The Colloquium was another instalment in a series of dialogues that the Committee has initiated to provide a national platform for engagements on key issues in the environmental space. This Colloquium spotlighted one of the biggest programmes in the DEA, responsible for job creation and poverty alleviation, which is the the Environmental Programmes under the banner of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).
The Departments of Environmental Affairs and Public Works explained that the objective of the EPWP Environment and Culture (EAC) sector is to provide unemployed people with income support through work opportunities, which provide assets and services using labour intensive methods that build and protect South Africa’s natural resources and cultural heritage. DEA has a directorate, Environmental Protection and Infrastructure Programmes, which manages the identification, planning and implementation of the Environmental Programmes. The labour intensive methods target the unemployed, youth, women, people with disabilities and SMMEs. The Natural Resource Management Programme (NRMP) likewise supports sustainable livelihoods for local people through integrated landscape management that strives for resilient social-ecological systems and which fosters equity in access to ecosystem services. The strategic interventions contribute to adaptation and/or mitigation and SDG goals. In promoting the transition to a low carbon, climate resilient economy several initiatives have been undertaken that target water management and security; agriculture, food production and forestry; solid waste management; clean energy and energy efficiency; the built environment and the Green Fund.
In the discussion that followed, key concerns were that the requested topics were not fully covered such as inherent and emerging challenges, solutions and opportunities. They asked while the department is doing a lot of good work, do the people of South Africa know about this? The EPWP was criticised for the short-term nature of employment but it was pointed out that the Department of Public Works had introduced a full-time equivalent. Most programmes are designed to be longer than 100 days as this is the point at which meaningful impact takes place.
The Human Sciences Research Council presented conclusions of its pilot findings of its review of the DEA-EPWP. It found that exposure to the DEA-EPWP interventions, even those with limited duration provide critical social safety nets for vulnerable households; the interventions mitigate and reduce the harsh impacts of poverty and unemployment; there is little/limited evidence of enhanced labour market access from participation in the programme; and the environmental assets and services delivered through DEA-EPWP most certainly contribute to protecting the environment from further degradation and contribute to enhanced livelihoods and well being of communities. More evidence, however, is required to assess how the assets created and services delivered contribute to the intended objectives across all sub-programmes; there is the need to collect baseline data to understand the impact on participants exposed to the programmes.
Chief Abram Matsila, representing a local perspective, highlighted the various initiatives in a locally-initiated project, which include livestock farming; a chicken and vegetable and fish farms; land use incentive and adopt a river project; a wildlife economy project and tourism development project. He highlighted future development opportunities. He agreed that at this stage if DEA were to withdraw funding the project would collapse. The Committee was impressed by the vision that Chief Matsila has for the community, working collaboratively with DEA.
In discussion, Members said an important narrative that can be derived from the HSRC research report is that these programmes are making an impact on the war on poverty. The bulk of the income is spent on food. This is a very important intervention by government to provide employment opportunities. The research is saying the poverty levels are still unacceptably high. However, the intervention is doing something about that. It was suggested the monitoring component should go beyond measuring merely work opportunities.
The Chairperson noted apologies from the Minister, Deputy Minister and Director General.
The Chairperson introduced the Colloquium, saying this is another instalment in a series of dialogues that the Committee has initiated to provide a national platform for engagements on key issues in the environmental space. Today, the Committee is putting a spotlight on one of the biggest programmes in the DEA, responsible for job creation and poverty alleviation, which is the Environmental Programmes. The poor response that the Committee received from civil society and academia during the preparations for this colloquium is perhaps a clear demonstration of the lack of interest by stakeholders in this critical area of the DEA work. Or is it because there is a general ignorance or lack of consciousness within civil society of what this programme is all about and what it seeks to achieve. The goal of today is to emerge from this colloquium with a clear understanding of the activities and objectives of this programme and how we, as the oversight authority of this programme, can ensure maximum accountability over the resources appropriated by Parliament to be spent on this. The question of environmental degradation has been preoccupying the environmentally conscious members of our society. This preoccupation has been at the centre of the conception and implementation of the Environmental Programmes within the DEA. Consequently, government has developed a number of public programmes aimed at improving the country’s management of its scarce resources since 1995.
The main objective of this programme is to sustain the functioning of natural ecosystems and their productive capacity. Without compromising the overarching objective, it has become abundantly clear that natural resources can and should play an important role in economic development and alleviating poverty. While the job creation potential that these programmes represent provides an additional argument for their expansion, the environment remains the main priority for these programmes. The need for ensuring environmental sustainability through the provision of viable work opportunities, while mitigating environmental threats due to invasive species, fire-related natural disasters as well as wetlands and land degradation, is certainly one of the best ways to demonstrate sustainable development at a local level. Invasive alien plants impose a threat to South Africa biodiversity, its water security, ecological functioning of natural systems and the productive use of land. They intensify the impact of fires and floods and increase soil erosion. Invasive alien plants divert enormous amounts of water from more productive uses with serious ripple effects for agriculture, fisheries, recreation and water supply. Invasive alien species are causing billions of rands in damage to South Africa’s economy. We need to appreciate the magnitude of the challenge that confronts us. For example, of the estimated 9000 plants introduced to South Africa, 198 are currently classified as invasive. It is estimated that these plants cover about 10% of the country and the problem is growing at an exponential rate. Most invasive alien plants have no natural pests to regulate their rate of reproduction, as they would have in their country of origin.
Consequently, South Africa’s public programmes ought to be appreciated, such as Working for Water, responsible for the management of water catchment through the clearing of invasive alien species. Working for Wetlands is responsible for the rehabilitation of degraded wetlands. Working for Land addresses the restoration of land through the introduction of local indigenous species. The job creation role of these public programmes, which have been implemented in the environmental sector while enhancing the protection of South Africa’s biodiversity, has been particularly pertinent when considering the challenge the South African economy is facing since the start of the economic downturn in 2008. Working on environmental programmes is indeed an example of integrating environmental preservation and poverty eradication objectives.
This colloquium gives a unique opportunity to reflect on the success stories achieved in implementing the environmental programmes that are supposed to make a difference in people’s lives while conserving the environment and all other embedded assets. As we deal with the challenges of the day, we must never forget the painful and horrible past and the desolation South Africa has emerged from. The past of colonial and apartheid land dispossession of the majority of the indigenous black African people which has resulted in the displacement of our people and impacted on the biodiversity and ecosystems of South Africa. In addition to widespread impoverishment and social dislocation, the past colonial and apartheid policies incurred ecological damage as the majority of the population was forced into 13% of the land in mostly overcrowded homelands created by the apartheid system.
These areas suffered massive deforestation, soil erosion and the loss of biodiversity which the environmental programmes seek to address. It is therefore important to reflect on what has been achieved since the inception of the Working for Water programme, a pioneering environmental preservation initiative. Its implementation successfully combined ecological concerns and social development benefits. This model has since given rise to many other environmental programmes with the prefix of ‘Working on...’ and ‘Working for…’, which will aim to address unemployment and skills development as well as the provision of employment opportunities. The environmental programmes have gained strong support and secured significant funding that accounts for about half of the DEA budget. This is a very big programme. As a conglomeration of developmental programmes, they have experienced new and innovative ways of leveraging social benefits. The socio-economic programmes and interventions have not yet been fully researched and documented as these programmes have limited research capacities which are rather focussed on quantifying and implementing the environmental aspect.
