05 Nov 2019
In a virtual meeting, the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) briefed the Committee on the impact of drought on the agricultural sector and implementation of drought relief. An update was also provided on the outbreak of brown locust. The Department took the Committee through the provinces affected and the extent of the drought on the affected provinces. Regarding drought intervention in 2021, an amount of R138.5m was made available through the NDMC to the affected provinces. In addition, some provinces have put measures in place for risk reduction – the presentation detailed the relief allocations per province and other interventions to assist farmers affected by drought. Challenges include recurring impact of drought in the Cape provinces due to constant dryness, insufficient funding for DRR, lack of maintenance of infrastructure , mismanagement of natural resources, dependence of farmers on government and insufficient funding post-disaster.
Questions raised by Members on drought concerned drilling boreholes and alternate methods; climate issues; livestock; funds; impact of COVID 19; mismanagement of funds; coordination with other countries; and international funding.
Regarding the brown locust outbreak, the Department said it started on the South Western part of the Northern Cape province in Richmond. The first report was in January 2020 after the eight year period of dormancy since 2012. The second outbreak started from the second week of September 2020, following the rain received in the last week of August 2020 in the affected areas. Challenges faced regarding this outbreak include, farms with no immediate report of the outbreak; and late identification and reporting the outbreak from farm owners who own larger areas of land. The presentation detailed the locust control system and the extent and impact on crops and grazing land. The current locust outbreak is under control and DALRRD will continue monitoring and controlling the Locust outbreak in these provinces.
Members raised questions concerning crop protection; grassing; weather and climatic conditions; and the outbreak of swine flu.
Mr Mooketsa Ramasodi, Acting Director-General (DG), Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), said there were two presentations the Department would make. Both were issues the Department was currently seized with, all emanating from a crop protection point of view.
It was important to note issues of climate change. There is a team from the Department dealing with issues of climate change, disaster risk reduction, and plant health issues, both lead by Dr Julian Jaftha, Chief Director: Plant Production and Health, and Dr Ikalafeng Kgakatsi: Climate Change and Disaster Management.
Dr Kgakatsi would take the Committee through the presentations.
DARDLR Update on the Impact of Drought on the Agricultural Sector and Implementation of Drought Relief
The Department said South Africa has been battling with one of the worst droughts ever recorded that started during 2013/14 hydrological year. Its effect on the country’s economy and agriculture sector in particular have been severe, pushing food prices up due to crippled key crops, like maize. In addition, drought has had adverse effects on the financial position of the farmers and other organisations that are linked to and do business with farmers such as financial institutions and insurance companies‚ inputs and machinery suppliers‚ government as well as consumers at large. Consequently‚ negative effects on economic growth and increased pressure on the fiscus were experienced. Though the country received some rains in some areas, provinces such as Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape still have some areas that have not improved much. As such, the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) declared the state of national drought disaster in February 2020. An amount of R138.5m was allocated to seven provinces through the National Disaster Management Centre to address the adverse impacts of drought. The provinces are currently implementing projects and are expected to complete by the end of the year 2020
The presentation looked at each province and the extent of drought affecting them – see attached for details
The presentation detailed drought relief funding in terms of the national intervention for 2021 and provincial allocations.
Other interventions to assist farmers affected by drought
- Drilling and equipping of boreholes
- Public awareness and training
- Fodder production (fodder bank project)
- Eradication of weed and alien species
- Allocation of drought relief through provincial equitable share
- Recurring impact of drought in the Cape provinces due to constant dryness
- Lack of maintenance of infrastructure
- Mismanagement of natural resources
- Dependence of farmers on government
- No enough funding for post disaster
Natural disasters, including drought, are continuing to threaten the livelihood of the farming communities and the sector at large. As such, the sector has adopted a proactive approach to disaster management based on the following priority areas:
- Establishing integrated institutional capacity and support at all levels of government.
- Increasing awareness and preparedness on impending disasters.
- Reducing disaster risks through appropriate research plans.
- Developing risk reduction and mitigation plans.
- Establishing and implementing response, recovery and rehabilitation programmes.
- Implementing education, training and communication plans.
- implementing an effective early warning system and improving information dissemination
Ms N Mahlo (ANC) said she was concerned about insufficient funding for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and lack of maintenance on infrastructure, mismanagement of natural resources, dependence on farmers and governance. She asked what the turnaround strategy is to mitigate the challenges faced by the Department.
