The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development was previously two separate departments prior to the Sixth Administration. Thus, the Portfolio Committee considered two separate reports for the two budget votes.
Members noted that the financial support programmes for agriculture are not dissolved by the blended finance model. Financial support has been targeted in favour of production agriculture activity and does not sufficiently include other sectors such as agro-processing and agri-tourism. Another finding was that the lack of monitoring and evaluation framework may affect the department’s annual performance and service delivery.
The Land Bank should provide the Department with progress reports and Cabinet should consider reviewing the mandate of the Land Bank to ensure it addresses the challenges of previously disadvantaged farmers. There was an overall need for alignment between government departments and non-government entities.
Members recommended that the Committee Report to include food security and renewable energy as priorities as well direct challenges faced by farmers such as water permits. Land surveys should be increasingly rolled out and these should not only be targeted at the former homeland areas as non-surveyed land exists outside of the homelands.
The Committee Reports were adopted with amendments
Agriculture Budget Vote 24 Committee Report
Ms Nozuko Mgxashe, Committee Content Advisor (Agriculture), presented the findings and recommendations based on the Committee’s deliberations on the Annual Performance Plan (APP) and Medium-Term Expenditure Framework Budget for the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The Committee findings noted that the APP targets were not specific, reliable or measurable. Examples were provided of performance indicators that were vague and not specific. The budget and targets should be linked to track resources and allocations as it had been found by the previous Committee that where the Department did not meet a target, it was not reported what happened to the budget allocated to that target.
It takes DAFF three to five years to create a policy and an additional period of time to fully implement the policy. This has led to uncertainty about the department’s capacity to develop essential legislation. Another concern was that conditional grants are primarily focused on production agriculture activity and does not sufficiently include other sectors such as agroprocessing and agri-tourism.
The absence of a monitoring and evaluation framework as part of the APP may impact performance accountability and service delivery. Half of the department’s budget is transferred thus monitoring and evaluation are incredibly important.
The commercialisation of black producers is linked to the blended finance model administered by the Land Bank and this requires further engagement.
Onderstepoort Biological Products has faced a challenge as some provinces have procured vaccines and other medicinal products from other companies thus creating a question around the visibility of the entity.
The National Agricultural Marketing Council flagship programme, the Red Meat Development Programme / Custom Feeding Programme has had poor marketing as community members who own livestock are unaware of the programme. There is a lack of alignment of activities between the Programme and the Department as both deal with markets and export.
The recommendations included:
▪ Through the reconfiguration process, fast track the finalisation of the National Policy on Comprehensive Producer Development Support; and further consider redefining the mandate of the Departments’ conditional grants and other funding instruments; and consolidate them into one ‘Comprehensive Producer Support Fund’ that will be administered by the Department or suitable entity to minimise administrative costs, to improve spending efficiency, gain maximum value for money and better management and accountability for the funds. These include but not limited to CASP, Mafisa, Blended Finance Model, AgriBEE Fund, Recapitalisation and Development Programme (RECAP). The process should also be accompanied by a Policy Implementation Plan and a Monitoring and Evaluation (M & E) Plan to ensure efficient utilisation of the funds.
▪ Ensure that funds that are transferred by both Departments to the Land Bank for agricultural development (e.g. commercialisation of black farmers) and transformation (AgriBEE Fund) are ring-fenced for that purpose and the Land Bank should report on a regular basis.
▪ In light of the possibility of the Land and Agricultural Development Bank of South Africa moving back to the Ministry of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development in line with the Cabinet reconfiguration, consider a review of the mandate and funding model of the Bank to ensure that it addresses challenges of the agricultural sector including its dual nature while promoting the development of previously disadvantaged farmers.
Land Reform and Rural Development Budget Vote 39 Committee Report
Dr Tshililo Manenzhe, Content Advisor (Land Reform and Rural Development) said the high vacancy rate at senior management level continues to persist which affects the capacity of the Department to reach performance targets. The Department has been unable to conclude the 2011 White Paper of Land Reform processes, and it failed to produce an overarching Policy on Rural Development and establish the Rural Development Agency.
