about drought conditions was communicated by the ARC to stakeholders, including farmers.

It had been observed that above normal rainfall had occurred over large parts of the interior during the last six months (March - August). At the longer time scale of 12 months, it was still clear that drought conditions were present from the Northern Free State, eastwards into northern KZN and eastern Mpumalanga.

Seasonal forecast models favoured a normal start to the summer rainy season over the north-eastern parts, including the eastern maize production region. A slow onset was indicated over the central to southern interior, with indications of below normal rainfall during the first half of summer over those areas. A projected increase in average temperatures was the main driver of a potentially more arid environment in future.

Dr Nthabiseng Motete, Group Executive: Crop Science, ARC, said there were scientific and technological solutions. She proposed, amongst others, the following immediate interventions:

  • reduction of livestock numbers (de-stocking) by focusing on non-productive animals;
  • culled animals could be made market ready immediately through background feeding;
  • extra capacity at ARC central growth testing centres and government farms could be considered for such backgrounding;
  • animals in these centres should not be fattened to feedlot standards, but only to gain enough condition and weight to give acceptable quality meat at slaughter;
  • supply of drought relief feed and water to vulnerable livestock farmers, such as subsistence / communal and small-scale farmers;
  • reduction of stock numbers could be used as an incentive for eligibility to receive drought relief feed;
  • feeding of animals using low quality hay treated with ammonia;
  • veld monitoring and management systems to help farmers maximise economic efficiencies in livestock production, while avoiding negative impacts of severe droughts;
  • internal parasitic diseases and other diseases become a problem due to the animal’s reduced immunity, therefore adhering to the health programme of the area was important (state vets);
  • vaccination against diseases, especially stress-related diseases such as Pasteurellosis, was important.

She also tabled the following medium-term interventions:

•  planting of drought tolerant crops, because they had relatively low water requirements per kilogram of dry matter produced;

•  use of alternative fodder production systems, by using “hydroponics” as an alternative way to produce fodder in periods of drought.

 

Farmers should take into consideration the following advice:

  • Consider early weaning of lambs and calves.
  • Consider sending replacement heifers/ewes to a feedlot for development their feed/hay can be diverted to use for the breeding herd or flock.
  • Consider feeding alternative feeds. Livestock can eat more than hay -- in fact, they would do well on many other types of feed, such as industry waste like potato hash, brewery by-products, fruit pulp, etc. On a cost per unit of energy basis, hay was usually the most expensive feed for cattle.
  • Control parasites. Cattle under nutritional and other stresses were less resistant to parasites than under normal conditions.
  • Provide the same salt and mineral mixture during drought as you would during normal dry periods of the year (winter).
  • Since the drought was normally compounded by extreme heat, farmers need to make sure that their livestock have access to shade and water.
  • Sell some animals before they lose condition, and buy feed. Consider culling poor producers.
  • Monitor the condition score throughout the drought and regulate feeding to ensure the condition score reflected reasonable animal health and welfare, and suited the production requirements.
  • To reduce chances of introducing undesirable plant species that may come with purchased fodder, feeding must be restricted to a specific location on the farm.
  • Consider early weaning of lambs and calves.

She said that amidst a flurry of discouraging reports, the ARC continued to develop and transfer appropriate technologies to mitigate impacts of the drought on smallholder farmers. The ARC had registered 10 drought-tolerant seeds, Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) DroughtTEGO hybrids. Four seed companies, Capstone, Jermart, SeedCo, and Quality Seeds were now registered to produce and market seed of the TEGO hybrids in South Africa. The biggest challenge had been that the licensed seed companies had not had any seed of WEMA varieties to sell to farmers in 2015. Consequent to the country experiencing a severe drought, the ARC continued to receive requests for seed of the WEMA varieties by farmers. Future funding of this work would be measured by the success of the WEMA project by how much seed reaches the target farmers in each of the five WEMA-using countries. The ARC was producing certified seed for farmers to plant in 2016/17, in addition to that produced by the licensed seed companies. The ARC certified seed production area was Makhatini, and the licensed seed companies were producing certified seed in Malelane and Musina.

It was expected that 20 tonnes of certified seed of the WEMA drought-tolerant hybrid WE3128 would be available after harvesting from Makhathini Research Station, following planting of four hectares under centre pivot irrigation. Harvesting and processing had started on 12 September 2016. The seed would be available to farmers during October 2016, and would be sold to recover the production costs, but not to out-compete the small seed companies.