She asked if the Department had anything in mind since the drought started, like putting a certain budget aside; if there were any international organisations or institutions which would deal with the issue of drought relief in the country; if there was a disaster management committee nationally, and if so if it did not budget an amount to help out with the provinces and the most needy in rural areas.
Ms T Mbabama (DA) said she was concerned with the Department’s insufficient funding, considering the extent of the drought. She said Mr N Masipa (DA) would mention more as he was monitoring the drought and its impact on farmers. She asked how insufficient funding could be improved.
Mr N Capa (ANC) said he wanted clarity on two areas. The first was on how the Department ensured the figures from each province was correct, as there were several instances where the Department made a report and the information on provinces was incorrect. He said there should be some mechanism used to verify figures, because it was the Department’s responsibility.
Secondly, he asked about mismanagement of resources, specifically, who was responsible for mismanagement. He said the Department should be informed about how resource mismanagement is addressed by the Department, be informed about mismanagement, the identification of it, and where exactly the mismanagement takes place.
There is an issue of drought-resistant cultivars of seeds which was not mentioned in the presentation, and he suspects it was one of the critical areas concerning the issue of drought.
Mr N Masipa (DA) said he had the same question as Mr Capa, regarding how the Department did a follow up on the information given by provinces. Regarding the Western Cape, the information received during the meeting was, it spent R12 483 042, and there was still R12 561 958 outstanding, but as far as the province was concerned it exhausted all the funding it received.
He said it was important before the Department came before the Committee, to verify information, to make sure information shared was 100 per cent correct. The Minister said, even though the drought disaster was lifted, the support towards the province would continue to ensure regions affected by drought receive the support needed.
He asked what the allocation was for the Department to provide relief to the farmers affected. The Western Cape’s drought relief fund is finished, there is nothing left, and it needs support. He was in the Karoo, and the drought in the Central Karoo was severe. In the Northern Cape, the average rainfall for Springbok long-term, was about 135mm so far. In 2017 it received 25mm, 67mm in 2018, in 2019, 48mm, and in 2020 it received only 7mm. Loeriesfontein’s average was 220 mm. In 2017 it received 21mm, in 2018, 109mm, in 2019, 78mm and in 2020 it received 27mm.
The Department said Northern Cape was allocated R35 689 000. The allocation was done in February. The Department of Agriculture of the Northern Cape Executive said there was this amount with the Department, and the Department was not releasing the amount of money to support farmers.
He asked what the Department was doing to ensure the Northern Cape Province assists farmers; and asked what the province was doing to help farmers, as the money was allocated in February and still unused until November. The Northern Cape Department of Agriculture should be approached, and if need be must be asked to come to the Committee and present to the Committee why it was not releasing funding to the farmers.
Ms T Breedt (FF+) said she concurred with the previous two speakers and said the voucher system, as well as fodder, was released to farmers continuously. Although fodder was not a national function it did fall under the District, and the province which saw to the distribution of the drought relief funds. She is concerned about it because in Limpopo the there have quite a number of issues regarding the vouchers. A lot of places refused to accept the vouchers and in certain instances people were not informed they could use those vouchers.
In the Northern Cape, farmers applied for fodder but never received it, and farmers know of neighbours who also suffered, but received fodder two or three times. There are such irregularities. There are instances where provinces would mislead national departments regarding the actual state of affairs. She asked what would be done to address this problem because there cannot be continuous complaints about the same issue. She asked what the plan was.
She welcomed the Department acknowledging it needs to be proactive, and she would like to see this approach to natural disasters, and what the Department plans to do.
She said there was a lot of money spent on drought relief. Specifically in the Free State, a lot of money was spent on drilling boreholes. She spoke to a lady who had a borehole business, who said there was not enough rainwater. It did not matter there were boreholes because if there was no rain from the top, the underground water would be depleted. She asked what the alternative water strategies were and how the Department was prioritising these strategies.
The Chairperson said the status shown was worrying, considering where the status was in 2020, the drought started last year, and disaster status was declared in February 2020.
The status shared in the presentation, which alluded to different status of rainfall in the different areas of the Northern Cape, said it would take years for the Northern Cape to recover unless risk reduction measures were implemented.
