The Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) was introduced in 2004/5 to respond to the gap resulting from the closure of the Agriculture Credit Board in 1998. With the closure, it became nearly impossible for the new land reform beneficiaries to access credit or other means of support from commercial banks and the Land Bank. This meant that the huge investment made to provide them with land was not fruitful since they were not in a position to cultivate and bring into production their newly inherited land and assets. In view of the historical context where the African farmer had been denied access to resources and support, the gap between them and existing commercial farmers grew. Despite the laudable effort of government in establishing CASP, its implementation has been beset with challenges. Getting youth to choose agriculture as a career path has been a herculean task and the proportion of youth participation in CASP remains low at a mere 14%. Repeated adverse audit findings due to inadequate monitoring of funded projects has meant earmarked project funds are not properly accounted for.
MAFISA as a pillar of CASP is a government supported financial scheme that provides production loans to smallholder farmers through a network of public and private intermediary institutions in a bid to contribute to job creation, food security, sustainable rural communities and economic growth. Its brief is to improve access to finance for smallholder farmers and MAFISA still remains the only government supported loan scheme addressing the needs of smallholder operators in the sector. At the moment MAFISA funds are depleted, they compete with grants and some of MAFISA’s intermediaries are not financially sustainable.
Members asked for detailed reports on the plan to support 300 000 smallholder producers by 2019. Objections were raised about the absence of successful stories where the lives of farmers had been improved through these interventions. Others asked about the low percentage of youth supported which is still sitting at 14%, and how many of these were women.
Members were not pleased with MAFISA and said the funds should remain depleted as there is no certainty that it has been able to make any impact. For a start, the Department has no capacity to monitor these funds and the programme has not delivered the promised outcomes.
The Chairperson stated that the Committee is meeting on a sad note as one of the daughters of South Africa Ms Uyinene Mrwetyana, a UCT student was brutally murdered in a government facility - a post office. All citizens of this country must take time to do a thorough introspection as to what we have become or are becoming. He implore everyone to take the time to reflect on this femicide that we all witnessing, on the brutality meted out every day on defenceless women and children, and ask ourselves what we are to become. We need to send a strong message that we can no longer tolerate such behaviour and all means must be used to not only to reduce this violence but to bring it to an end. All member and officials gathered here are asked to add their voice to the campaign #AmINext? Women and children are defenceless in the streets, in their homes and in their places of work and know not who to turn to. Do not take it for granted because of where you are but ensure that you are able to use your voice and to advocate for women that are unable to speak.
The Chairperson said that we also want to reflect on the violence that is unbecoming in which Africans are turning on each other, brothers and sisters throughout SA and the SADC region and the African continent. We cannot and will not allow such criminality destroy the achievements that have been gained in the 26 years of our democracy. "I ask of you again to be the voice of change, ensure that we are able to embark on nation building and in unifying our people in the common cause of making this country, the region and the continent a better place for all to live".
The Chairperson said the Committee had successfully returned from its KZN oversight trip, visiting various projects carried out by the department. At this juncture the Committee appeals to the Director General that from the beginning when we engaged on the Annual Performance Plan to date, we have sent questions to your office that have gone unanswered. We received no response even in acknowledging the receipt of any of those questions. We appeal to you and your office to ensure that the matters raised by this Committee are taken seriously as this will ensure a smooth running of our engagements.
KZN oversight visit report
The Chairperson reflected on the Committee's assessments during KZN oversight visit from 26-30 August during which it visited four district municipalities and farms. They made the following observations:
• The post-settlement support for farmers is generally characterised by a poor level of inter-departmental coordination and support. We found poor monitoring and evaluation of support programmes and these have impacted on the success of the programmes being carried out by the department. A large number of farmers have not been able to access post-settlement support due to the requirement for business plans in order to access such support. Those able to access the support have faced a number of challenges because those business plans have set unrealistic targets and have consequently been unable to achieve the desired goals.
• We witnessed generally a problem with accountability and reporting on allocated funds and this requires urgent intervention from the department.
• There appeared to be a disconnect on skills and training provided and the needs of the beneficiary farmers.