Jermart Seeds had been planted over 15 ha, and ARC expected to harvest about 60 tonnes in September. The seed would be available to farmers during October 2016. Jermart's seed production was 4ha in Musina and 11ha in Malelane (Mpumalaga Lowveld). The Jermart Seed company was currently harvesting and processing seed of WE3128. The company was willing to sell all its seed to the government through the ARC. Capstone did not have seed.

It was estimated that 50 tonnes of certified seed could be used to plant about 2 000 ha (at 25 kg seed per hectare), or 2 500 ha (at 20 kg/ha). This would benefit almost the same amount of smallholder farmers -- 2 000 or 2 500 farmers, with an estimate of each planting one hectare per household. The potential contribution to the grain industry would be between 8 000 and 10 000 tonnes of grain at an estimated yield of four tonnes per hectare.

Regarding feedback from farmers who grew the WE3127 in 2014/15, she reported that smallholder farmers who planted the first WEMA conventional drought tolerant maize hybrids in South Africa during the 2014/15 season had doubled their yields. The variety, DroughtTEGO TM WE3127, was a white hybrid. The ARC had distributed 10 000 seed packs, 500 grams each, free to smallholders in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West, Free State and KwaZulu-Natal for them to try out the variety. According to Isaiah Setseta, Chairman of the Mokaba Farmers Association, their yield had been 1.14t/ha, compared to 0.6t/ha the previous season, when there had been good rains – a 100% increase in a season that had been termed the worst in two decades. They had had rain only immediately after planting and again during flowering. At Mooifontein, near Lichtenburg, North West, according to Prince Molema, one of four smallholders who planted the drought tolerant maize, their average yield was 2t/ha compared to 1.5t/ha for other commercial hybrids. The average rainfall during the season was 250 mm compared to an average 500 mm in a normal year.

Dr Motete, in her conclusion, listed activities that were there to support Agri-Parks. These were:

Research & Development

  •  Product formulation and testing. Standardisation and certification of products.
  •  Orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP); African leafy vegetables.
  •  Development of sustainable agro-processing models.

Technology Transfer

  • Assessment of facilities for enterprises and identifying needs.
  • Specifications for equipment and establishment of agro-processing facility.
  • Training in operation of industrial equipment, equipment maintenance, OFSP agro-processing, food safety, marketing and business management.

Economic analysis, Research and Technology transfer

  • Enterprise budget, financial management, bookkeeping, marketing.
  • Market linkages in order to facilitate linkages between OFSP agro-processing small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and customers.

Ad hoc services

- Advisory services.

- Biochemical and microbiological analysis for SMEs.

Discussion

DAFF Presentation

Mr N Capa (ANC) remarked the Committee had been putting pressure on the Department, and now the Committee had to applaud the Department for its performance. This meant the Department had listened and responded to the Committee’s concerns.

Mr H Kruger (DA) wanted to know if the Department interacted with the Department of Small Business Development when it came to developing smallholder farmers. Were there plans in place to ease regulatory access for small-scale farmers? Had any impact assessment been done on small-scale farmers?

Mr Mooketsa Ramasodi, Deputy Director-General: Agricultural Production, Health and Food Safety, DAFF, said the Department worked with the Department of Small Business Development on agro-processing issues and on a multiplicity of projects, with cooperatives and linkages on small enterprise development. On easing access for small-scale farmers, he indicated the Department had programmes in place to ensure smallholders understood what the Department was doing in terms of accessing markets and the Ilima projects.

Mr Mortimer Mannya, Deputy Director-General: Food Security and Agrarian Reform, DAFF, regarding the impact assessment on small-scale farmers, reported that an evaluation had been done on programmes assisting the farmers. Findings indicated that grants were not enough and there was a need to categorise the farmers. An improvement report was being developed.

Mr Siphiwe Mgcina (Gauteng MPL) wanted to establish if the Department was in a position to tell the Committee about provinces lagging behind in grant expenditure.

Ms Mtshiza responded that Limpopo and Free State were provinces lagging behind in grant expenditures. The Department had written to these provinces to get clarity on why money had not been spent. Responses had been received with explanations on why funds had not been spent. The matter had been communicated to National Treasury in order for it to assist.