DEA will present on the socio-economic impacts of the environmental programmes and provide the job statistics that underpin the usefulness of this programme to South Africa’s people and legitimise its further upscaling. It is expected of the DEA to unpack what the Environmental Programmes are about, what are the benefits, and what are the financial and legal arrangements DEA has with the implementing agencies.
The Chairperson recognised the guests who would be presenting, concluding with a quote by Chairman Mao of China: “Let a thousand flowers bloom. Let a thousand schools of thought contend.”
Departments of Environmental Affairs introduction to EPWP and Job Creation
Dr Guy Preston, DEA Deputy Director-General: Environmental Programmes, stated that the programme was started in October 1995, just after democracy, working with the then-Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry. In the intervening 23 years, there has been a huge development in the norms, standards, processes and systems that the DEA follows in these programmes. The systems and processes today are more rigorous. This had an impact on how the DEA does its work. If it was easy to do it, far more of this work would have been done than is being done. The EPWP programme was initiated in 1995. It has been the model that has been followed with varied success across a number of departments. There are huge returns on investment in what the DEA does. It is not only the jobs that are created, but the empowerment opportunities for previously unemployed people. The ramifications of the work done by the DEA are also significant. If this kind of work was not done, the implications for job opportunities in the country would be dramatic. South Africa would lose instead of gain jobs. The full evaluation of the value of the work needs to look not only at the direct work that has been created, but the indirect benefits. A CSIR study, looking just at the Working for Water programme, reached the conclusion that the value of the DEA’s work in this regard is R453 billion. There are huge returns on investment.
This does not change the fact that there are many challenges. Year on year, there are challenges in meeting targets. The cost of work has increased, yet the budgets have not increased and the DEA is still held to the same targets. There are standards now that are very different to when the targets were conceptualised. The cost of verification is a far cry from whatever was anticipated. The same applies to the medical tests required; the procurement processes required with the attendant problems of corruption; the auditing processes required; and the many unexpected costs have all impacted on the efficacy of the work the DEA does. When the Members and audience interrogate the work that the DEA does, it is important to bring in these factors and the practicalities of what it takes to run the programmes. It is always a lot easier to start something than to keep it going. This is borne out by many programmes. It is a tribute to the Minister and the Director General that the DEA has been able to build and sustain the programmes that the DEA has.
EPWP Environment and Culture Sector overview
Ms Matilda Skosana, DEA Chief Directorate: Information Management and Sector Coordination, highlighted that the Department of Public Works which is the lead department for EPWP is present at the meeting.
The objective of EPWP is to provide unemployed people with income support through work opportunities, while providing assets and services using labour intensive methods. The objective of the EPWP Environment and Culture (EAC) sector is to build and protect South Africa’s natural resources and cultural heritage.
DEA was nominated by Cabinet to lead the EPWP EAC sector. Its programmes encompass: 1. Sustainable Land-Based Livelihoods, 2. Waste Management, 3. Tourism and Creative Industries; 4. Coastal Management; 5. Sustainable Energy; and 6. Parks and Beautification.
EPWP Phase III (April 2014 - March 2019) targets for each year were provided for work opportunities and full-time-equivalents at the municipal, provincial and national levels.
The following departments participate in the EAC sector: Department of Water and Sanitation, Department of Tourism, Department of Energy, Department of Minerals Resources, Department of Arts and Culture, Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries, Provincial Departments with the same mandate as National Departments listed above, and Municipalities (for Environment and Cultural mandates).
EPWP EAC performance versus its targets was provided for Phases I, II and III.
Demographics for youth, women, and people with disabilities in Phases I, II and III in terms of the work opportunities created, the targets and the actual performance were noted (slide 10).
The 15 focus areas for EPWP EAC and Green Economy programmes and projects were outlined.
The budget allocations for the Working for Water, Working on Fire, and Environmental Protection and Infrastructure Programme (EPIP) were provided (slide 14).
The four-year performance of the Environmental Programmes included: 190 wetlands under rehabilitation is 190, 101 760 hectares of land under rehabilitation/restoration, 1648 Environmental Monitors trained and deployed in conservation areas; 761 714 follow-up hectares of invasive alien plants treated (slide 15).
Dr Preston gave the broad outline of the legislative mandate for Environmental Programmes. DEA is in the process of modifying the legislation to strengthen the mandate of the work.
Environmental Protection and Infrastructure Programmes (EPIP)
Mr Luvuyo Mlilo, EPIP Chief Director in the DEA, stated that the EPIP manages the identification, planning and implementation of the Environmental Programmes throughout the country under the Expanded Public Works Programme using labour intensive methods targeting the unemployed, youth, women, people with disabilities and SMMEs. The overall objectives of EPIP are better environmental management practices, job creation, SMME support, and skills development.
Mr Mlilo gave insight into a graph on the quandary of job creation in South Africa, highlighting that the EPIP is said to be good for jobs, but not good for growth (slide 29). He gave an overview of the process for the sourcing of EPIP projects and explained the EPIP model for planning and implementation in terms of the types of institutions and the norms and standards.
The EPIP focus areas are Working for the Coast, Working for Land, Greening & Open Space Management, People & Parks, Biodiversity Economy, Youth Environmental Service, Training.
Greening & Open Space Management
Challenges here included illegal dumping sites due to ineffective waste collection; no clearly demarcated spaces due to poor spatial planning and land use; less maintained spaces leading up to illegal dumping; no open space management plans developed by municipalities. Solutions included the development and rehabilitation of environmentally friendly recreational parks; development of nurseries; tree planting; the construction of environmental education centres; and alternative/greener technology initiatives. A gallery of photos on the work of the Greening & Open Space Management focus area were shown.
Working for Land
Rehabilitation of degraded land is a lengthy process that requires a lot of resources and expertise; and there is the threat to livelihoods if land is not rehabilitated. The objectives are to restore and rehabilitate degradation land; encourage biodiversity conservation; curtailing of bush encroachment; mitigate loss of top soil; encourage better land use practices; environmental education and awareness; and the promotion of the UNCCD Land Degradation Neutrality Targets. Photos illustrated the Working for Land programme. Key deliverables were erecting gabion structures to trap sediments; planting of vetiver grass; tree planting; storm water channel; education and awareness. Performance indicators are: hectares of land rehabilitated; volume of gabions constructed; number of trees planted; hectares of land curtailed of bush encroachment.
People and Parks
Challenges here included conservation / protected areas seen as islands meant for the rich; rife poverty in adjacent communities; and exclusion of communities from decision making and resources; beneficiation limited to menial jobs. Government is committed to supporting community beneficiation. The objectives include that biodiversity is conserved, protected and threats mitigated; there is fair access and equitable sharing of benefits; biological resources are sustainability utilized and regulated. These funded interventions include conservation projects such as alien invasive clearing; development and upgrading of infrastructure in and around protected areas; and development of commercial assets for communities living in and around protected areas. Photos illustrated the People and Parks programme.
This developed out of the Biodiversity Delivery Lab to drive growth in the Bioprospecting Economy by adding 10 000 new jobs and contributing R1.7 billion to GDP at 10% p.a. by 2030. The top 25 species for cultivation were noted.
