Minister of Agriculture media briefing

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GCIS MEDIA BRIEFING
23 August 2002
Ministry of Agriculture and Land Affairs


Documents handed out:
Briefing by the Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs (Appendix)

Briefing
The Minister mentioned the recent transfer of land to the indigenous Khoi people in the Kalahari Gemsbok. She said progress has been made in the areas that the government has committed itself in; areas of tenure security in communal land. She added that the Communal Land Rights Bill has been gazetted for public comment and input. She said the Department has met with the Landless People's Movement in order to address their concerns about conditions on the farms which required some attention by other agencies of state.

The Minister mentioned that the challenges of food security in the region has been a major concern. She said the utilisation of research and proper use of water can help harness the agricultural production in the region. Land reform programmes were actually directed to food security. The Department has worked with a number of departments who form part of the Social Sector Cluster of government to produce sustainable food security strategies in order to comprehensively address the issue of food security in the society.

Questions and Answers
A reporter asked whether the Minister had a figure on emerging farmers in the commercial sector and how developed were those emerging commercial farmers.

Minister Didiza said about 91 farms have been transferred to emerging farmers, the Department has taken consideration of people who wanted land for settlement and those who wanted land for agricultural purposes.

Reuters asked whether the Minister was aware of the arrest of members of the Landless People's Movement and whether that would send a good signal to the world.

The Minister said the Department was aware of the arrest of the Landless People's Movement and it was clear to her that the issue of land would come out strongly in the WSSD. The Minister expressed her sadness to hear that people were arrested; however, the Department would continue to encourage interaction with NGOs and other people affected by land issues. Ms Didiza said through the Department's interventions, they have made it a point that people's lives have been improved.

A reporter asked whether the Department was receiving the necessary support from the National Treasury, and if issues of the rural poor were taken seriously.

The Minister said the resources that they were given did help them to meet their objectives. If funds were lacking they would discuss that with the Treasury and see where they could improve. For instance she mentioned the improvement that has been made in other programmes including land redistribution which was very slow. She said it would be of no use for them to ask for more funds if those funds were not going to be utilized.

A reporter asked what was the Minister's opinion on the opposition to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) by countries like Zambia.

The Minister replied that the South African government enacted legislation on GMOs to create a framework under which GMOs could be monitored. There were pilot projects in the Makhatini wool farms in KwaZulu-Natal. She said the monitoring of GMOs on a continuous basis was being carried out. The framework looked at how best the science could be improved because there were always good and bad sides in science. Part of the issue of Zambia and Malawi was based on the fact that they didn't have capacity to monitor GMOs. In fact they didn't have legislation on the issue. Also this could have impacted on their trade agreements that they had with other countries.

A reporter asked to what extent would the issue of agricultural trade be raised in the WSSD.

The Minister said this should form part of the major debates because whenever one talks about sustainable development, trade in agriculture was very important.

The same reporter asked what happened to the inquiry on the increase in food prices.

The Minister said the approach of government on that issue was not to put the blame on producers, but they wanted to understand what necessitated those increases.

A question was asked on whether there would be a decline in food self sufficiency in the process of land reform.

Ms Didiza said there were situations where people were given land but with no support mechanisms to ensure that the land was used productively. She said the government needed to be careful not to create other poverty traps in the process of land reform.

A reporter from Business Day asked what would happen to the farmers who were removed from their farms in Zimbabwe: are they going to be accommodated here in South Africa?

The Minister said there was no such proposal on the side of the South African government. But the Department of Foreign Affairs was dealing with the matter of those South African farmers who lost their farms in that process.

A reporter asked whether in the Communal Land Rights Bill it was proposed that those people who lost their communal land should be given freehold of that land.

The Minister replied that the traditional lands that had been given to the government as trust land should be given back to its rightful owners.

Another reporter asked when would the agricultural census start.

The Minister said the agricultural census would start this year, 2002.