• We found the major difficulty for those able to access post-settlement farmer support is the lack of access to markets. They were unable to access neither the Richards Bay nor Durban markets. We would want to ensure that they are able to have proper access to the markets in our frontline states of Swaziland, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana , Namibia and the greater SADC region or other regions on the continent. It will pose a disaster if not realised and defeat the purpose of the programmes.
• The recurring feature of what we witnessed about drought relief availed by government over the past several years is the lack of accountability by farmers and beneficiaries and also from government officials that support it. We realised that R203m was spent on drought relief but there was no indication of how many cattle had been lost, saved , how many bales of cow feed was consumed daily, how many litres of water was supplied during the drought. All this posed a challenge in accounting for the funds received. All this requires urgent attention from the department.
In conclusion, after fulfilling its oversight mandate in KZN, the Committee calls for thorough review of:
• Inter-departmental coordination
• Enhance capacity to provide a holistic and integrated support to farmers
• Provide greater capacity to ensure improved financial management across all programmes
• Improve access to available funding to ensure greater success of government interventions
• Have greater focus in matching mentoring and partnerships
• Establish a review of skills and training paradigm to ensure relevance for the needs of farmers
• The need for greater monitoring and evaluation capacity of the department to ensure proper milestones for success across post-settlement support programmes
• The development of a database of beneficiaries of post-settlement support so progress may be tracked and the efficacy of interventions maybe assessed in a more structured way.
The Chairperson suggested that the Agri Parks presentation be postponed due to lack of time to deal with it adequately today.
Ms A Steyn (DA) seconded the motion and added that time should be cut from the CASP and MAFISA presentation as Members are already well familiar with the programmes. She stated the violence against women in the country is very worrisome especially when the whole country feels as if they are going in different directions. She added her voice to what is happening to women on farms when rape and brutal attacks are the order of the day. It is time this Committee put some attention on this matter. She asked the Chairperson how the Committee deals with documentation especially questions that are replied in writing. The Minister's Replies to Written Questions are totally different from what is received in the presentation. This Committee has to decide on a method that Members and the Department should communicate with each other. The answers to questions previously asked on Strengthening the Relative Rights of People Working the Land: 50/50 Project were received last week. But when the written answers were compared to the presentation given to the Portfolio Committee meeting, they were totally different. When the Committee receives information, which one do we trust now?
Mr Mike Mlengana, Director-General: Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), replied that hopefully what the department present today will make sense to the Committee. The issues raised are of grave concern and are similar to the one spoken earlier about the delays in answering questions put to the department by the Committee. This has been flagged and it has come to a point in the department that everyone signs off on matters relating to their own branch. The department sends presentations seven days in advance to parliament and there is evidence that parliament received them. This particular presentation was sent to parliament on 27 August and it was received, signed and acknowledged by Committee staff. The gaps must be singled out and closed.
Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) and ILIMA/LETSEMA conditional grants
Ms Elder Mtshiza, Chief Director: CASP, stated that the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme was introduced in the 2004/5 financial year to respond to the gap that resulted following the closure of the Agriculture Credit Board (ACB) in 1998, and to the broader impacts of the support farmers received from government.
Commercial farmers had received and benefited from the infrastructure such as storage, marketing, input supply and extension services provided by the former cooperatives which had been funded from state coffers. These were now no more available to service the new emerging black farmers and beneficiaries of land reform. Considering the historical context where the African farmer of whatever shape or form had been denied access to resources and support, the growing gap between them and existing commercial farmers instead of narrowing, actually grew. CASP sets out to deliver a wide range of economic, social and environmental benefits.
The programme is delivered through these six priority pillars:
- On and off farm infrastructure support
- Knowledge and information management
- Technical and advisory services
- Training and capacity building
- Market and business development support
- Financial services (branded MAFISA).
The targeted population were the hungry, previously disadvantaged subsistence, smallholder and commercial farmers and entrepreneurs, youth, women and people with disabilities.