Interventions included the fencing of community reserves; game ranching and game breeding facilities; hunting outfitters; venison processing facilities; and bio-trade and bio-prospecting. Photos illustrated this.
The environmental monitors were a response to rhino poaching in 2012. They grew from 30 to more than 1 500 EMs. They have been placed in most of the public sector managed reserves. There are partnerships between government and the private sector. Photos included the accolades which the focus area has been awarded.
Working for the Coast
Challenges included pollution. Objectives include the protection and conservation of coastal environment; equitable access to coastal public property; the improvement of access to and along the coast; the cleaning of the coast; and the removal of illegal and abandoned structures.
Working on Waste
This encompasses the following activities and facilities: development of landfill sites; waste transfer stations; buy-back/recycling facilities; material recovery facilities; composting facilities; street cleaning; domestic waste collection; greenest town municipality competition; integrated waste management plans; and youth jobs in waste. Photos illustrated the programme.
Mr Mlilo concluded by highlighting the EPIP current footprint in South Africa and the recommended projects.
Natural Resource Management Programme (NRMP)
Dr Christo Marais, Chief Director: Natural Resource Management, outlined the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the Sustainable Development Goals. He explained the NRMP in light of the National Development Plan imperatives, which entails ‘making communities and the environment more resilient to the impacts of land degradation and water stress through investing in programmes aimed at conserving and rehabilitate ecosystems and biodiversity’.
Working for Wetlands
It aims to rehabilitate wetlands to restore hydrological functions that underpin water flow and quality regulation. A map showed the project scope and the condition of rivers and wetlands in South Africa.
Working on Fire
Its goal is to build fire wise communities to help make communities more resilient to wild fires at the urban rural interface. A map illustrated fire risk and vulnerability.
Working for Ecosystems
It aims to regain natural habitat composition, structure and function, to enhance the delivery of ecosystem services, improve the productive potential of the land, and to develop markets for ecosystem services.
Working for Forests
Its goal is to improve the management of woody biomass resources to reduce the risks of invasions, increase biodiversity and deliver socio-economic benefits and conserve our scarce natural forest biome.
Working for Water
Its goal is to prevent, contain and reduce the density and distribution of established, invasive alien species in order to reduce their negative effects on the environment.
These aim to create work opportunities and deliver socio-economic benefits through the optimal use of cleared invasive alien plants.
Dr Marais referred to a table of the Listed Invasive Species and clarified the Integrated Approach to the Prevention and Control of Invasive Species such as incentives, disincentives, advocacy and research; prevention of the introduction of invasive species (biosecurity); research on and risk assessments of (potentially) invasive species; early detection; and rapid response (slide 57). He gave a breakdown of the spatial prioritization criteria in terms of employment evaluation criteria and the natural resource management evaluation criteria as well as prioritization around resources allocation. A series of slides depict the survey of invasive species in South Africa in 2008 with extrapolations and modelled projections over a 45-year period.
This is Watershed Services, Biodiversity and Fire clusters and contributes to both mitigation and adaptation.
NRMP Implementing Entities & Achievements
The security of NRM investments and the protection status of the land were noted. Implementing entities are public entities not-for-profit, non-governmental and community-based entities, educational institutions, and private entities which represent business enterprises.
A table showed what has been achieved to date by the Working for Water & sibling programmes, the Working for Ecosystems, Working for Wetlands and Working on Fire programmes (slide 79). Another table showed the value of annual resources needed and the full-time equivalent participants needed.
Market for Natural Resource Management
Dr Marais elaborated on how big the market is for these programmes and who the buyers are (slides 84-85).
What are the institutional arrangements need to unlock the market? These are a legislative framework; a regulatory & policy framework (e.g. National Water Resources and Pricing Strategies); an understanding of the “national ecological infrastructure socio-ecological system”; active NGO sector; and cross-sectoral partnerships (such as DST role in Upper Umzimvubu).
What resources do we need to unlock the market? The resources that are needed to unlock the market include capacity building of participants in the sector (career of choice); citizen scientists; advocacy & extension services; sector compliance management; well-resourced M&E programmes with feedback loops; and political buy-in.
Greening Programmes and Fund
Dr Jenitha Badul, DEA Senior Policy Advisor: Greening Programmes and Fund: Department of Environmental Affairs, gave a legislative and policy background to the environmental programmes, highlighting that there is alignment between sustainable development, the NDP, national strategies, frameworks and action plans in addressing the triple challenge poverty, inequality and unemployment.
Dr Badul unpacked the strategic interventions, clarifying whether they contribute to adaptation and/or mitigation and which SDG goals. In promoting the transition to a low carbon, climate resilient economy several initiatives have been undertaken in water management (water security); agriculture, food production and forestry; solid waste management; clean energy & energy efficiency; built environment; the Green Fund; donor funded programmes.
Government’s broader strategic planning structures on the Green Economy will be monitoring the implementation of current projects and address blockages to ensure smooth progress, through the development of a short term three-year implementation action plan across the Economic Cluster sector departments. Dr Badul concluded that these interventions will realise the potential of a low carbon and climate resilient economy for South Africa in the medium to long term, whilst addressing the triple challenges of poverty alleviation, inequality and job creation.
Dr Preston said the presentation gave a flavour of what the DEA is trying to do. The question that is asked is what the DEA is not doing as opposed to doing. It is doing the most that it can with the resources available to it. The intention of the DEA is sustainability and the optimal returns in investment. This is taken extremely seriously by DEA. Research and planning is critical to this work. The institutional arrangements are hugely important, which will be raised with the Committee. It is an on-going process. There is a need to streamline the ability of the DEA to manage these programmes. At times, it really does feel like the DEA is wading through mud in trying to make these operations happen. In terms of the Modified Cash Standard, there is an argument amongst accountants on the best way to show the efficacy of the work that has been done. This has huge implications for the DEA, which is trying to make things happen on the ground. There is a real sense in which auditors need to be audited themselves on the impacts. On wages, there are various strikes going on because trade unions have reneged on signed agreements demanding different wage levels. The DEA is guided by the EPWP minimum wage and employment conditions under the ministerial determination. It is not up to the DEA to the make the determination as to what the wages should be. Obviously, if wages are to be increased and there is a limited budget, fewer people are going to be employed and the DEA has to face up to that challenge. The DEA needs its political representatives and leadership to guide the DEA as to what it is that the department should do in addressing the difficult questions. It is very easy to be populist on this. It is much more difficult to create jobs. This programme has created more jobs than anything else in the country. There is a problem with "great starts, which come with great bureaucracy".
The Chairperson injected, highlighting that what Dr Preston raises are the challenges. The Committee had asked the DEA to present these. It wanted the legislative mandate, how the programmes are implemented, the inherent and/or emerging challenges, solutions and opportunities. These details are not included and they are very important. It is unclear why this is the case but this is necessary in order to interrogate the programme. Is there a presentation on the financial and legal models and arrangements between implementing agencies and DEA?
Dr Preston responded that there is not a specific presentation on the financial and legal models and arrangements between the implementing agencies and the Department. Virtually, all the DEA work is done through implementing agencies. This aspect of the presentation was misunderstood. A breakdown as to who is implementing each the DEA projects can be forward to the Committee.
In response to the Chairperson asking if he received the programme, Dr Preston said he did.