Ms A Steyn (DA) voiced frustration about the policy that the Department was always developing -- to coordinate uncoordinated matters. In 2009, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform had been established to coordinate uncoordinated farmer support issues. Now there was another policy to be developed to coordinate these issues. She also wanted to know why the Committee was being given a Quarter 3 report on drought relief beneficiaries, when drought was affecting the country now. She asked why the flood disaster funds had been allocated now, because the floods had happened a long time ago. Finally, she said the DAFF talked about hectares “to be planted,” and this had been continuing for a long time.

The Chairperson intervened on the issue of hectares to be planted, saying the implementing agents of the DAFF were the provinces. The provinces had to speak for themselves.

Mr Ramasodi, with regard to the drought, said the Department had conducted workshops and an indaba recently about the contribution made by role players. A document would be forwarded to the Committee. The National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) would pronounce on what needed to be done and how much was needed to address the drought. The Department was not resting on its laurels regarding the drought problem, especially with regard to animals. The Department was awaiting a report from the NAMC regarding the impact of drought on plants, and then it would present a holistic plan about the drought.

Mr Mannya added that the Fetsa Tlala of 2016/17 that was being developed was going to support the problem of drought, in conjunction with the current available resources.

Ms Mtshiza, pertaining to flood disaster funds, explained that this was recovery work funded through CASP. Assessments had been done and outlined on farmers affected. It was meant to repair infrastructure damaged by floods.

Ms Nomawethu Gqiba (Eastern Cape MPL) commented that the Department was making strides in food security. The project of fencing of mealie fields in the Eastern Cape had never been finished in order for people to participate in the project. Agriculture was a way of life in the Eastern Cape. There was a need to increase the budget of LandCare in order to create jobs and close dongas. She was frustrated by CASP, because there was always under-expenditure and money was taken back to the National Treasury on conditional grants. She did not understand why the conditional grants were uniform, because the provinces were unique in their make-up. The conditional grants should be made to suit the unique conditions of each province, because the Eastern Cape was rural.

Ms Mtshiza, concerning the fencing project, reported that delivery had been planned for this financial year. 60 000 hectares were to be fenced in the Eastern Cape this year for grazing and maize planting.

Mr Ramasodi, regarding LandCare, said that the DAFF was making interventions and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform had agreed to work with DAFF in terms of how the interventions were going to be done in areas like the Eastern Cape.

The Chairperson explained that provinces did not give the Department proper budgets for conditional grants. Parliament had asked National Treasury to give provinces conditional grants. Parliament intended to attach more conditions to conditional grants because the Department had to report to Parliament on the support it gave to the provinces, and on how the money had been used. These were national conditional grants to augment production in provinces. That money was appropriated by Parliament so that provinces did not return money through lack of coordination in the implementation of their programmes. The conditions for the conditional grants were prescribed by Parliament.

Ms J Maluleke (North West MPL) asked for clarity on why the North West did not benefit from the Agriculture Food Security initiatives.

Ms Mtshiza said it could be that it did not have a target, or it had been catered for by the province when it chose to reprioritise its budget.

Mr D Maloyi (ANC) wanted clarity on why the Eastern Cape was the only province that had managed to recruit one extension officer out of the 489 targeted by the Department for 2016/17.

Ms Mtshiza said that was an issue that had to be outlined by each and every province. However, the challenge had been raised with National Treasury in terms of the ratio of extension officers, so that others could be absorbed into the system of the provinces.

The Chairperson enquired if smallholder farmers were able to access the R489 million the National Treasury allocated through the Land Bank. Also, what mechanisms were in place to respond in time to disasters facing farmers, instead of assisting after three years? What were the plans of the DAFF regarding collaboration with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR), which had received more funds than the DAFF for LandCare?

Mr Mannya, referring to the loans, said the money was intended largely for commercial farmers and were assessed on the history of their payment. Each farmer was assisted within the existing instrument and arrangements. Smallholders would be accommodated through CASP, the Micro Agricultural Financial Institutions of South Africa (MAFISA), and ILIMA LETSEMA.

Mr C Mtoba, Chief Director for Natural Resources Management: DAFF, on the issue of LandCare, said the Department was organising a LandCare conference in Kimberly. Collaboration with the DRDLR was about the enforcement of CARA when the DRDLR was distributing land. The budget from National Treasury for LandCare collaboration with the DRDLR was not enough. The budget had to be increased.