The policy imperatives informing investments were:
- Potential to create 1 million jobs by 2030 (National Development Plan)
- Expand commercial agriculture to achieve 250 000 direct jobs and 130 000 indirect jobs by 2030 (and support 450 black commercial farmers)
- Put 1 million hectares of unutilised land under production by 2019 (Fetsa Tlala)
- Support 300 000 smallholder producers by 2019 (New Growth Path)
- Expand 1.5 million hectares under irrigation by 500 000 (NDP: 2030 Vision)
- Ensure food security for all (Constitution)
- Ensure sustainable use of natural resources
- Grow agricultural contribution to the GDP - driven by the Revitalization of Agriculture and Agro-processing Value Chains (RAAVC) (Nine-Point Plan) – through operationalising the Agriculture Policy Action Plan.
CASP allocation since inception in 2004/5 has been R14.238 billion and total expenditure is R12.7 billion.
Ilima/Letsema Conditional Grant Framework
The conditional grant goal is to reduce poverty through increased food production initiatives. It does this by assisting vulnerable South African farming communities to achieve an increase in agricultural production and invest in infrastructure that unlocks production within strategically identified grain, livestock, and horticulture and aquaculture production areas.
Weaknesses / Challenges
- The proportion of youth supported was low, only 14% of total beneficiaries were youth
- Insufficient integration of CASP into the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
- Repeated audit findings on the inadequate monitoring of funded projects.
- Misalignment in reporting timelines – CASP and Ilima/Letsema is governed by the Division of Revenue Act and its reporting timelines are not the same as the Annual Performance Plan reporting timelines.
A process to integrate CASP into the Department has already begun. All Development Funds will be managed from the office of the Chief Financial Officer. Monitoring and evaluation of CASP projects will be done from the DAFF Branch: Policy, Planning and Monitoring and Evaluation. All other pillars of CASP will be located in the relevant units of the Department.
- DAFF has re-assigned 18 Assistant Directors to monitor CASP projects in the Provinces.
- The 1000 unemployed graduates that are placed in the Commodity Groups will also be used to monitor CASP on a quarterly basis.
- To this effect programmes shall be headed by the relevant Chief Directors who will regularly interact with the Provinces about the implementation measures, monitoring and evaluation of projects with a strong focus in the planning of programmes.
Micro Agricultural Financial Institutions of South Africa (MAFISA)
Mr Nkhangweleni Ramashia, DAFF Chief Director: Development Finance, stated that Mafisa is a pillar of CASP. Mafisa is a government supported financial scheme. It provides production loans to smallholder farmers. Access is through a network of institutions, loans are available for the entire value chain and funds revolve within the intermediaries for the duration of the agreement. The objective is to improve access to finance and intermediaries include public and private institutions. It contributes to job creation, food security, vibrant, equitable and sustainable rural communities and economic growth.
- More accessible, relevant and responsive financial services,
- Increased productivity in farming and agribusiness operations,
- Sustainable financial institutions with a greater outreach capacity
- Sustainable food production and
- Greater ownership over local financing programmes.
It was launched in May 2005 in the three provinces of Limpopo, Eastern Cape and KZN at one district in each province and pilot intermediaries were the Land Bank and the Eastern Cape Rural Finance Corporation (ECRFC) which is now the Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency (ECRDA).
Monitoring and Evaluation
Intermediaries submit monthly reports to DAFF and DAFF pays inspection visits to intermediaries and funded projects. Bi-annual review workshops are held with intermediaries and Land Bank reports to DAFF.
- Mafisa funds are depleted.
- Mafisa competes with grants
- Some of Mafisa intermediaries are not financially sustainable.
- Diversion of MAFISA funds to other uses
- Limited number of intermediaries limits the outreach (due to limited funds)
- Limited product range – no insurance, no guarantee, no asset finance
- Adverse climatic conditions negatively affect yields and therefore loan repayment
- Returning of MAFISA funds to National Treasury (R136 m)
Government needs to refinance the MAFISA scheme as the funds are depleted.