The Chairperson said that Dr Preston is putting the Committee in a fix. The Committee requested the areas the DEA was to present on because the Committee would like to unpack this Programme. It is quite a big branch which has a lot of issues. The Committee found it important to look at the legislative mandate. Secondly, how is DEA implementing the programmes? This has been adequately presented on. The third issue was what are the inherent and/or emerging challenges, solutions and opportunities. Some of these were covered. However, the Modified Cash Standard – and how the DEA is accounting for its expenditure – has been raised. The reason why DEA has not been able to table its Annual Report is because there is a dispute between the Auditor General and DEA about the Modified Cash Standard. It was expected that DEA would present this as part of the challenges it is facing in implementing the programme.
There was a suggestion of the establishment of an agency which is something that came late during the NEMLA 4 amendment process. This could not be processed because it came too late and it would cause delays. It was expected of DEA to clarify how far it is with the establishment of an agency. It has been included as part of the amendment of the Biodiversity Act. There has been a consultation process as part of talking to the solutions. The Committee now does not have that presentation.
The Committee wanted a presentation on what the legal and financial arrangements are between DEA and the implementing agencies. This is why DEA is putting the Committee in the fix. The Committee appreciates the amount of information that DEA has presented today. However, it has not done justice to complying with the framework the Committee provided in its programme which was supposed to guide DEA. The Committee would like to unpack the Environmental Programmes and understand what this ‘animal’ is all about. It is unclear whether DEA has done what the Committee has asked it to do.
Dr Preston responded that DEA has clearly not done all that the Committee wanted DEA to do, saying that he received it on 31 May at which time he was travelling. What was going to be presented was passed onto colleagues. The focus which he asked for was around was has been prepared. Due to the timing when the programme came, especially on the financial and legal models, DEA has not been able to do that. On the challenges, this slide should have been prepared. These can be spoken to because they are not resolved, especially the Modified Cash Standard, and the possibility of an agency. These are things that are being looked at. DEA is working with National Treasury's GTAC on them. There are potential solutions but they have not necessarily been accepted by all the partners as a way to address the challenges.
Dr Preston apologised for the oversight, saying that a written response will be forwarded to the Committee or it will appear before the Committee again. The financial and legal models can be developed in the legislation.
The Chairperson said that a strategy to confuse people is to give them a lot of information. The information was very impressive. However, the programme specified what the Committee wants from the discussion. There is more that the Committee needs from DEA to drill down to specific matters.
The Chairperson asked the Committee Researcher when the programme was distributed and the response was the programme was communicated almost a month ago.
The Chairperson said another session will have to be arranged to discuss what is outstanding. It is not adequate to receive the information in writing. It needs to be prepared and distributed so that the Committee is able to ask questions.
Mr T Hadebe (DA) indicated that, although the presentations clarified some of the areas on the programme, the Committee is looking for solutions. The Committee is expecting DEA to specify what has hamstrung service delivery. The Committee is expecting DEA to specify what is needed to fulfil its mandate. This is why academia was also invited so that something tangible can emanate from the colloquium, for example, the proposal of amendments to the legislation and the removal of any impediments which obstruct them. DEA has to specify the challenges so that solutions can be found.
The Chairperson reiterated that the work of DEA is very impressive. He mentioned the challenge between the Auditor General and DEA is the accounting method. DEA builds a facility and then it hands it over to the community and it is no longer on the DEA bill. When the Auditor General comes, it wants to see the asset in the DEA books. This is an existing challenges and the expectation was that the challenge would come through very strongly in the presentation. Many communities have benefitted. The challenge on how the asset gets accounted for remains. The Committee has many questions about the legal and financial arrangements between DEA and the implementing agencies.
Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) commented that the Department is doing a lot of good work but do the people of South Africa actually know about this? Do people appreciate that DEA is doing a lot of good work? The media does not report about the good work that DEA is doing. Government has to do this. The media tends to focus on the corruption of government, which tends to cloud the space. All that the people of South Africa learn about is about this corruption. He referred to the challenge around ‘work opportunities.’ Could DEA clarify the nature of the contract with its employees? Moreover, could DEA clarify what it terms ‘job equivalence’ compared to ‘job opportunities’? Are EPWP workers allowed to join trade unions, given that they work for six months or a year? On mitigation and adaptation and the Green Climate Fund, if there is a focus on adaptation, what are the implications for the projects that are being forwarded? It is important that there are no contradictory messages, especially from the perspective of funding. Finally, do municipalities fund or contribute to any of the DEA projects, especially as many municipalities are struggling financially?
Mr Hadebe asked what the challenges are around bio-prospecting and whether there are any hiccups when it comes to the regulation of bio-prospecting? It cannot be a matter of ‘free for all’. It is important that, at the end of the day, the purpose of preserving the environment is not defeated. Concerning lodges and chalets in parks, is any research done before DEA engages in such an exercise, so that they do not become white elephants which become an expense to maintain?
Mr Conrad Sparks from Department of Conservation and Marine Sciences at CPUT, thanked DEA for the presentation. Concerning environmental programmes, there is a serious problem with litter. Are there any environmental programmes to engage with communities and schools to address litter? Linked to that, are there any environmental programmes addressing recycling. Globally, South Africa is lagging behind in recycling, especially compared to first-world countries. What journey is South Africa taking to address getting value out litter through recycling?
Dr Preston replied that litter and recycling relate to the work of other DEA branches. Biodiversity and Conservation is guiding the whole focus on bio-prospecting. There are various projects that promote bio-prospecting opportunities, particularly for poorer communities. This is something which DEA would implement. Biodiversity and Conservation are better placed, however, to answer the policy questions on bio-prospecting. On local authorities’ ability to implement projects, for the most part, DEA implements the programmes itself throughout the implementing entities. DEA seldom gives money to municipalities themselves as DEA has had its problems with this. This is borne out by the statements by the Auditor-General and the COGTA Minister around the weak functioning of many municipalities. DEA tries not to put itself in that position. What has happened is that sometimes DEA implements projects that are requested by municipalities and then they are handed over to the municipalities to sustain them. There have been some problems related to that.
Part of looking at the model of what DEA does is trying to change the model so as not to be in that position where they develop projects that are good and sustainable but which are not sustained by the people to whom DEA hands them over. The same is true for a programme like Working for Water where DEA does the clearing of invasive plants. If the work is handed over and cannot be sustained, it is tantamount to fruitless expenditure. The monitoring and ensuring that DEA has the ability to enforce the sustainability and maintenance work to protect those assets is a really important aspect of how DEA tries to develop the agreements which DEA enters into with the people with whom DEA partners. On prior research before DEA develops lodges and chalets in parks to avoid them becoming white elephants which become an expense to maintain, this has happened. It is essential that the right research is done. It is possible to do something that is viable. It is important to look at the broad economic benefits, not only the financial engagement. There are ecosystem services and land-use practices and a range of other benefits from some of these interventions that, even though the goals of the tourist sector is not achieved, it is still helping it to become a more viable operation, for example, especially for parks which are struggling to survive. The whole marketing aspect of how tourists are attracted and how local tourism is promoted is a component that has to be got right. This is a key focus in the wildlife economy, the focus being on the extraordinary potential to have the best land use practices around using the wildlife economy in creating jobs and promoting black empowerment and the best land use practices for food security and ecosystem services. These are being measured to determine where investments have to be put. DEA does do research but it is not easy because one has to predict what the tourism market is like, which is a very difficult market. On the question of litter and the education around it, this can be addressed by Mr Mlilo.