Mr Ben Cousins from UWC asked what process was going to consider the proposed legislation on communal land rights. He said he was asking this question because this system has been viewed as a flawed paradigm, it has failed in many countries. How did the Department look at the process of consultation because such legislation needed a great deal of consultation? Furthermore, what time frames did the Department put in place?

Ms Didiza said the process of consultation concerning this legislation has been there since 1997. She said the product of course might not satisfy everybody, but through the process of consultation certain issues have been looked at. She added that the route taken by South Africa so far was not taken in other countries, however, S.A. was prepared to take lessons learned from other countries.

Appendix:
PARLIAMENTARY MEDIA BRIEFING BY THE MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE AND LAND AFFAIRS, MS THOKO DIDIZA, 23 August 2002

INTRODUCTION

Ladies and gentlemen of the media, good morning. Thank you very much for your attendance. This briefing comes during the time at which the WSSD activities are already underway in the country and that some of the topical issues at the fore of this debate touches on the work of the departments that one is responsible for such as food security, agriculture and land resources.

We also meet at a time when Parliament has just accepted the exclusion of about 58 000 ha of land of the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park to the San and Mier communities in Namaqualand in the Northern Cape. This is a welcome event particularly since it restores the dignity of our indigenous people.

I am aware that you as citizens, and especially the media, would like to receive as much information as you possible can from the various constituencies while creating opportunities for live debates on policy issues, legislation and delivery processes by government. It is in this context therefore that one always looks forward to these briefings.

Our panel for today consists of the heads of our agencies, the Agricultural Research Council, National Marketing Council, Onderstepoort Biological Company, Land Commission, Land Bank and the departments of land and agriculture all of whom are an integral part in the implementation of policy.

I wish to apologise for Mr Gilingwe Mayende and Ms Bongiwe Njobe the Director's Generals of the two departments who are busy with the WSSD processes on the multi-stakeholder dialogue-taking place in Johannesburg today.

PROGRESS TODATE

In highlighting progress to date in the areas of agriculture and land, one can say that from what we committed ourselves in the beginning of the year and proceeding with what we did not finish in the past year, the progress thus far shows that we have done very well.

In this briefing we will provide details in areas where we have made progress and where we still face challenges.

STAKEHOLDER DIALOGUE WITH THE DEPARTMENT

The National Land Tenure Conference held in November last year provided a platform for dialogue and interaction with the relevant stakeholders particularly in the drafting of Communal Land Rights Bill. We are happy to announce that finally, through this interaction, we have now gazetted the Communal Land Rights Bill for public comment and input. While there are some who would argue that the process has been rushed, we need to remember that this process has been long awaited by all.

The department has also met with the Landless People's Movement in order to address their concerns about conditions on the farms, which required some attention by other agencies of state such as the Police, Justice and the Defence Force. It must however be noted that on the area of the Land Summit we have not as yet reached consensus.

In our own analysis, the membership of such groupings consists of people who are claimants whose concerns are that their claims have not as yet been resolved. While others may be labour tenants who also share the same sentiment expressed by the farm workers to secure permanent and legal tenure security and land for housing particularly through the urban renewal programs such as in areas next to Lenasia in Johannesburg who must be moved to a healthy and sustainable environment.

Our response as a Department has been to channel the special allocation of resources to people in farms and labour tenants. In last year's budget for instance hectares of land was transferred to labour tenants and farm workers in areas of Ermelo, Piet Retief and Wakkerstoom.

We will continue to accelerate this programme in order to address this challenge of landlessness. In urban areas we are working with the department of housing where it has become necessary to acquire land for the development of low cost housing. An amount of R4 million has been given towards the Alexander Urban Renewal for the purchase of land for human settlement measuring 1 000 ha.

The interaction with farmers' organisation has continued to work at the implementation of the South African Agricultural Sector Strategic Plan.