Ms M Tlhape (ANC) asked where DAFF is presently on the policy imperatives informing investments especially the potential to create 1 million jobs by 2030. How does it measure and monitor the jobs being created? Are they permanent or seasonal jobs? This question has become imperative because DAFF has ways of creating seasonal jobs. At the end of 2030, will it be permanent or casual jobs? Where are we in putting 1m hectares of unutilised land under production by 2019? Has this been achieved because it is already 2019? Did we envisage it will not be achieved and are there plans to review the target? What is the report on support to 300 000 smallholder producers by 2019? If a set target is not going to be achieved, do we do a review midterm or just carry on? On food security, what is the percentage and how are we faring across provinces? On training farmers, what are they being trained on? Is mentoring working for us? On our oversight tour we found challenges with the mentoring of farmers. Is it not time to review it knowing that mentees are given R15 000 stipend when the farmer has absolutely no cash flow? Will it not be better to use unemployed graduates instead of mentoring? Is it not better if unemployed graduates help the farmers run the farms, instead of mentors who are probably there to collect their stipends and have no interest in the farmers at heart? On MAFISA, it is good to hear that the funds are depleted because there no conviction that it is able to make any impact. For a start, DAFF has no capacity to monitor the funds. Who are the current intermediaries? The challenges and weaknesses are more than the impact of the programme. The policies of MAFISA need to be reviewed before government should think of refinancing it.
Ms N Mahlo (ANC) appreciated the presentation but wanted know what is now going to happen to the African smallholder farmers who relied on the support of Agricultural Credit Board (ACB) now that the board is closed and is not replaced? On the marketing environment, there seems to a lack of marketing knowhow amongst the small farmers visited. How is DAFF helping them? On the CASP objectives for the rural economy, it is important that DAFF help the extension officers to be well capacitated to realise this objective. On the knowledge and information management pillar of CASP, what does this mean and by whom? DAFF should use intergovernmental relations by roping in the Department of Small Business Development to achieve the CASP pillar on market and business development support. On the pillar on financial services, when we visited KZN we found out that DAFF used some money for disaster management relief but the amount and correct information was not available. People in fact did not know where the money went to and for what. We need more explanation on financial services as it is one of the CASP pillars. We are happy to learn that there is a focus on land reform and the merging of departments of Land Reform and Agriculture. As you develop your strategies, the national department must use intergovernmental relations to keep track on the work being done by your provincial counterparts. Even though we have spheres of government with different functions, we still expect the national department to keep abreast of matters.
Mr N Capa (ANC) said he was interested in community gardens. At some stage we were convinced that the initiative has failed because in development there is nothing called 'community' rather it an accepted slogan for its own sake. There is nothing you can say is a community rather in development there should be a category such as youth, women or others as for 'community' it has never worked. Has the community gardens worked without categorising it as such? How long are the commercial farmers supported? How is the fund divided between commercial, smallholder and subsistence farmers? Are some not ignored while others are supported at their expense by MAFISA funds? Has MAFISA proven to be an acceptable and successful programme in achieving all the interventions mentioned in the presentation? How does giving loans contribute to job creation? Has it improved and increased access?
Mr M Montwedi (EFF) said he picked up that 15% of the budget in CASP must support the commercialisation of black farmers but the Committee were told last time that there was a review of the concept document. Is it out now, and can we have it so we can interrogate the strategy document? On revitalising agricultural colleges under CASP, what does that programme entail? Will it make provision to run short courses for farmers that are relevant to their area of operation be it crop or livestock production? On MAFISA, it was stated that interest on loans is at 7% and the intermediaries get to keep it. This 7% for sure is only going to be on paper as these intermediaries do not lend money directly to farmers – rather they use other smaller intermediaries to lend this money. One particular intermediary lends this money to Leading Edge who in turn lends directly to the farmers at between 15 and 20% interest. What monitoring mechanisms are in place to ensure that the intermediaries lend money directly to the farmers? On the MAFISA balances with intermediaries as at 31 March 2019, how come you have no money but you have these balances? What is happening here? This programme would work better if your agricultural officers know that it is a service in the form of a loan that aids farmers’ access planting help. You seem to focus on farmers having four hectares which will yield no benefit to any farmer. We must strive to commercialise black farmers. If you can get insurance for farmers, it would really help.