Mr Ramasodi, with regard to the response time for farmers, said the Department would respond in writing to the Committee.

ARC Presentation

Ms Agatha Cilliers (Gauteng MPL) asked what the ARC was doing in promoting principles of agricultural soil conservation.

Dr Motete explained that conservation of agricultural soil practices were promoted through the Institute of Soil, Climate and Water within the ARC. The transfer of technologies was done through the DAFF in order to preserve our national resources.

Ms Steyn remarked that the ARC appeared not to be clear about the weather predictions for this year. The Eastern Cape and Free State were going to have a lower rainfall from now up to December. She further wanted to know if the ARC was looking at developing heat tolerant seeds, not only drought-resistant seeds, because there was an increase in temperatures. Lastly, she commended the ARC interventions which ensured that farmers provided animals with shelter and water.

Dr Tsubo, responding to uncertainty about weather predictions, reported that from May to November, the conditions for rain would be below normal. It was going to be a little bit drier. He said it was difficult to tell how much rainfall the country was going to get until December.

Dr Motete added that the ARC’s monthly Umlindi Newsletter, which contained the weather predictions, was made available to extension officers. The production guidelines provided information to farmers about products to be planted at a particular time. On heat resistant seeds, she indicated the ARC was trying to incorporate heat-resistant breeding programmes, but money remained the problem.

Mr Capa asked for clarity on the exclusion of the Eastern Cape on summer crops. He commented that the information presented would be difficult to interpret by people who were going to use it on the ground, and said the presentation was giving him the impression that provinces were ready to plant because they had the information they needed to help them.

Dr Motete told the Committee that all crops were going to be produced without hindrance. For example, the low chill apples had been moved out of the Stellenbosch area to the warmer Eastern Cape, Limpopo and other areas of the country. As a result, they got to the market two months earlier than the Stellenbosch ones.

Ms Gqiba commended the women-run projects the ARC had mentioned in its presentations, but it had not indicated where the projects were happening so that provinces could visit these projects for learning purposes.

Ms Z Jongbloed (DA) wanted to find out if any research had been done on aquaculture projects, seeing that there were changing climatic conditions.

Dr Motete responded that hydroponic production was now incorporated with aquaculture, and it was now called aquaponics. A lot was being done in this area. The Department had access to all the ARC’s technologies, but it was handicapped by the availability of funds. She added that the ARC was operating in many areas so as to reach as many places as it could, and continued to work with the DAFF and its activities.

Ms Steyn asked if ARC was preparing for temperature changes in SA.

Dr Tsubo said the country was talking about the heat wave challenge. It needed to have heat tolerant cultivars.

Limpopo, Free State, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and North West presentations

Due to time constraints, all the provinces were asked joint questions and had to respond individually.

Mr Maloyi commented about the absence of political heads of the provincial departments, who also had either sent no apologies or some ridiculous apologies like family commitments, jet lags, etc. He directed his questions to all provinces. Firstly, he wanted to know what the situation was, because most provinces were not spending money during Quarter 1. This was because they were planning and, as a result, they did not spend on Quarters 2 and 3. Secondly, he asked if the provinces were ignoring the advice of the ARC regarding the drought-resistant seeds for smallholders, as this was necessitating changing the culture of doing things. Thirdly, were the projects the provinces were talking about sustainable, so that they did not collapse? Lastly, he asked if the provinces were ready for the planting seasons, even though they had presented their plans.

Mr Jethro, on the reduced Quarter 1 expenditure, said the Limpopo Province was almost there though it had not achieved the straight line of 25%. The province had ended on 21%.

Ms Xulu said the initial tranche for the Mpumalanga Province had been provided at the beginning of the presentation. The province had spent R42.2 million of its budget (51.2%).

Dr Mokaila said the North West Province did not take pride to its under-expenditure. During Quarter 1, the Department had had to change the database of service providers. The Department was now making sure that contracting was taking place.

Mr Tsoametsi, with regard to the drought-resistant seed advice from the ARC, reported that the Free State Province had engaged in road shows to distribute the seed. He would let the Committee know if the seed had been purchased by smallholder farmers.

Mr Jethro said that the Limpopo Province had not bought the seed this year, but indicated they would continue to use the WEMA drought-resistant seed.

Ms Xulu indicated that Mpumalanga Province was considering a number of research-related projects in order to guide the farmers, though they would continue buying the seed.