The Chairperson asked what these measures were, not only in the Northern Cape, but in other provinces affected. All provinces requested millions. However, some did not have any monies spent on expenditure. She asked when the money was dispersed to provinces, as farmers were suffering from the year 2019, and were now headed towards the end of 2020.
She asked what monetary mechanisms or strategies there were in the Department, to ensure farmers suffering because of drought get interventions quickly. She asked if farmers would only get interventions in 2021, as provinces were still busy dealing with the procurement processes.
She appreciated provinces set something aside for the provincial funding flight, from its equitable shares, to help increase with intervention at different levels. Limpopo allocated R500 000 for awareness, North West allocated R8 000 000 for awareness, already spent R4 000 000, and were yet to spend R4 000 000.
For disaster relief in the North West, the amount allocated was R4 000 000.
She asked what kind of awareness costs R8 000 000, when the money could be used to purchase fodder or used toward interventions to assist farmers.
She agreed information sharing was essential, but asked about the amount Limpopo spent towards awareness. It was in her opinion, more reasonable for Limpopo, even at its size, to spend R500 000 compared to R8 000 000, which could have been given towards fodder. She agreed with Ms Breedt regarding the issue of boreholes, and asked what other strategies there were, aside from drilling boreholes, to ensure the issue of drought was dealt with.
Ms S Mbatha (ANC) said she was concerned with the issue of provinces procuring on behalf of the farmers, because with procurement there was so much corruption when done by provinces. She asked why money could not be given directly to the farmers. She said when farmers were required to apply for funding there were some who did not benefit even though applying continuously. The farmers do not get someone to assist with the best way to apply to get funding.
Although the relief was directed at farmers who do not have funding, it was not the case, because there were farmers who do not have resources and cannot benefit because not all black farmers can read and write. Somewhere there is a lacuna the government needs to fill, to ensure farmers get assistance with applications.
She asked why funds were not released, or whatever needed to be procured was not procured with farmers by this time. Farmers were struggling. The Department was just setting the farmers back and farmers end up not being successful, or end up losing everything due to climate change and resources not being available timeously.
The Acting DG thanked everyone for questions posed and said he would first address the issues pertaining to the international landscape and policy issues which relate to climate change adaptation and mitigation.
He would then answer questions related to financial issues asked, and issues regarding the Multi-Model Ensemble (MME). Outside of the issues Mr Capa asked on the use of drought resistant cultivars, the first question related to international organisations or institutions which would deal with the issue of drought relief in the country. This would be answered by Dr Jaftha.
Dr Kgakatsi would answer all the following questions, and Mr Ramasodi would answer any questions unanswered.
Dr Jaftha said it was not drought resistant varieties, but the correct term was drought tolerant varieties. There was work which had advanced far with the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and those varieties were released. Initially it was only limited releases and ARC could give an indication on drought tolerant maize varieties. There was work done with the Department of Science and Innovation to support drought tolerant wheat varieties which advanced far. It was done in consortium with multiple parties to bring in various types of expertise.
The Department would follow up with ARC regarding the current season, on how far it is with marketing the drought tolerant maize varieties. It was part of the work to make sure from a crop production perspective, the Department would bring in new technology to the farmers, given the South African farmers production environment.
There were other developments around pest and disease tolerance. It could bring information to the Committee in a summarised form later, because pest and disease incursions were linked to the changes in the environment.
Dr Kgakatsi replied to the question on mitigating factors, and said agriculture itself was a risky business. It was entirely dependent on the planet and global climate conditions. When looking at the weather conditions daily, even weather forecasting was already a daily challenge. To look at agriculture long-term, other factors need to be considered.
When looking at the livestock aspect, the research component might further address the relevant breed. The Department might consider, in the country, it should have been surviving years ago, now because of the weather and climatic conditions, it is unable to. The Department needs to look at other countries.
He said Dr Jaftha mentioned crops, but there were other issues in the crop which would be affected, such as crops which would survive weather in Springbok conditions of 164mm. One must look at crops which would survive there.
South Africa has an average rainfall that could range between 400mm to 500mm. The Department was supposed to be implementing those mitigation strategies continuously. Farmers need to understand and know implementation strategies, to implement it daily.