Inkosi R Cebekhulu (IFP) raised objections on the absence of any mention of assisted farmers who were successful. In fact no mention was made of any farmer that had his or her lot improved as a result of the assistance received from the scheme. Has the national department ever visited the farm sites where they have delivered mechanisation assistance and are they operational and used to improve the life of the farmers? Another worry is the small livestock farmers because during the oversight tour, the Committee was told that it was not the individual livestock holder that was assisted but only the cooperative livestock holders, but in the presentation the reverse is now the case. Some farmers with a small few herd of cattle sell them to care for their family. How then can DAFF focus only on the cooperative livestock holders while ignoring the individuals? DAFF should go and see if all the money spent on the scheme can be accounted for.
Mr P Sindane (EFF) asked why the percentage of youth supported is still sitting at 14%, and how many in this percentage are women? Why is it that you have repeated audit findings on the monitoring of funded projects? What measures are in place to change this? It is improper to be discussing lack of markets for small scale farmers, this should have been sorted out for them. We have prisons, hospitals and many institutions in all provinces – there should be a deliberate effort by government to ensure all these facilities support small scale farmers.
Ms T Mbabama (DA) said the CASP objectives stated that as the positive impacts of CASP gain traction in the agricultural sector, it will spur domestic and foreign investment that will lead to the reversal of iniquities in farmland access and use rights inherited from the apartheid era. However, it is already 15 years since the inception of CASP, has this happened at all? If not, why? What does CASP finding creative combinations between opportunities such as support successful communal farmers and security of tenure mean? How are they going to revitalise agricultural colleges into centres of excellence? Could they name the colleges and highlight what they have done? Is the envisaged three year experiential learning planned, documented and monitored? If so can we be supplied with a sample of that plan?
Mr N Masipa (DA) said he was concerned the way the numbers are thrown around and they are a bit confusing. In future it would be better if they are clear and consistent as they report on the numbers. In the CASP pillar of technical and advisory services, the number of extension personnel provided with resources such as ICT infrastructure is 3 268 and additional number of extension officers recruited is 144. These numbers do not tell the total number of extension officers. Can we know the total number of extension officers in the whole country allocated to support this programme? On ILIMA/LETSEMA which has its own activities, there is no number of extension officers reported so how many are allocated to them to achieve these targets? The other concern is on the amount allocated to CASP which is R1.5 billion but expenses stand at R1.8b. What the Committee picked up from the oversight visit is that projects are not delivered fully, there are challenges and concerns, maladministration and money paid is not properly spent. How much of funding for these projects have gone into the correct items and activities? If DAFF knows, they have to highlight them and report to this Committee. The MAFISA programme is not really providing the expected outcomes and therefore should be revisited.
Ms T Breedt (FF+) said the expected social benefits of CASP such as poverty reduction, improved rural living standards, reduced crime and violence has not really worked because this is not what is seen on the ground. We always set standards and fail and fall short of what is expected. If 26 806 farmers are trained and 642 are mentored, how do you monitor all of these? Is there a set goal? These mentees get R15 000 a month but we do not see clearly set goals for them and does DAFF not monitor them as well. On farmers trained, one farmer from the cooperative stated last week that one farmer is trained and is then expected to teach the rest of the farmers in the cooperative. Of the 26 806 farmers mentioned as trained, are they all trained by you or is the system one trained who then has to train others? You mentioned that agro-processing will create jobs and grow the rural economy. Coming from the Free State, there are actually no agro-processing facilities in sight. Is that being prioritised as part of the NDP vision? How much money is being set aside for the revitalisation of agricultural colleges and what amount per college? What time period do MAFISA beneficiaries have to pay back to the intermediary and the timeframe for the intermediary to pay you back? You state that the MAFISA model can be used as the base for developing an improved financing model, yet the funds are depleted as beneficiaries are not paying back the funds dispensed. I am afraid this is not a working financing model at all.
Ms A Steyn (DA) asked how far we have gone in achieving the policy imperatives envisaged in the NDP 2030 Vision which was developed and accepted in 2012. How does DAFF measure some of the objectives reported today? CASP expenditure since inception was said to be R12.7 billion but when the expenses are added the amount is different. Another anomaly is the allocation for 2018/19 which is R1 750 810bn, expenditure R1 892 561 yet the expenditure percentage is 90.9%. It is just very confusing. What amount goes to small farmers. How many small farmers are there and where are they? Even the officials said they cannot vouch for the numbers and that is concerning. We have projects on the books but nobody cares to check on anything. For the next presentation, if it states 6 000 farmers were supported, we must get a list of the names of those farmers and were they are and the budget expended. How are these farmers classified? When is one a small farmer, a subsistent farmer and who decides that? The reports we get says nothing and we must now start to fight to get an accurate and full report. What expertise does DAFF have to decide the funding a farmer gets? What monitoring takes place? The Committee would like to see the DPME impact study on CASP conducted in 2014/15. Who from DAFF has last checked on the foot and mouth disease outbreak in KZN? How far are we on the Recap funding?