Mr Mlilo, concerning whether DEA talks about what it is doing, responded that there have quite a number of recycling initiatives before the establishment of the Waste Bureau. DEA has built transfer stations / recycling depots, and has supported quite a number of SMMEs on that front. The DEA Chemicals and Waste branch is trying to encourage recycling and has a programme running now which supports SMMEs. It is called the Recycling Enterprise Support Programme (RESP), which intends to gives the tools of the trade to the people who are involved in recycling programmes.
Ms Skosana responded about the 'fulltime equivalent'. After EPWP Phase 1 was concluded, the Programme was heavily criticised for using only short-term employment opportunities. Therefore, when Cabinet approved Phase 2, a method was created to assist the Department of Public Works to measure the work opportunities created, so these can be reflected as the equivalent of a full-time job. This explains the introduction of 'full-time equivalent'. This is measured on the total number of days per person working in a programme, including the training days. This is divided by 230 days in a year (equivalent to full-time employment) to see if it is a full time job. This is the mathematical calculation and the reasoning behind this was to help DPW to quantify if EPWP was creating full time jobs and to measure if the employment opportunities it is providing can be equated to a full time job.
On publicity for the Environmental Programmes, there is an advocacy unit within this DEA branch. It has an initiative where the work that is done is communicated within the communities in which the work is done so that there is change in attitude. Sometimes the alien species is removed over and over. In this instance, the advocacy programme is introduced to empower communities to start thinking about ways of doing things. The second initiative which was started this year is the development of a communication strategy, where there is communication through local radio stations on the projects being implemented in various communities. This month, which is Youth Month, all the youth initiatives will be communicated using local media. These are some of the initiatives where DEA is trying not only to publicise and communicate the good work it is doing but also assisting the communities to start supporting the programme implementation.
Ms Skosana added to the topic of municipal-level projects saying the DEA branch is supporting municipalities to implement projects. In EPWP, each sphere of government has its own job creation targets. Each sphere is expected to use their resources in delivering on this mandate to use labour-intensive methods and create work opportunities. During preparation for Phase 3, there was engagement with all municipalities in the country to see how many resources are allocated for the Environment And Culture mandate within municipalities. The DEA branch would sit with them to develop job creation targets. To date, the municipalities are doing quite well in creating work opportunities. The other aspect that is helping financially is the introduction of the EPWP Incentive Grant by DPW, where a public body that participates in EPWP then qualifies to access an incentive grant to augment its existing budget to increase job creation targets within their sphere of government. Municipalities are being supported to bridge the capacity gap in implementing environmental initiatives. The EPIP programme brings the expertise to help municipalities implement and then the municipalities will use their own resources to create work opportunities while delivering on their environmental mandate.
The Chairperson asked for a response on the climate change question.
Ms Badul responded that, in the international space, it is important to recognise that developed countries were pushing the agenda of mitigation and not necessarily adaptation. Given that Africa is the last continent to actually urbanise as well, it is about ensuring that this urbanisation is undertaken in a responsible manner. In doing so, green development mechanisms are promoted that will take into consideration both. Built environment projects take into consideration a cost-benefit analysis and life cycle cost assessment of their footprint.
Dr Marais explained that, for climate adaptation, when it comes to ecosystem-based adaptation and mitigation, by restoring and re-vegetating landscapes, one contributes both to mitigation and adaptation. Very often, it is easier to quantify the impacts of adaptation as opposed to mitigation, especially because of the carbon market. The quantification of mitigation efforts in the landscape, like the thicket project exists in the Eastern Cape where subtropical thicket is being restored, were good but the administrative and accounting requirements, which broach the question of institutional arrangements as well, are so much that it is very difficult for us to get into the mitigation market. He asked if the Committee would allow a discussion of the institutional and financial arrangements in the colloquium. There are people in this room such as Chief Matsila that could share what we are doing wrong in engaging with the sector and what the institutional challenges are.
The Chairperson replied that the difficulty is that it is not possible to engage on something for which there is no formal presentation, especially when a formal presentation was requested. The Committee is really interested to have a debate on institutional and legal arrangements between implementing agencies and DEA. This discussion cannot take place without a report presented to the Committee. The Committee does not discuss a matter without a formal report, so the Committee can hold DEA to account. The Committee will ask DEA to come and present on this.
On climate change, the Chairperson said that Mr Makhubele had pointed to the need to have one consistent message on our response to climate change. South Africa has come up with Nationally Determined Contributions report which was filed with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) last year. This document speaks to both adaptation and mitigation. It does not only emphasize adaptation. It is important to speak about these concepts clearly. There are adaptation efforts, largely done through SANBI and other institutions, but there are also mitigation efforts. The Committee, together with the Standing Committee on Finance, is currently processing the Carbon Tax Bill in Parliament. These are some of the instruments that are being put in place for mitigation and adaptation efforts. It is important to communicate a consistent message. South Africa, as one of the countries in Africa with a large greenhouse gas footprint, has to come up with mitigation efforts to facilitate the transition. It is unlikely the Minister said that South Africa must not do mitigation but rather focus on adaptation, given the Minster is passionate about the just transition to a low-carbon economy to ensure that the impacts of climate change are addressed.
Mr Gary Clarke from the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) asked about the eco-projects. When building or upgrading facilities to be a sustainable nature reserve tourist facility, what is being done to capacitate the community for this, for example, training them in running a tourist business entity? Related to this is career-pathing and the importance of identifying real skills relevant to this sector. Without this, South Africa is on a slippery slope downward. Are there plans for a Groen Sebenza 2 which was such a brilliant programme for work experience? Lastly, for South Africa’s coasts and water monitoring, are there thoughts about a project to employ youth as water monitoring rangers along South Africa’s coastline to actually take water samples which would feed into a bigger picture for up-river pollution?
Ms Pearl Lukwago-Mugerwa, Chief Director: EPWP Social Sector, Department of Public Works (DPW), responded about the challenge of the short duration of the EPWP programmes and what DPW is doing about it. There are a number of ways that DPW is working closely with the implementing public bodies under the leadership, for example, of DEA for the Environment and Culture Sector. The duration of the work opportunities programme is created and determined by the implementing public body itself and reported on by the implementing body as part and parcel of the EPWP. Cabinet mandated that all public bodies in all spheres of government should mainstream the EPWP. When public bodies do this, they look at programmes that are labour-intensive and that they can fund at that time. If public body has a programme that runs over a period of three to six months, they target those particular programmes. What is important to note is that studies have revealed that a job opportunity which runs over 100 days actually makes a difference in the quality of life of that particular person. EPWP has adopted this as a principle for consideration for programmes to be incorporated into the EPWP — that they must provide at least 100 days. For the full-time equivalent, a job opportunity calculation or measurement amounts to 230 days. The Department has models for the various sectors for incentivising public bodies to ensure the EPWP meets the objective of contributing to social protection by ensuring that the economic transfers to a particular household run over a reasonable duration as opposed to a short-term duration.