The Portfolio Committee has held two visits to the departments and our agencies in order to assess the progress made in addressing the challenges of poverty and underdevelopment. During these visits the Committee expressed their concerns about the Parliamentary Financial Investment in the Agricultural Research Council. Subsequent to these discussions, a process has been initiated between ourselves and the department of Science and technology to work at finding workable and lasting solutions to this challenge.

SADC AND AFRICAN CONTINENT

The challenge of food security in the region has been a major concern. The last FANR Ministers meeting agreed to set up a task team that will look at a recovery strategy post this food challenge. It was also noted that there is a need to redefine the food plate of our countries so that there is clear understanding of both policy makers and citizens that if one talks about starches it does not only mean maize, rice or wheat, but that this will include some of our indigenous food starches such as cassava, amadumbe, also Irish potato and sweet potato. Also, the variety of our vegetables and other forms of protein such, as soya beans and not just meat have been included.

The utilisation of research and proper use of water can help harness the agricultural production in the region. We are also aware that the land reform programmes are directly linked to food security, which in turn, is a way of securing assets to the poor for household production and ultimately to enable them to become commercial farmers.

CONTINENTAL PROGRAM

The African Ministers of Agriculture working with the Food and Agriculture organisation of the United Nation have produced a detailed programme of the NEPAD agricultural chapter, which focus on land and water. The agricultural research experts have been interacting through the regional organisation and working with the CGIAR in order to develop an agricultural agenda for the NEPAD program.

AGRICULTURE

We started the year positively armed with a Sector Strategy for South African Agriculture that was concluded by the presidential working group on agriculture. Following the public announcement of this plan various stakeholders briefed their constituencies and started identifying areas for implementation. An Implementation Committee was also set up which includes all nine heads of departments, our agency representatives as well as representatives from farmers' organisations. This committee has drawn up the implementation framework, which is included in your information packs.

The Department of Agriculture's Strategic Plan which has been presented to the Portfolio Committee and reflects government commitment towards the implementation of the said plan.

AGRICULTURAL CENSUS

In order to capture what is happening in South Africa's commercial farming we agreed with the national farmer's organisations that it was necessary to do conduct an Agricultural Census. This census will cover activities of commercial farmers operating in the agricultural industry of the South African. It must be remembered that such census was last done in 1992 and since then major structural changes have occurred due to our democratic transition.

The department for this exercise has committed an amount of R17 million. The Stats South Africa will undertake this census on our behalf.

The census will however follow a survey that has been completed on the non-commercial sector. The results of which will be made available soon.

FOOD SECURITY STRATEGY

The Department of Agriculture has worked with a number of departments who form part of the Social Sector Cluster of government to produce sustainable food security strategies in order to comprehensively address the issue of food security in our society. This strategy has been adopted by Cabinet at its July Lekgotla this year.

As part of our awareness programme a joint campaign was undertaken by the Departments of Health and Agriculture in all the nine provinces during the month of April this year. This campaign was aimed at the improvement of our citizen's nutritional status through informing the members of the public as well as practically initiating household food gardens in all our provinces. In this regard we have assisted individual households as well as community gardens, schools and clinics with seeds and implements and training programmes working with community based organisations such as Food Gardens Foundation to name a few.

LAND AND DEVELOPMENT BANK OF SOUTH AFRICA

The enactment of the Land and Agriculture Development Bank Act facilitated a process where the new mandate of this institution is clearly articulated. We do however acknowledge in the same breath that there is still a need for continuous dialogue with various stakeholders on those issues of concern on certain clauses of the Act. As a development finance institute of the state, the bank has shaped its portfolio in a way that seeks to consolidate its loan mandate in the established farming areas while rapidly moving towards improving funding amongst emergent farmers.

Micro Finance Step Up clients increased by 16 050. Over R200 million has been made available to the un-bankable through this program.

LRAD grants and loans that have been approved amount to more than R160 million.

Development loans granted R117 million up 145 per cent versus same time last year.