The Chairperson referred to the 86 farmers that have received CASP certification, of which 54 are from the Northern Cape, and asked how many have sustained access to markets as a result of DAFF’s intervention. The Committee requests that the Department provide it with all the impact evaluation reports commissioned by DPME and DAFF and also for the Rural Development and Land Reform support programmes.
Mr Mike Mlengana, Director-General, replied that it is clear that the returns are not visible and DAFF will try to put all into context and explain why. The unfortunate thing is that the report is not about progress as that report is a standalone report. Most of the figures reported come from Auditor General SA because it evaluates the programmes. The provinces provide the statistics and whatever the numbers and figures provided, they are validated after site inspections.
The Chairperson asked which question he is answering.
The DG said the question was asked by Ms Tlhape who asked where these developments are, how many jobs are permanent and non-permanent, and do we review targets. Those were the questions being responded to which are specifically related to performance that is normally provided in a separate presentation. Looking at MAFISA, it needs to be reviewed. When it originated it was meant to give farmers better returns at a better rate than the cost of borrowing which was 4% and 7% respectively. It allowed the intermediaries to get the differential between 7 and 4%.
The Chairperson said that the Committee is having difficulty understanding the response because the understanding is that the AG looks into financial compliance but not service delivery. How could the AG be responsible for the figures being rendered in terms of service delivery?
The DG replied that with due respect, the AG also looks at performance indicators and an example is the audit findings on biological assets which had purely no numbers rather an update on performance.
Ms Tlhape said her question in simple terms was asking for specifics on policy imperatives. For example, the DG could have made a table stating how far we are to achieving 1 million jobs in 2019. That would have cleared things up rather than bringing another standalone presentation.
The DG said generally speaking how they monitor is predicated on the relationships they have with the provinces. The extent to which they understand what they should do and DAFF getting and pushing for it to be done is the silos the Department is trying to break. Those silos have affected the performance between the ministry and provinces. The CASP monitors have been appointed on the 1 September and they have started work. The area of monitoring is now being strengthened.
Ms Mtshiza added that CASP and ILEMA/LETSEMA are just one of the programmes that are adding to the progress on the policy imperatives such as the achievement of NDP’s target of 1 million jobs created by 2030. This one million jobs is seen as a agriculture sector achievement rather than an achievement of the conditional grant. In reply to how we measure, Stats SA on an annual basis is seen as the independent valuator who is able to tell us if we have succeeded in achieving the NDP targets. Our programme is also tracking achievements against the business plan. For now, there is a target of 7 000 jobs. If we have achieved the target for those projects, progress will be provided on how far we have come along from 2014. We knew we will not be able to achieve an increase of 1.5m hectares of irrigated land by 500 000 hectares due to restricted water use. Our team has tried to engage with the Presidency to review the target. We are of the view that target will be changed in the new MTSF target. When we pick up that a particular target might not be achieved, if it has been approved in MTSF, we actually have no power to change it. This has to be taken up because in cases like this, we are obliged to continue to keep the target.
On food security progress, in 2014/15 there were about 14.6m households that were food insecure which was obtained from the Stats SA general household survey. What we found is that the survey measures per province but lacks targeted responses of where exactly the burden lies. Since we lack resources, we are now embarking with SADC to collect data on a South African vulnerability survey which digs deeper into different areas of vulnerable households and this will aid us to move faster in addressing food insecurity. The target was 14.6m in 2014/15, but in 2018/19 the survey indicated an improvement to 13.7m vulnerable households.
