Department Strategic Plan and Budget: briefing

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Meeting report

Portfolio Committee Agriculture and Land Affairs
25 May 2004
Department Strategic Plan and Budget: Briefing

This is an edited version of a report produced by kind courtesy of Contact Trust:
Estimate of National Expenditure

Several officials from the Department delivered a presentation outlining the Department's Strategic Plan for 2004/05 and outlined details of the budget.

The Department Director-General, Ms Bongiwe Njobe, introduced her team: Mr Peter Ngobese - Farmer Support and Development, Mr Attie Swart - Trade and Business Development, Mr Rodney Dredge - Economic Research and Analysis, Dr. Shadrack Moephuli - Agriculture Production, Mr Sizwe Mkhize - Sustainable Resources Management and Use, Dr Kgabi Mogajane - National Regulatory Services, Mr Steve Galane - Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation, and Communication, Ms. Amanda Shokane - Programme Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation, Mr Tommie Marais - Agriculture Estimate of National Expenditure 2004/05. Together they presented on the implementation of: the Comprehensive Agriculture Support Programme (CASP), the Economic Review of the South African Agriculture 2002/03, the Integrated Food Security Strategy for South Africa, and the 2002/03 Annual Report. The following speakers delivered the Department's presentation, each addressing a different programme:

The Chairperson then suggested that after their finalisation of the budget vote in June, the Committee would request certain Department officials to elaborate on certain issues.

Dr Kraai Van Niekerk (DA) referred to a comment in the presentation, which stated "that the government's successes occur more often in areas where it has significant control and its lack of immediate success occurs more often in those areas where it may only have indirect influence." He asked Ms Njobe to address this comment with respect to agriculture.

The Director-General commented that the Department had spent a significant amount of time debating its vision. The product was the Sector Strategy document. They found, however, that confusion and miscommunication arose among the various organisational levels regarding implementation of specific strategies. In order to build capacity, the Department needed an appropriate allocation of resources as well as clarity of roles. In a less-structured atmosphere, better-organised community groups took the initiative and communicated their visions and strategies to the Department.

The Director General commented that the main problem in the Department's relationship with provinces had to do with information flow. After the state developed programmes, the province was charged with implementation. However, the Department rarely received feedback on that process. At times, local governments engaged with specific issues and failed to understand the broader policy. The Department thus planned to strengthen relations with the provinces, target district councils and find key local partners.

Dr. Niekerk also requested more information about the decline of extension (versus mentorship) in the Department.

The Director-General responded that the Department was in the process of developing farmer-to-farmer partnerships to enhance mentorship.

A Member asked for elaboration on plans for implementation of particular infrastructure strategies. He also wanted to know why LRAD (Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development) was not available to individuals or to the public sector. Finally, he questioned the high variance in the budget of agricultural risk management in previous years.

Mr Ngobese said the variance emerged because of unforeseen and unavoidable disasters in recent years.

Mr Ngema asked if the state would provide training for farmers regarding co-operatives. He also questioned why the budget had decreased in recent years.

Mr Ngobese replied that the Department was currently addressing the need for such training. A series of workshops had been held in the North West, Limpopo, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal provinces. They had not mentioned these training programmes because they had were held at a provincial level.

One Member wanted more information on the Department's approach to commercial and emerging sectors. He suggested increased fund allocation for the training of emerging farmers and asked how emerging farmers' interests could be protected. It was anticipated that at least 2 000 farmers a year would become commercial farmers, and he wanted to know if they would receive any training.

The Director-General commented that there needed to be a better balance between mentorship and training. Several accredited courses were being developed. The focus was shifting from extension to mentorship.

The Member then referred to a specific situation in which 40 000 hectares of land had been identified as suitable for irrigation. He wanted to know if any action had been taken.

A Department official remarked that irrigation action committees had been established in all nine provinces to identify the potential for irrigation. Once the committees had determined the possibilities, planning would begin.

Finally, the Member asked the Department to discuss the level of communication and co-ordination among Departments.

The Director-General remarked that the relative co-ordination among departments depended on a multiplicity of factors. In order for the Department to have maximum effectiveness, it needed to build capacity and synergies. A 'Professionals Policy' had been started to encourage the development and retention of professionals in the Department.

The Committee also addressed the issue of consultation. One Member wanted to know if the rural community had been consulted when developing training programmes for emerging farmers.

The Director-General acknowledged that focus groups and empowerment studies had been done to involve rural communities in the consultation process.

A Member discussed KwaZulu-Natal, where the ground water caused people's teeth to rot, but nothing had been done to assist these communities. Nothing had also been done about the destruction of forests. Finally, he commented that he had not seen a provision regarding HIV/AIDS in the Department's budget. With regards to the latter concern, the Director-General referred him to page 147 of the Strategic Plan.

Another Member gave an example of a maize farmer who had no safety net if the price of maize depreciated significantly. The government had intended to form a partnership between commercial and emerging farmers in the 1920s. He asked if the Department had further explored this possibility. He also wanted to know what data were available regarding emerging farmers' production levels, etc.

The Director-General affirmed that a consistent policy was necessary to address the duality between commercial and emerging farmers. She was insistent that the Department had a role to play in cases where the markets were inconsistent.

With regards to data on emerging farmers, she commented that gathering data was an extremely difficult process. The Department was in the process of conducting a Communal Land Survey. She agreed that in-depth knowledge of emerging farmers needed to be a priority.

A Member commented that a united approach was needed to tackle the issues posed by the 'first' and 'second economies'. The Department needed to address the following issues: fluctuations in market place, competitiveness, better information, better infrastructure, risk management, co-operatives, and commodity strategies. He them asked whether the deregulated environment had been positive for development.

A Member suggested that greater involvement by civil society was necessary in the arena of international trade. In order to influence the US and EU, the respective civil societies needed greater interaction. He also suggested the need for tariffs to protect local economies.

With regards to international trade, the Director General suggested that fair trade would be a 'give and take' situation between South Africa and world's economic powers. Exchanges between farmers in Mali, Benin, and South Africa had provided great training programmes for participants. They were constantly looking for ways to improve this process. They would look into the issues raised by the Committee and return with comprehensive, detailed answers.

The meeting was adjourned.


Chairperson: Mr N Masithela (ANC)

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