Dr Mokaila said the North West Province would approach the ARC for advice on the crop production plan.

Mr Tsoametsi, pertaining to the sustainability of projects, pointed out that the Free State Province was providing farmers with training in financial management, market access and production. Farmers and cooperatives were registered on the database of the department so that the government could procure from them.

Ms Mbassa said the Gauteng Province was still experiencing challenges in ensuring the sustainability of the projects, even though it was making efforts to train the farmers in financial management and production. She added that they worked with the Social Development provincial department when it came to food security to make sure some projects on food security remained sustainable.

Ms Xulu indicated that the Mpumalanga Province had conducted a review on the Masibuyele Emasimini Project. Interventions would start to move ahead in order to get buy-in in those projects. They had asked the Gauteng Agriculture Department to assist the Mpumalanga farmers to sell their produce in Gauteng. Her department had also started agro-processing.

Dr Mokaila indicated that the North West Province would do a thorough check on the projects, though it was aware challenges were being encountered now and again.

Ms Mbassa and Ms Xulu, about the state of readiness, said their respective departments had learnt lessons from the Free State and would submit reports to the Committee.

Ms T Tongwane (ANC) asked Gauteng how many farmers had benefited from the drought intervention programme.

Ms Mbassa responded that 150 farmers had been assisted.

Ms Jongbloed wanted to understand why provinces were always at the beginning of the planning process on aquaculture, because it presented one of the most important ways the population could be fed. She also wanted to know why there was discrepancy in the figures presented by Mpumalanga and Limpopo on the training of farmers and capacity building.

Mr Tsoametsi said that the Free State had a catch fish hatchery which had different beneficiaries, and that different species would be at different sites.

Mr Jethro reported that the Turfloop hatchery in Limpopo was at a tender age. Appointments would be made soon to ensure it started. As of June, construction was at 50%. Roofing was being completed now. This meant at least 95% of the work had been completed.

Ms Xulu pointed out that Mpumalanga had not been focusing on aquaculture, but now it was starting an aquaculture project and it was hoped other provinces would help Mpumalanga in making the project a success. Concerning discrepancy in figures, she explained that Mpumalanga had tried to train farmers on the same amount as Limpopo, but the problem had been that Mpumalanga did not know commodity prices, because service providers charged differently.

Ms Gqiba remarked that the reports reflected commitments on the side of the provinces. She was impressed by the Mpumalanga LandCare report because it was detailed. It was a pity there was no standard format of reporting in order to assess each province. The Recapitalisation Project was one project that was problematic, where farmers applied and got a response only after three years. That was unfair. She then asked the North West to provide more information on its package for traditional leaders.

Dr Mokaila stated that the Kgosi Package would be taken and adapted to suit the framework of the North West Agriculture Department.

Ms Steyn asked the provinces what the impact of drought had been on humans. She had not been able to get the total number of boreholes drilled, as the figures presented by the provinces and the Department were incongruent, and the figures made her suspicious. She wanted to know why Gauteng had not made a proclamation on the drought. She wanted clarity from Mpumalanga about bales that were found lying around in one town in the province. She asked Mpumalanga why the R6m pumps had taken four years to be installed after the 2012 flood disaster. Did the provinces have plans in place, because dam levels were very low, and what would the implications be for the irrigation schemes? Lastly, she enquired if it was advisable to continue with AgriParks while animals were dying because there was no water. She asked if it was not better to use that money for farmer support, even though it was meant for marketing -- it was not going to work if there was nothing to market.

All the provinces, concerning the impact of drought and number of boreholes drilled, stated they would submit written responses to the Committee.

Ms Mbassa, on why Gauteng had not made a drought proclamation, explained they had not been sure how the business world was going to respond because the province was an economic hub. However, the drought had lasted for a long time, and eventually they had had to declare it.

Ms Xulu, regarding bales not attended to, said those bales belonged to the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. Her department had never had problems with the delivery of bales. About the R6m pumps, she said that money was for the pumps and dams that had been repaired in the last financial year, and this year they were closing the gaps that had not been closed in the last financial year.

Mr Tsoametsi, referring to the low dam levels, said that the Free State was still internalising information as it came, and they were going to discuss how they were going to do things going forward.

Mr Jethro said low dam levels were affecting the plans of the Limpopo Department of Agriculture because they could not encourage farmers on irrigation land to use the water, because sometimes they were competing with the mines. The low levels were impacting on the farmers because they were not producing what was expected from them.