Strategies were internationally recognised, according to meetings discussed. South Africa was already in drought, so the Department needs to look at all the relevant commodities which South Africa would need to survive.
The Department needs to look at all the relevant factors from now to the future. It must make sure it will survive. The Department needs to budget for risk reduction disaster management, but for post reduction recovery the government did not provide funding, so the province was unable to put money aside. There was within the Disaster Act, a provision which states provinces must dedicate two per cent of its budget to be able to address post reduction recovery.
The only challenge is the provinces were not able to put this money aside. This is because these funds could be used immediately by provinces, before approaching the national spheres of government for assistance or equitable share to specify the amount of the budget. Risk reduction could be budgeted, but it was not enough, it was 60-70, but the amount of money was used on daily challenges and reduced.
The Department was working with international institutions, but those institutions could not really say much, aside from, the country should look at resources and how to address specific issues. Regarding management of risk reduction, it was at national and provincial level to assist farmers where it could, and give farmers an opportunity to get assistance.
The allocation of funding was reduced. Land care funding did not grow for many years, and the Department tried to increase the amount for many years to deal with issues of natural resources and preserving it.
Natural resources included grass, water, and such. When speaking of mismanagement, he said it was the perception. Previously there was fencing. It was meant to protect the movables which were no longer there, so the Department had to look at grassing for example, which was left with only 10 livestock in the area, but due to installation of fencing now had 200 livestock on it.
The issue of mismanagement cannot be addressed because the other issues surrounding land, which farmers complained about, included not having space for stock. This also has to be addressed, along with the drought issues. Even though in some places there was no drought, the negative impact which resulted from over-grassing, would lead to a land drought, and those were the issues which needed to be looked at.
He addressed the information raised by Mr Capa regarding the provinces, and said the Department had programmes monitoring weather and climate conditions. There were people from the Department monitoring what was happening on the ground, and getting information. To know what was happening on a quarterly basis, the Department looked at the status on the ground.
The Department is yet to meet with the Councils, to look at monitoring weather and climatic conditions to find out any new developments. Information regarding extensions, especially what was happening with livestock and crop status on the ground, is the information the Department is getting informed of.
The Department also made use of satellite to monitor exactly what was happening. Normally the Department would have people on the ground to verify the current state of conditions and back up the information. There was a team to go to monitor the status, and to determine if the information given by the Secretariat was a true reflection.
Regarding Multi-Model Ensemble (MME), normally the Department would expect the provinces to do the implementing. At provincial level there could be implementation. Sometimes however, there were challenges resulting in a concurrent function, so the provincial implementation persisted because the provincial departments were closer to farmers, and to ensure risk reduction as well.
The Department was always able to monitor exactly what was happening. There might be challenges where funding was earmarked for certain projects, but certainly at provincial level, executives could change. Normally executives are expected to request deviation from the Disaster Centre, to say money would be relocated so some funds could be shifted, so it can get the authority to do so.
There could be some discrepancies on the figures the Department were given. Provinces would request money and use it, and find it still needed more funding. Those were some of the challenges Department are always faced with.
Regarding the issue with declaration, he said the Northern Cape was spending since 2014, although the allocation was not disclosed, there is information from 2013 to show how much was allocated in each province. Because amounts are declared, it did not mean those were the only amounts given to provinces. The time when declarations were made the country received better range. Production this year was better than any other year, especially looking at the bumper crop system. Commercially farmers were able to do this quickly.
Springbok received water at 164mm average. Possibly from production one could tell what type of crop could survive. In reality, the average was 400 to 500. The Department needs to look at better crops which other countries are farming, which are best suited to be planted in certain district parts of the country.
He replied to Ms Breedt, and said he knew of the voucher system, the Limpopo water system was mentioned. He said the Acting DG would answer more on it.
There was R1.2 billion allocated to Limpopo for the fodder system, and Northern Cape and Western Cape also had it. The fodder system talked about the current R1.2 billion, and he said the Acting DG would elaborate more on it.
The Department was aware of the underground rain water system challenge faced with boreholes, which was one of the mitigating strategies for when there was rain. Other techniques included water irrigation systems to save the moisture underground when planting. The Department was aware the drilling of boreholes throughout the country could have a negative impact. The Department would look at the relevant commodity which could be available in future, which would be considered in those vicinities.