Dr Preston agreed that there are certainly challenges where people are working for short periods of time and some of DEA programmes are a stop-start kind of arrangement, particularly where DEA has contract work. This is difficult for the intended beneficiaries. He replied that workers can join trade unions. The ability of the unions to represent worker interests on wages is limited because DEA is guided by the ministerial determination. There are other aspects such as management and the dignity and safety of the worker, where having union representation can ensure that proper standards are maintained. Many DEA projects are much more long term-orientated. The Working for Water and Working on Fire programmes have people working in them for more than a decade with the longest period being close to two decades. It is a reflection that there are not many jobs out there for people but the EPWP is serving a very important focus. This is reflected when DEA advertises positions. For Working on Fire, there are 500 applicants for every post advertised. As for Groen Sebenza 2, DEA is looking into extending this programme with a strong focus on youth and on female empowerment.
Mr Mlilo, responding to WESSA, explained that DEA takes very seriously the sustainability of these reserves and infrastructure. DEA has started a programme of training Community Property Associations (CPAs) that are the owners of the land. They cannot be trained to be in business in one day. One strategy that DEA is using is to get private business people to assist them in the operations of these lodges. In response to water monitoring along the coastline, there is a private project, together with the DEA Oceans and Coast branch, in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and Walter Sizulu University. The challenge has been laboratories. However, the possibility of mobile labs is being explored because takes six hours to deliver Port St Johns water samples to Durban and the findings may be skewed because of the duration of transporting the samples. DEA is also looking into having permanent staff who will be water quality monitors along the coastlines.
Dr Preston noted that WESSA has developed a very effective water monitoring kit and capacity. DEA has worked with WESSA in some of the freshwater areas.
Dr Badul replied about skills development that DEA does recognise the new and emerging areas around the green economy space where South Africa has limited skills, especially when it comes to the uptake of new and emerging technologies. DEA has done some work collaboratively with tertiary institutions in establishing an assessment of what skills are out there and how to address the gaps. Secondly, through the Green Fund, although this specific aspect of the portfolio has closed, DEA has provided bursaries to encourage post-doctoral studies. These are some of the items DEA is trying to address building skills capacity.
The Chairperson asked for clarification on Groen Sebenza.
Dr Preston explained that Groen Sebenza was funded through SANBI. The programme has the support of the Minister and the Director General has begun the process of establishing the second phase of Groen Sebenza, which is funded through the Jobs Fund which has a lot of requirements. It will be done through this branch and the requirements will streamline it to enable DEA to take advantage of the Jobs Fund. It was a very successful project that needs to be built on, particularly for unemployed graduates, which was in the original concept put forward. On the skilling in the context of the building industry, DEA is potentially building huge numbers of structures and is very involved in training and capacitating people to sustain what DEA is doing and to continue to use those skills to have further work opportunities for themselves. This is very much built into the way DEA does its work.
Dr Marais gave feedback that the Minster has said that there is too little focus on adaptation. However, it is not likely that she said no mitigation. The NRMP does not necessarily do water quality work on the coast but it does have a partnership with DWS called the Adopt a River Programme, where the implementing entities are used not only to restore the river and to treat invasive alien plants or water weeds, but to monitor the water utilising youth in these areas.
The Chairperson thanked Dr Marais for clarifying what the Minister has said, unlike the message that came across earlier. Mitigation and adaptation are both used to respond to climate change.
Human Sciences Research Council: Environmental Programmes contribution to Job Creation
Mr Norval Stewart Ngandu, HSRC Research Manager: Economic Performance and Development, explain that its research begins to give an indication of the impacts on the participants of Environmental EPWP programmes.
The mandate of environmental protection derives from the Constitution. Looking at the context in which the EPWP funds are justified in respect of the short term nature of the employment offered, it is important to note that the National Development Plan recognises that the EPWP serves as a bridge between the social protection system, that relates to grants, and the whole range of interventions implemented to stimulate the economy. The fundamental fact is that unemployment is structural and it is not going to go anytime soon.
What the HSRC has been asked to do is an assessment of the socioeconomic impacts. HSRC is in the process of conducting that impact evaluation. What the HSRC will be presenting to the Committee are some of the pilot results which give a picture of what is happening on the ground. The study will end next year.
Research Approach and Methods
The HSRC is using a theory-based evaluation, where the HSRC articulates a theory of change and then it goes and collects data that validates some of the causal pathways. These are EPWP-specific pathways in which changes are expected to occur.
Mr Ngandu articulated the research approach and methods (slide 9). The availability of baseline data is important in the context of impact evaluation. The lack of baseline data is not a problem specific to DEA. Baseline data is not being collected. The way in which the instruments are designed is to triangulate what the HSRC is getting from the qualitative and quantitative engagements, in the nature of the questions that are asked, to begin to see if what the HSRC is thinking and seeing are overlapping. The study sites were in KZN and Limpopo.
Mr Ngandu highlighted key findings from the pilot study, which begin to answer what exactly has happened to participants as a result of exposure to these programmes.
A demographic breakdown of the participants in the study (slides 11-13) showed the dominance of males in the youth cohorts of ages 25-29 and 30-34 while women dominate the older cohorts of 40-44 and 45-49 with 57% of women being older than 35. Income dynamics showed that 94% of the participants did not become ineligible for any grants as a result of participating in DEA-EPWP. The participants' total monthly household income decreased when participants were no longer part of the programme.
Household Income Diversity
Mr Ngandu clarified the household income diversity of the participants’ households (slides 17-18). The greatest source of income for both female and male participants was salaries and wages. A larger proportion of female participants received child support grant.
Household Expenditure Patterns: Household Expenditure
Of all money spent on household items per month, 40% was spent on household food. The average household expenditure on food was R1 333.
Household Expenditure Patterns: Changes in Patterns
58% indicated that their spending patterns experienced a big change after starting to work on the project.
Use of DEA-EPP Wages
A graph provided a breakdown of the use of DEA-EPP wages (slide 22).
Perceptions of Socio-Economic Status
People’s perceptions of their socio-economic status changed significantly when they started working on a DEA-EPWP project.
Asset Status of Households
The asset status of participant households was presented.
Food Security and Nutrition
The incidence of hunger in the households diminished due to participation in the project.
Participation and Access Savings
Participants were asked if they were able to save money while working on the project and what the savings were used for (slides 29-30).
Accessing to School
The study also attempts understand how the project assists with sending children to school.
Targeting Unemployment in Community
Participants' perception of unemployment in their community over the last five years was studied.
Number of Jobs on Average in Lifetime
DEA-EPWP participants have had 2.8 jobs on average in their lifetime.
Recruitment Method & Challenges
This clarified how participants were recruited to work on the DEA-EPWP project. Recruitment challenges and anomalies include difficulties in reaching recruitment targets for women in physically demanding projects; concerns about people being recruited from other areas and not from the local community; and nepotism, corruption and recruitment of participants along political party lines.
DEA-EPWP Work Experience
These were the challenges raised by the participants about the DEA-EPWP work experience.
Type & Quality of Training Outcomes
The type and quality and value of the training outcomes for the participants of the study were looked at.
Benefits and Challenges
Benefits and challenges from participation were outlined in slides 46 - 48.
Impact of Wetlands Rehabilitation on Livelihoods
Ms Shirin Yousuff Motala, Senior Research Manager: HSRC, said that the EPWP speaks about useful, beneficial services and facilities that have to be delivered to communities. The point here would be to ask the question: in what way does that intervention contribute to well being and social cohesion? She shared the data from two case studies on the impacts of the programmes.