The National Geomatics Management Services budget increased by 8.4% as the prioritisation of its Spatial Planning and Land Use Management sub-programme increased by 25.9%. The rural youth through Agri-Parks and National Rural Youth Service Corps (NARYSEC) have not been receiving enough funding which affects the rural youth and requires aid. The Land Commission is not an autonomous entity as it was initially envisaged. There is a slow release of state land for restitution. The Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB) does not have clear targets and it is unclear about who is supposed to benefit from this Board. There is a poor track record on policy development as the same statistics have been given numerous times.
The recommendations included:
▪ Ensure that the configuration of the new Department pulls together different forms of farmer and post-settlement support under a single branch, including but not limited to, the Recapitalisation and Development Programme, MAFISA, and CASP, in order to establish a comprehensive post-support programme that targets farmers across a continuum of scales, especially smallholders and subsistence farmers in the former homelands.
▪ Finalise all disciplinary matters in the DRDLR within 30 days. Further submit a report, within 30 days after the finalisation of the disciplinary matters, outlining the outcome of each matter. In the event that some matters could not be concluded as recommended here, a time-bound plan on conclusion of all investigations and disciplinary processes must be submitted to the Committee.
▪ Working with the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, facilitate discussion between the Department and the Legal Aid Board aiming at strengthening the provision of legal services to land reform beneficiaries (CPAs and Trusts) and vulnerable landless people, especially the farm dwellers and labour tenants who confront the brutality of illegal evictions from their homes on farms as well as violation of tenure rights for people living on communal land in the former homelands.
Ms A Steyn (DA) asked if CASP, Mafisa, AgriBEE Fund and RECAP were dissolved by the blended finance model. If so, they should not be mentioned in the report.
Ms Mgxashe replied that the blended finance model has not dissolved other funding programmes.
Ms T Mbabama (DA) asked if funding was limited to CASP, Mafisa, Blended Finance Model, AgriBEE Fund and the Recapitalisation and Development Programme (RECAP).
Ms Mgxashe replied that she could not think of other funding models and the ones mentioned in the report were the main ones.
Mr N Masipa (DA) said that there is another support fund called the Agro-processing Fund administered by the DTI but mainly focuses on agriculture which should be part of Agriculture rather than the DTI.
Mr Masipa said that the Land Bank should report to the Department bi-annually on its allocation of funds.
Ms Mbabama and Ms Mahlatsi agreed.
Mr M Montwedi (EFF) recommended that the Land Bank mandate should be reviewed within a specified timeline to ensure that the review does indeed happen, and money can be accessed by the department.
Ms K Mahlatsi (ANC) suggested the mandate be reviewed in the last quarter of the next financial year as it is not realistic for the review to happen sooner.
The Acting Chairperson said that according to the Committee Report recommendation on Budget Vote 24, it states that the review must happen simultaneously with the reconfiguration of Cabinet.
Mr N Capa (ANC) said that specific policies about farmers’ inability to access water permits should be mentioned in the report and be included the department’s mandate.
Ms Steyn mentioned that the report does not include food security which it should as it pertains to agriculture. The Department should provide a quarterly report in collaboration with other departments as food security includes the Department of Social Development and Health, amongst other departments. Production, affordability and nutritional factors all need to be considered as part of the agriculture portfolio.
Ms T Breedt (FF+) agreed with this point. She added that the report lacked acknowledgement of the need for renewable energy.
Ms Steyn recommended that AgriSETA should be included in the engagement with the Minister on the shortage of critical skills.
Ms Mgxashe replied that the engagement stipulated in the report pertains specifically to the need for higher education research rather than training.
Land reform is divided by large scale and small-holder farmers. It should be able to provide support to farmers across different scales and not target the ‘big guys’ only. Policy needs to be applicable on a national and provincial level with collaboration between different departments. There needs to be policy coherence.
The focus on land surveys should not only be targeted in former homeland areas as non-surveyed land exists outside of the homelands despite it being small pockets of land compared to the former homelands.
Ms Mahlatsi said that depicting progress in an organogram was unsuccessful in the past and should be replaced with a progress report.
Dr Manenzhe agreed to amend this in the Land Reform and Rural Development Committee Report.
Both Committee Reports were adopted with amendments.
The Acting Chairperson thanked the Committee Members for their comments.
The meeting was adjourned.