Regarding the issue of provinces requesting higher funds while there were provinces that had not spent funds, he said the allocation of funds happened early this year, however letters for transfer of funds happened in July. National Treasury informed the Department regarding provinces not having funds, and National Treasury said provinces should go ahead and use their own funding before the Minister of Finance signed over allocations. The issue of transfer was the cause of delay. The real transfer happened in July. Due to the impact of COVID 19, the movement on the ground could not be effected, other measures as well could not be taken. Issues of corruption regarding implementation could have happened, and now provinces were trying to run away from liability by comparing money available, and expecting it to be in line with what was requested currently.
Regarding the allocation from the equitable share, the Acting DG would elaborate more on it. The Department did not have much control over the matter, and the Department worried R400 million was allocated to awareness, but the Department did not have documents from provinces regarding this.
Giving farmers money directly was done previously. It proved to be a challenge, as the money was used for something else and not feeding. This was the reason why policies were decided. It was to ensure where there was a way to procure, the Department would procure to farmers. The Department picked up, even the voucher system in Northern Cape and the Western Cape had loopholes. Where vouchers were allocated to purchase feed, the Department found when the Department was there, farmers would augment the credit. There was no system in place to make it better.
Regarding the system of allocation, there might not be funds available throughout the province at national level. The Department was able to address the issue. The province or the farmers could immediately implement reducing livestock, making sure there was fodder in the area, and not walking, because when the livestock moves one could lose livestock.
The Acting DG said he would reply to the issue around the lethargic responses from the Northern Cape, and the money allocated there. The issues raised by Dr Kgakatsi around when the money was allocated and dealt with, was important. In the past week, the Department tried to see what kind of level of assistance the Department could give to assist the provinces on the indications expressed. The Department was waiting to find out how much more it can get regarding allocation, to assist the Western Cape and Eastern Cape, which is currently being worked on.
He apologised for the issue raised by Mr Masipa regarding the difference in statistics, and said the Department would look into it.
Regarding questions asked by Ms Breedt about the voucher system and how it works, he said Members would receive a presentation on how it works on Tuesday, and it will address issues around vouchers and how the Department intervened during COVID 19.
He welcomed the MME intervention recommended by the Chairperson, and said in line with Section 100, and also in line with what was expected for monitoring and evaluation, the Department would get the breakdown regarding the work being done in the North West, so the information would be shared with the committee.
Status Report on the Outbreak of Brown Locust
The Department controls locust outbreaks in terms of the Agricultural Pest Act, 1983 (Act 36 of 1983). There are four declared locust species in South Africa; namely, African Migratory Locust, Brown Locust, Red Locust and Southern African Desert Locust. The endemic outbreak area of the brown locust is the Karoo which covers mostly the Northern Cape and parts of Eastern Cape and Western Cape provinces. The Department has insecticides, protective clothing and spray pumps in stores in both De Aar and Upington Depot as a contingency measure to deal with the outbreak of locust when it occurs. The Department appoints locust control contractors in the endemic areas who are activated to control the outbreak when it occurs.
Looking at the locust control system, land users and members of the public report the outbreak of locust to the nearest offices of the department, as stipulated by the Act 36 of 1983. The Department purchases insecticides, protective clothing and spray pumps and keep them in stores for control of locust once there is an outbreak. The Department liaises with Organised Agriculture to nominate the people to be trained and appointed as locust control officers from each district in outbreak prone areas. The appointed locust control officers are provided with insecticides, protective clothing and spray pumps when there is outbreak in their area and then activated to control it. After the control operation, the locust control officers are reimbursed for the days they controlled and the kilometres travelled during control. The funds for control are sourced from reprioritisation within the Department and if not enough are requested from National Treasury as unforeseen and unavoidable expenses.
- The outbreak started on the South Western part of the Northern Cape province in Richmond
- The first report was in January 2020 after the eight year period of dormancy since 2012
- The outbreak ended in July during winter season
- The second outbreak started from the second week of September 2020, following the rain received in the last week of August 2020 in the affected areas. This is the second generation of the locust after the outbreak, which was experienced from January to July 2020
The presentation detailed the extent and impact on crops and grazing land – see attached for details.