On training of farmers, these are outlined in our frameworks what training has to be done. We are expecting provinces to do a thorough skills audit which will determine the gaps and a training programme put in place to address them. An internal audit was carried out throughout and we found that there is a disjuncture there. If the modus operandi that was established by training experts is followed through accordingly, we will be able to close the gaps identified. On mentoring, we have merged two departments that have different ways of mentoring. From our end it is strictly with community organisations and we use industry experts who are able to assist the farmers. There is need for mentorship because fresh graduates lack practical experience as they only have a theoretical background in farming. We will share with the Committee the requested details of the framework and guiding tools, training and support they need.
On the question of where we get the money for blended funding, 15% of CASP funding was agreed on as we realised there were some farmers who were ready to access funding because the banks were saying that they needed neither liquid balance sheet nor collateral. To move them away from the grant, we agreed to take 15% of CASP to start the blended funding programme. When it was proven successful, the former Minister lobbied for additional funds from Treasury.
The change of marketing environment occasioned by the new WTO rules meant that business could not be done as before. Individual farmers are now expected to market and compete individually. We know this is unfair as European countries still support their own farmers. On why do we do not capacitate the extension officers to be able to assist the farmers, in our extension recovery plan, this will be additional information to be provided in writing to the Committee. We have tried using the funds allocated to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) for CASP to train them. The jobs are not necessarily linked to the extension officers rather from the business being supported or from activities such as fencing which would become temporary jobs. A farmer who was producing on five hectares but is helped to produce on twenty hectares would have increased cultivation and the opportunities for permanent jobs resulting from that are then counted.
DAFF takes on the advice about strengthening intergovernmental relations because although it is being practiced, it still needs improvement. There is power in intergovernmental relations because many other services and support open up for the farmer we are supporting. On revitalisation of agricultural colleges, we focus mainly on the college infrastructure but funding received from the chief directorate on training assists with content and skills for the lecturers. Revitalisation is more or less to set up the library, training facilities, sporting fields, production areas, piggeries etc so that students can have the facilities to practise.
Ms Mtshiza replied about the low proportion of youth support, saying it has been a challenge to attract young people into agriculture but to a large extent with the conditional grant we only support those who are already on the land. We know that young people do not have land but if they have permission to occupy, they will be supported. The farmers who have received certification have all maintained access to the markets
Mr Mike Mlengana, Director-General, lamented the lack of capacity in the public service which he characterised as a scourge. No matter how beautiful a project sounds and looks when there is the lack of capacity to execute, it will come to nought. Change is drastically needed unfortunately government public servants are entrenched in their positions. Another problem is provincial concurrence whereby provinces agree to undertake projects but when it comes to execute them, they do it their own way. An example is the Eastern Cape that came here and presented the best plan for planting 54 000 hectares. At year end only 7 000 was delivered. We were receiving calls from MPs that there is a problem with the project as nothing is happening yet on paper it was this beautiful planting plan. These are all historical problems we are facing unfortunately it falls upon us as the accounting officers. We have put emphasis on districts and we are going to put in place substantial monitoring and measurement but in essence we allocate the funds. This is coupled with bio security especially with this swine fever that has just hit Eastern Cape. It was discovered stacks of pigs were loitering everywhere and suddenly the area is full of pigs that have swine fever. Monitoring is a problem that we are facing and we are addressing it with the Minister.
The Chairperson said the Committee is out of time . In conclusion, Members should hold on to what the DG just said because we cannot have a situation where Eastern Cape promised to plant 54 000 hectares and only delivered 7 000, denying people in that province 47 000 hectares of planting opportunities. We should do away with finger pointing to focus on what DAFF is doing. The question that should be asked is why this is only picked up at the end. That goes to strengthen the concern expressed by Committee members that your monitoring systems are not in place. People have the tendency of coming to Parliament to utter things that cannot be found on the ground and these challenges we are trying to address. We will need to look into these challenges more in-depth to find answers and we will need the assistance of the DG and all the staff at DAFF to hold their own representatives accountable in the work they do. It was embarrassing for the Committee to get to KZN to find that R203m spent on drought relief could not be accounted for. The questions asked by Members today were not fully answered and the presentation did not help matters either. The two presentations not covered should be slotted into next week’s programme.
The meeting was adjourned.
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