Dr Mokaila, with regard to AgriParks, reported that the North West had taken note of the scarcity of water but would ensure that some agricultural activities continued to happen, even if it was at a slow pace.

Mr Tsoametsi said the Free State shared the same views as North West, and would ensure that AgriParks continued to survive.

Mr Capa commented there was not a single province which had boldly stated it was ready to plant. Not a single department had indicated the number of hectares it was planned to plant this season. The state of readiness was vague. He asked for clarity on the 10 000-litre Jojo tanks in Limpopo, and wanted to know how Limpopo was managing the 72 tractors. How was Mpumalanga managing the poultry infrastructure project, because in most cases these projects were white elephants? Who supplied the bulls, rams and boars for the Nguni Project? He asked the Free State if it was careful in managing and protecting bio-fuels against multinationals, because they did not care about food security. Was there a possibility of Gauteng linking with nearby provinces in terms of market access?

Mr Jethro, on Jojo tanks, reported that in the Limpopo Province there were 35 projects. Each project received two 10 000-litre Jojo tanks. He said it was difficult to state how the 72 tractors were going to be managed. The department was fully accountable for the tractors, which were the assets of the department. The plan would be sent to the Committee.

Ms Xulu referred to the poultry infrastructure project and Nguni Project in Mpumalanga, and said that some of the broiler facilities were not used, and had now been resuscitated to ensure they continued to be productive, and her department was collaborating with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. For the Nguni breeders, they were using a tender process to see who could supply the animals and who could look after them. After the drought, an assessment was done to ensure the department did not lose animals and looked at those who looked after them.

Mr Tsoametsi said that in the Free State, bio-fuel was in line with the policy on food security.

Ms Mbassa, pertaining to Gauteng linkages with other provinces, said that they were fostering relations with farmers in Limpopo and Eastern Cape for accessing raw material for agro-processing.

Mr Kruger wanted to know from Mpumalanga why there were no projects in the Dr JS Moroka area, because it was a rich, rural farm area. He asked how ploughing was going to be done there, because there were no tractors.

Ms Xulu responded that there were projects happening in the Dr JS Moroka area, and a report would be sent to the Committee. Concerning the tractors, she said she done an assessment when she joined the department. Tractors that were not working had been collected for repairs, while others had discarded because they could not be repaired.

The Chairperson commented there had been a loss of agricultural land to other competing needs in the country. Mpumalanga, for example, used to be a major contributor of maize, but now it was losing that status to mining. That meant the country had to import food, and that was bad for the communities. There was a need to protect agricultural land and improve food security. Provinces needed to think how they were going to protect the dry, arable land and communal land for agriculture.

Mr Tsoametsi stated that the Free State was protecting arable land in terms of planning so that no land would be zoned without getting permission. The province was still awaiting a bill to be finalised on this matter.

Ms Mbassa said that Gauteng had developed a plan called Gauteng Agriculture Land, which had been shared with developers trampling on agricultural land. As a result, the rate of losing agricultural land to other parties had gone down.

Mr Jethro said Limpopo had developed the Limpopo Agriculture Strategy. It had spoken to all municipalities in the province about the high value agricultural land that needed to be protected, but they could not control municipalities about what they wanted to do with the pieces of land identified for agriculture.

Ms Xulu said that Mpumalanga had identified a piece of commercial land, and they were collaborating with Amakhosi. The land had been demacated for grazing, food gardens and planting. There was a mentorship programme taking place to assist the department in terms of food security.

Dr Mokaila said the onus was on the municipalities. However, as the North West, they would make use of the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act (SPLUMA).

The Chairperson wanted to know if provinces had started with the “set aside” percentage of budget to support smallholder farmers that the President had pronounced, because 30% of goods had to be procured from smallholder farmers, and they needed to be ready so that they could participate in this process.

Mr Jethro said that in Limpopo they had to follow the supply chain processes. They went to the database and followed the processes that had to be followed.

Dr Mokaila indicated that the North West Agriculture Department was in discussions with the departments of education, health, social development and correctional services, to draw up plans on this matter.