- Unoccupied farms with no immediate report of the outbreak
- Late identification and reporting the outbreak, from farm owners who own larger areas of land
The current locust outbreak is under control and the DALRRD will continue monitoring and controlling the Locust outbreak in these provinces.
Ms Mahlo acknowledged the presentation, and said the continuous monitoring and controlling measures the Department talked about could be followed and would eliminate some of the problems faced by the country. The Department needs to make sure when implementing control measures, the Department looks at the policy and procedures to ensure it is done according to the law. The issue faced by government was, departments did not have a timeframe regarding bookkeeping principles. This is when concern regarding funds increased among Committee Members. The problem is departments have monitoring and evaluation tools in place, but are not following it. Where it was possible for departments to monitor and evaluate expenditure of funds, it needs to implement what it presents to the committee. She applauded the Department for presenting feedback on monitoring and evaluation of the locust outbreak.
Ms Mbabama said the presentation painted the picture things were in control. She would like to see more detail on the farms affected, especially the extent of the damage in each farm, and what categories of farms and farmers were affected by the outbreak. She said she was unfamiliar with the locust outbreak and would appreciate more information regarding the actual impact on farmers on the ground. She asked the Department what kind of measures the Department has to deal with an outbreak, if hypothetically it took place and was widespread across farms with several hectares on each of it. She said she saw this in other countries, where helicopters were used to spray the entire area. She asked if there would be a budget available to hire helicopters, if a large scale outbreak happened.
Ms Breedt asked what the extent of the damage was, and in addition to the control measures listed what more ways the Department could implement to manage the outbreak. She said the Acting DG mentioned challenges regarding monitoring and evaluation, saying it was a bit of a problem.
For the moth disease and some of the other diseases which have come and go, her fear was, the control officers did not get to the ground and ensure necessary control measures were put in place. She asked how the Department would ensure the control officers go to the ground and ensure it is proactive, rather than reactive to the brown locust plague.
She noted Mr Kgakatsi said there was R4 000 000 spent on awareness and she asked what awareness entailed, if it was pamphlets or structures, and so on. She said she was aware of African Swine Flu (ASF) circulating in the Randfontein area of Gauteng, and there were a lot of Whatsapp messages going around regarding biodiversity, warning people to not enter pig farms. She asked if the Department was aware of the issue and if the Department could give more clarity on it.
Mr Masipa said, regarding the presentation on drought, he knew Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Uganda, received $160 000 000 funding from the World Bank to fight the problem of drought. Northern Cape was experiencing drought crisis and Randburg was also struggling, with many farmers not able to draw input costs. This financial problem was also in the Northern Cape. He asked if there were any co-ordinated efforts between the Department and disaster management to engage and to address the funding gaps the country was dealing with. At the moment, Northern Cape was not able to use its own caucus to address the drought issues, and only received the funding in July. He asked if there were co-ordinated efforts to make sure all disaster funding issues were addressed through the World Bank or other sources of funding to support the government.
Ms Mbatha said the disaster was caused by high rains and floods. She said it was said, some of the farmers had big farms affected by the infestation of brown locusts at a late stage. According to the outbreak response, the Department was supposed to keep the locust population below the threshold. She asked how the Department was educating farmers to monitor the farms regularly, because the infestation not only affected the farmer’s own farms, but also farms nearby. She said negligence by one farmer could directly impact another, as locusts move rapidly. She asked if the Department was saying locusts could move to other countries. According to her knowledge, if there were such pests which could move from one area to another, sometimes the pest would be transported in people’s bags or luggage when moving between areas. She asked how best the Department would monitor the movement of locusts between areas or countries. In most cases chemicals would be used for disaster management, she asked if these chemicals used were environmentally friendly, if not the chemicals would do more harm polluting or affecting the environment.
The Chairperson said, as much as there were measures put in place by the Department, the locusts were migratory. She asked what the Department was doing aside from relying on information from farmers, to ensure locusts were contained in the three provinces and did not spread. Regarding the Department’s interaction with other countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Department noted there were four species in the Southern African region, and South Africa was sitting with the brown locust, and there were African migratory locusts. She said according to research, Namibia and Botswana are areas where brown locusts could thrive. She asked if there was co-ordination within these SADC countries to make sure it participates in cautionary, controlling, and preventative measures, regarding the outbreak.