Ms Motala referred to the number of wetlands rehabilitated by Working for Wetlands across 2012-2016 as well as the average cost per wetland. The big question should be: Is it worth that money?
Ms Motala presented a case study by Aronson & Blignaut (2009) which speaks to the benefits of wetland rehabilitation (slides 53-54). She presented the environmental outcomes and a valuation of livelihoods benefits of the Working for Water programme.
She then referred the gathering to a case study conducted by Morokeng, Tshepo et al (2016), which looked at the case of the Oliphants river catchment. The community level impacts include that infrastructure installed in some areas has also helped in protecting important resources as wildlife and livestock; awareness campaigns; the generation of employment in different communities; productive activities to help occupy youth thereby shielding them from crime as well as drug and alcohol abuse (slide 59).
Ms Motala concluded from the review of the pilot findings that exposure to DEA-EPWP interventions, even those with limited duration, provide critical social safety nets for vulnerable households; the interventions mitigate and reduce the harsh impacts of poverty and unemployment; there is little/limited evidence of enhanced labour market access from participation in the programme; and the environmental assets and services delivered through DEA-EPWP most certainly contribute to protecting the environment from further degradation and contribute to enhanced livelihoods and well being of communities. More evidence, however, is required to assess how the assets created and services delivered contribute to the intended objectives across all sub-programmes. There is the need to collect baseline data in order to understand the nature of impact on participants due to exposure to the programmes.
The Chairperson commented that the HSRC presentations were straightforward and informative, and tell the Committee a number of stories concerning what these programmes are doing for poverty alleviation.
Mr Makhubele noted on slide 24 that the respondents feel that they are overworked, meaning that the programmes continue outside normal working hours. The complaints need to be responded to because it could mean that the government is subjecting its people to conditions of ‘slavery’. If indeed this is the case, it needs to be attended to.
The Chairperson remarked that one important narrative that can be derived from this research report is that these programmes are making an impact on the war on poverty. The bulk of the income is spent on food. One can imagine what the state of affairs would be without these programmes. They are not buying food only for themselves but for their families, which is a very important intervention by government in providing employment opportunities for the South African people. As the research is saying, the poverty levels are still unacceptably high. However, the intervention is doing something about that.
Mr Preston replied on the HSRC presentation saying the differences between genders and age groups were surprising. This is something that will be looked into. He replied that there is no concern about working conditions as the guidelines are followed. Where there is over-time, this usually applies to the Working on Fire Programme, where workers have to continue working. There is payment for overtime. It is not generally a problem. There are individual contractors that manage the teams and so there will be variation among them and this is always a concern. DEA is much more concerned about health and safety. The variations that exist due to the diligence or otherwise of the individual contractor are far more manifest in health and safety. The work conditions can be tough. It can hot, cold or rainy in the field. Things like toilet facilities and the dignity of the worker are taken very seriously. It is important to look at the context with the assistance of HSRC. However, when there are 73 000 people working, there are going to be some problems. There are going to be conditions that are not ideal. The managers do their best to maintain the standards as best they can. There is also the variability of the landowner, some being more tolerant of people working on their land than others.
Ms Matilda continued that what the HSRC presented was a pilot study. If the Committee is interested, it can bring the bigger study when it has been finalised so that the Committee has a global picture of the outcome of the study. The pilot study looked at two provinces. It is hoped the bigger study will be finalised by the end of this financial year. The outcome of this study will be critical to DPW as well, since it would like to use the study as part of the input for the design of EPWP Phase 4.
The Chairperson replied that the Committee would appreciate receiving the outcome of the study.
Mr James Gambiza, Head of Department of Environmental Science at Rhodes University, commented that it needs to be acknowledged that South Africa’s natural resources programmes are acclaimed globally. South Africa is renowned for environmental management, best for its innovation of these ‘Working for…’ programmes. Obviously, there are some complexities. There are always challenges when dealing with complex situations. A prominent challenge has been the short-term nature of the employment. However, the HSRC pointed out that these programmes may have a lot of hidden benefits which may not be apparent when an analysis is done only on how many people are employed, for how long, and their age and gender. There are other elements which HSRC have highlighted. The way that these programmes are reported on should go beyond hectares, number of people employed, and focus on the key items such as livelihoods, training people in environmental stewardship, which may go beyond the life of a project. There are important endeavours which are going into value-addition (such as the Eco Furniture study).
Secondly, the monitoring and evaluation reporting needs to change. A new paradigm of reporting is needed, which has the acronym PMERL (Participatory, Monitoring, Evaluation, Reflection and Learning). We have incomplete knowledge of these programmes and they can only be improved on when all these different aspects are monitored. This should inform how programmes are carried out, hence the concept of ‘adaptive management.’
Lastly, South Africa is endowed with many outstanding scientists at universities in all the provinces. It is important for strategic partnerships to be formed with local people, some of whom are first-class researchers. The development of these strategic links will help some of the national programmes which will also feed into the conventions to which South Africa is a signatory. For example, South Africa is in the process of finalising the land degradation neutrality targets for the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which have to be achieved by 2030. Many of these environmental programmes speak to land degradation issues, climate change, biodiversity. Let us commend the good work that is being done and not forget that there are challenges. Let us see how we can address those challenges.
The Chairperson appreciated the knowledgeable input. This is the purpose of the Colloquium, to share this kind of information. South Africa is rated third globally for its biodiversity. It is endowed with biodiversity which must be looked after. Dr Preston and others in DEA are helping to do that. They must continue the good work.
Mr Ngandu replied that because of the work that the HSRC does in field work and orienting itself for the study, the perception they have about the programme is people do not really hear the stories of the nature of the impacts. The monitoring component should go beyond work opportunities. The HSRC does understand the complexities of this. If DEA can address baselines, it can begin to address this and amplify what impacts the programme is making within those communities.
The Chairperson thanked the HSRC for sharing the outcomes of the interim research that has been done. As soon as the study is done, the Committee would like to interact again with the HSRC.
Local Community Perspectives on Environmental Programmes
Chief Abram Matsila from Matsila Village in Limpopo gave a historical perspective. He spoke about the social communal systems originally in use without individual land tenure. The land was owned and utilised by a tribe in the name of their chief. The land was held in trust for the tribe by the chief as the head of the political system of the tribe. The Western idea of socio-economic competition, profit motive and enrichment was foreign to traditional black society. Natural resources such as water, grass, wood and wild animals were common property of the community as a whole. The chief of the tribe was responsible for resource allocation and beneficiation. The arrival of colonialists from Europe in 1652 introduced the concept of individual land tenure in South Africa. Land tenure became the means to gain economic and political power – the pursuit of land tenure was driven by greed. During apartheid, Black South Africans, about 80 percent of the population, were limited to 13 percent of the country's land which amounts to about 23 million hectares held in trust by the state. This situation had major environmental impacts on ecosystem services that we are now addressing in communal lands today such as overgrazing, soil erosion, bush encroachment, water scarcity and abject poverty. The restitution program which is underway is giving land back to black people most of whom are under the custodianship and leadership of traditional leaders.