The Chairperson asked Limpopo to provide clarity on the problem of land accessibility in the Nwanedi area, because people did not have the opportunity to even rent the land. She further commented the Eskom bill for smallholder farmers was a problem. Electricity was a major issue, and she asked for the province to provide clarity on the Petwane Farmers’ Presidential Project, because there were conflicts around it. Which farmers had benefited from the Mapfura-Makhura Incubator? Lastly, she asked Limpopo to provide written answers about the issue of dividends in the potato belt in Capricorn, because there was a community there that had been assisted by a strategic partner which had built a pack-house and irrigation facilities.

Mr Jethro, referring to land accessibility in Nwanedi, said he was not 100% sure about the problem, but they would need to work with Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to iron out what needed to be done. On the Eskom bill, he thanked the Committee for its intervention. They had held workshops with farmers to inform them about the right time of the day to irrigate. The extension officers had also been work-shopped on how to spread this message to other smallholder farmers. Concerning the Petwana Farmers’ Presidential Project, the main issue was around its location. It should be located in a central area so that it could be accessed by other farmers. Some farmers had written letters to voice their frustrations and concerns. The facility was about to be completed, and a new dam would be built around it. The major problem was that the beneficiaries of this project were fighting among themselves. They were like kids who did not want to go to school, but later realised that their parents had been good in sending them to school. Regarding the Mapfura-Makhura Incubator, he reported that 250 farmers had benefited from the project. They had planted sunflowers and had gone through the incubation process since it was started.

The Chairperson wanted to know from Mpumalanga if the agricultural colleges of Marapyane and Lowveld were linked to the new university that was being established. She hoped the Youth Programme for Agriculture would produce farmers, not people who would be queuing for jobs in agriculture.

Ms Xulu told Members it had been agreed that the two colleges would be subsidiaries of the new university. Discussions had been held with the new university that Marapyane would continue to offer short practical courses and programmes for farmers in different avenues. The Marapyane staff had joined the new university. She further indicated that 15 farms had been identified and were spread across the districts, and were doing different commodities. 124 tractor drivers had been trained and a new number had been added.

The Chairperson asked the North West if it had given assistance to smallholder farmers who were on the Nguni Project, in the light of the prevailing drought. She hoped that the programme of assisting traditional leaders was not going to create instability in the areas they governed.

Dr Mokaila said the Nguni cattle were able to survive harsh conditions. Priority now was being given to the Brahman cattle and others that were very weak. He also suggested that the Limpopo contact on the Eskom bill should be asked to contact other Eskom managers in other provinces, so that the gospel of how best to save energy could reach other farmers and extension officers.

The Chairperson asked Gauteng what was going to happen to farmers in the area, because the department was losing the little productive land it had. The focus was going to be on agro-processing. How was the department going to help farmers to achieve its Ten-Pillar Plan? How far was the department in the training of the young and with its youth incubation programmes?

Ms Mbassa, on agro-processing, indicated that because large plants were in Gauteng, that was putting them at an advantage. There was potential for Gauteng to be the hub, but that would not be at the expense of food security. The department would still focus on its programmes that dealt with food security. The department had developed a strategy on urban agriculture to see how it could use space it came across, like old buildings, roof tops, etc. Concerning the Ten-Pillar Plan, she said it was difficult to achieve transformation because of the monopoly by big players and how they had organised themselves to make it difficult for blacks to participate. The only way to transform it was to promote participation of blacks in the agriculture industry. With regard to training the young, she said a report would be forwarded to the Committee, and they would be sending a delegation to Mpumalanga to learn about the youth incubation programme.

The Chairperson wanted to know from Free State if the ostrich farm (Xhariep Project) the Committee had visited was still experiencing the problem of transporting ostriches to the nearest abattoir.

Mr Tsoametsi said the plan was to build an abattoir to ensure that the ostrich farming continued.

The Chairperson, in her concluding remarks, said that Fetsa Tlala was a Presidential project to take care of subsistence and smallholder farmers, and to make sure communal land was utilised. It was important to understand the project so that one did not experience problems when having to do work on the programme. Fetsa Tlala was not going to happen anywhere except on communal land. The target was to put to good use one million hectares of land. AgriParks were part of Fetsa Tlala, because they took place on communal land. She said departments must take lessons from Mpumalanga about youth training programmes in agriculture. She commented that the Office of the Auditor-General would be auditing the provincial departments of agriculture, not the National Department, on conditional grants because provinces had been delaying the submission of their reports to the National Department.

The meeting was adjourned. 

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