She asked what the position of research and development was in this regard. She found research previously done, the latest was around the years 2002 – 2012, and locust outbreak management could take up to 17 years. She said in the Northern Cape there was some research which makes mention of the Karoo brown locusts, this very province which was bemoaned with drought of 10 districts with about 174 farms. She asked for clarity from the Department as to where these locusts were.
She said Mr Masipa read out the rainfall patterns which had drastically changed in the various district areas over the years. The Department should look into those areas, and when the Department plans, it is able to focus on the problematic areas. She asked how far the research development was, and if the locusts were resistant to the chemicals. She also asked the extent of damage on the grassing.
Dr Kgakatsi replied to Ms Mahlo, and said the Department would do more to strengthen the MME control measures. The Department was working closely at national level with farmers and Agri-SA. He said in the past, the Department would try to have a province be fully part of the implementation of pest reduction in the future. Regarding policy, the Department was mandated by the Act to ensure the Department implements plans and receives assistance in doing so.
The Department was a member of SADC pest control, and the Department was monitoring the movement of locusts in Botswana and Namibia. Due to the current state of pest control of brown locusts, the Department was working closely with Botswana and Namibia because the eggs of the locusts could lay low and undetected for some years.
He replied to Ms Mbabama, saying the extent or impact of most damage was at a time when the locusts were at a hopper stage. It could become dangerous. He said locusts were in control at the moment. Previously when locusts were flying, the Department would make use of helicopters. The Department was making use of universities and other research organisations to assist with gathering new ways of dealing with this issue. Helicopters could only be used at hopper stage. Early morning and late afternoon was the time for monitoring, when the locusts were moving, there would be control measures implemented during the day. He said they were fully using the helicopter, including the black flyer along the Orange River, and aircraft. Where locusts were continuing, the Department was willing to make use of helicopters because if the outbreak was not controlled it would be disastrous. The plan was for the national department to first use its own funds before requesting funds internationally. The Department was always able to manage the outbreak and never needed to make use of helicopters before. The situation is under control.
The Northern Cape, Western Cape, and Eastern Cape, were areas where locusts could move and this was why the Department implemented measures to prevent the spread. Insecticides were available, and the Department was readily available for control. Every district affected by the pests had people on the ground to monitor. These people were using their own cars and the Department paid them. The huge outbreak which covered almost the entire Northern Cape was in the year 2010. Besides farmers doing the MME, the Department had the two depots. It was in De Aar, and Central Upington, where MME was done on a daily basis to see if there was any outbreak following research.
Regarding co-ordination, the Department said it was doing well, and despite working with other countries, did not need funding from other countries. With the earlier outbreak in Africa, countries asked the Department for assistance. The plan was to take the insecticides up North, but the challenge was, the approved insecticides were not compatible to the ones the Department had.
The funding in Zambia, Botswana, and Namibia, was not enough, but the fact the locusts were flying posed a huge challenge, as it was expensive to try to control all of the locusts.
He answered the Chairperson, and said the Department was not only relying on farmers for the MME. The Department was assisting, and the farmers were working on behalf of the Department and were paid to do the work. He said the Department does monitor the chemicals used for the locusts, which ones work and which ones do not, and those the locusts could resist the Department would discontinue using. The insecticide was environmentally friendly, and the Department gave the go ahead to use it. Damage on grassing, based on control measures, did not go to the extent of wiping it. Further research would be done after MME.
The Acting DG said all the work done by the Department was subject to two Acts, the Agricultural Pests Act, and the Fertilizers, Farm Feeds, Agricultural Remedies and Stock Remedies Act. The first was to control the pests, and the latter was followed for all remedies the Department used for controlling the pests. He confirmed there was a swine flu outbreak which was reported on 27 October 2020 in the Randfontein area. There are current air controls the Department has, and there was a possibility the Department would create a deliberate Act, contravening the current Act the Department had, because of the Animal Diseases Act.
Regarding co-ordinating mechanisms, all disasters in the country were dealt within the disaster management centre which is under CoGTA. The Department participates and makes inputs.
Consideration and adoption of Committee minutes
The Committee considered and adopted its minutes of 20 October, 27 October and 3 November 2020.
The meeting was adjourned.
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