Chief Matsila said today the key challenges to natural resources management in communal areas include: over-grazing, bush encroachment, invasive alien species; soil erosion; illegal mining of soil and sand; weak enforcement of environmental laws and bylaws; high levels of pollution and littering; indigenous vegetation is often regarded as bush that should be cleared for agriculture or massive infrastructure development; and insufficient appreciation for ecosystem services and benefits. He referred the Committee to photos depicting some of the challenges.
He outlined the various governance models including traditional councils community trusts; non-profit organisations; business entities; community-based organisations; and community property associations.
The Matsila Trust locally-initiated project adopts an integrated approach to natural resources management and sustainable development. The key elements of it are livestock farming; chicken farming; vegetable farming; biodiversity conservation; wildlife economy; tourism development; and water conservation. He described each of the initiatives in the project, which include a livestock farming (Shandukani Matsila farm); a chicken farm (Radzambo Matsila Chicken Farm); a vegetable farm (Tshisimani Matsila Vegetable Farm); a fish farm (Tshisimani Matsila Fish Farm); the land user incentive and Adopt a River project (Tshikali River); the Matsila Community Wildlife Economy Project and Matsila Tourism Development Project.
Chief Matsila explained the sickle bush invasion and some of the new challenges that have emerged and gave a summary of key performance indicators.
He highlighted future development opportunities. These include capacity building of traditional and community leaders on Natural Resource Management programs; advocacy programmes / Groen Sebenza targeting unemployed graduates; Introduction of more game species; environmental education and heritage centre; tourism and recreational facilities including accommodation; science laboratory; arts and craft centre; shared development centre/curio shop; meat processing through abattoirs/ bio prospecting; leather products from animal hide/skin; creating sustainable jobs beyond DEA projects.
The Chairperson said that more people like Chief Matsila are needed. The vision that Chief Matsila has for the community is very impressive, working collaboratively with DEA. That value lies within the community. There is no need for the people there to go and look for work somewhere else because work has been created where they are living. Chief Matsila must invite the Committee to come and have a look. It is important to dig deeper to try and find pioneers like Chief Matsila who are doing so much for the community.
Dr Preston thanked Chief Matsila. Fortunately, Chief Matsila farms Mozambique Tilapia fish, as opposed to Nile Tilapia. He explained that the Nile Tilapia is an invasive species in South Africa. It hybridises with the Mozambiques Tilapia. There are various vested interests that are pushing it. In areas, however, where it has invaded, it is impossible to get it out again. It is quite a contentious issue. The research in the presentation is appreciated. In general, goats are destructive animals, eating anything and everything. But if they are managed, they can be a real asset. It will be interesting to see if managed goats can be used against other invasives. This type of research is enormously valuable for DEA. The side effect of the spread of the Marula, which is a very valuable tree, is interesting. When it comes to the value-added industries and the use of biomass to build houses, the Suikerbos is an indigenous species and there is scope in creating opportunities, for example, through the building of light houses, in the area.
Dr Preston said the two areas which Chief Matsila has asked DEA to follow up on is the issue of management. It is a general weakness that DEA has. When things are handed over to municipalities, they go to rack and ruin. Moreover, what constitutes a ‘community’ is a very difficult area for DEA. There are many areas where DEA is working where there are conflicts between people who claim ownership of the trust. It makes development work so much more difficult. The wildlife economy is very deeply enmeshed in this. The kinds of things that have been done here are absolutely vital to creating the corridors of wildlife movement that can see the buffalo being able to spread all the way to the northern Drakensberg and open up the value of the wild life economy to a whole range of communities. That kind of guidance on how security can be achieved and avoid infighting among what constitutes a community is an important aspect for the work that DEA does.
Mr Makhubele commended Chief Matsila for the work done. These kinds of projects are located in rural setups where the income needs may not be as high Is there hope for the sustainability of these projects?
Mr Hadebe asked how Chief Matsila sees these projects surviving if DEA were to stop funding the Matsila Trust projects. Does the revenue from the projects benefit the people as well, or does it only go to the Trust?
The Chairperson asked if the lodges are well supported as the community is not far from Kruger National Park.
Chief Matsila explained that the lodges are a very viable business. There are many people from government departments and Eskom who come to service the rural areas. Other than that, there are a number of functions, like weddings, almost every weekend.
The Chairperson asked how many rooms are available.
Chief Matsila explained that there are only about 20 rooms. More are needed, but also recreational space, which is in high demand locally. However, the project has to start creating sustainable employment beyond DEA funding. If the funding were to stop, most of the projects would collapse. Government has this tendency of spending a couple of millions in once place, then it moves to another place. Meanwhile, the original project collapses. There should be a good programme to assist with sustainability. If funding is cut, communities do not know what to do. However, how does one cater to ensure that these projects are sustainable. This sudden withdrawal can lead to the collapse of projects. Therefore, it is important for government to stay with us a bit longer so that, in the end, the projects function properly. The profit-sharing in the Trust is a very big. By way of example, where a commercial farmer would prefer to utilise ten people to make a profit, the project prefers to use 30 people and the project’s profits would go into the salaries. Otherwise, the profit goes into supplying hot water. The project pays for their electricity. If a project has a bit of money over, more facilities are added so more people can be employed depending on the needs. The project intends to reinvest much of the money so that it does not sit with millions in the bank. Some people are beginning to build houses for themselves because of the investment that the project is trying to make. On the sustainability of facilities, people come from elsewhere to attend community functions.
Conflicts are a serious challenge but government also sometimes creates conflicts in communities by not consulting properly. By and large, the DEA model tends to generate a lot of appreciation from communities. Otherwise, it could have led to potential problems. Conflicts sometimes arise because of a lack of understanding, which is why the project’s capacity building programme is so relevant. The understanding that the money must be spent for the good of everybody is not automatic. Some people are not interested if it is not about them per se. Therefore, education is vital. Conflict resolution strategies are needed. In communal land, a dedicated programme is needed to address this. There is a park that is just about to be built, but there is an indication that the community does not want that park. Somebody is not articulating its benefits properly. An interaction on this is needed at some stage. There is no one size fits all approach. Each area has very different issues. The project takes one place at a time. The most important lesson is to show things that are working to others. Government has a very limited programme for getting people to share their experiences. This is an important path to unlocking a concept. For the Tilapia fish, the project is using controlled tanks. The potential is always there for hybridisation.
The Chairperson thanked Chief Matsila for the very inspirational presentation. The benefits of the project are making a difference in the community. These types of projects require knowledge in order for these projects to be sustainable.
The Chairperson said that the DEA did not give the Committee everything that it was looking for but it was nevertheless good. From the first presentation to the last, there is an outstanding engagement to deal with the legal, institutional and financial arrangements between DEA and the implementing entities. The challenges also have to be unpacked. In the past, when the Committee was handling the NEMLA Bill, DEA came up with a very good presentation with slides and a video. The Committee was very impressed, especially with the bio-mass project. It was a way of motivating the argument for the establishment of a Resources Agency within DEA. The Committee was looking forward to receiving something similar to that which speaks to the problem statement on why such an agency is necessary, what are the challenges and possible solutions. It is of interest to know where that process is. Next week, the NEMLA Bill will be finalised. When the Committee returns from recess, it will be law. The Committee needs an indication on where the Resource Agency will be slotted in. It is critical for the Environmental Programmes of DEA. After a few concluding remarks and a word of thanks, the meeting was adjourned.
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