The Skills and Capacity Development Fund has been launched in order to improve the finance management skills of emerging farmers. An amount of R3.5 million has been dispersed to deal with this matter.

The Youth Farming Project was launched with the National Youth Commission and Umsobomvu Fund. Four Farms have been made available to young emergent farmers thus far.

In order for government to maximise its resources it was necessary that partnership is built with other development agencies such as Ithala bank, Uvimba and IDC.

AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH COUNCIL

The mandate of the Agricultural Research Council remains that of providing scientific Knowledge and innovation to the agricultural sector as a whole. In order to ensure that there is understanding by all the stakeholders on the research agenda for South Africa, the ARC in conjunction with the National Department of Agriculture facilitated a process where farmers and other relevant stakeholders developed a National Agricultural Research system. In support of the Strategic Plan for Agriculture, the ARC has developed an implementation plan in support of this process.

Some of the highlights have been the development of the geo-reference information system. This tool provides a bioscope to display comprehensive information on natural resources, infrastructure, telecommunications, minerals and energy resources, health services, transport and educational facilities. In support of the Integrated Sustainable Rural Development Strategy, the ARC-ISCW has completed the National Land Type Survey. This survey maps the soil, terrain forms and macroclimate resources for the entire country and provides information on sustainable and profitable land use, land management and Land Care. Zones with highly productive soils, where agricultural enterprise stands the greatest chance of success, can now be identified.

THE LAND CARE PROGRAMME

The Land Care Programme is a community based government supported natural resource use management program, which has been implemented in partnership with the Australian Government. This is one of the flagship programmes that will be showcased during the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
The program aims at inculcating a responsibility to all the citizens particularly those who are land users so that they avoid man-made disasters that are a result of natural resource mismanagement and misuse. The program is also aimed at developing the ethic of natural resource conservation.

The implementation program started in 1998 and has covered many communities and the evaluation done during May this year indicated great successes. About 500 projects have been implemented country-wide covering all the elements of the projects that is Water Care, Soil Care, Veld Care and Junior Care. Almost 50 per cent of these projects are in the rural nodes. The nature of the programmes under Land Care have included containing factors of acidity in our soil that have a major impact in crop production. The intervention in this area enabled us to help improve the maize yields particularly in the Middledrift project.

The example of Water Care involves research that has been undertaken after five years on water harvesting techniques, which are now applied on the plots of small-scale farmers. Water losses, which were due to runoff, have been minimised to almost zero, using water harvesting within basins technique. During the implementation phase it became clear that successful natural resource management in communal areas requires the adoption of a trans-disciplinary approach that marries social, economic and ecological disciplines.

In order to ensure sustainability a participatory impact monitoring was developed as a tool to improve capacity of rural communities to manage their natural resources and evaluate their Land Care Projects with minimal external assistance.

LAND RESTITUTION

The number of claims settled from the beginning of this year amount to 966 claims benefiting a total of 4,799 households and 7,434 hectares of land transferred.

The validation claims have reached 65 percent, which instils confidence in the completion of this process within the envisaged time frames.

We have continued to work with other departments and agencies in order to ensure that the communities that are settled are given enough support.

LAND REDISTRIBUTION

We have transferred 91 farms to various communities and individuals through our various redistribution programmes comprising 49 979 hectares of land and benefiting 2 477 beneficiaries. Out of this figure 9 035 hectares have been transferred to farm workers and labour tenants.

INGONYAMA TRUST LAND

The Board has given 66 short term leases and 34 long term lease a majority of which are in Northern KwaZulu-Natal around the Lubombo Spatial Development Initiative. Short Term leases are given subject to the company concern presenting a development plan that includes an environmental assessment study, rehabilitation plan in areas where mining rights are given as well as the financial guarantees.

The benefits for communities has been in form of job creation as well as getting a percentage of shareholding in the said company that has received a lease in there are of jurisdiction.

POST SETTLEMENT

The post settlement support and care of the beneficiaries of all our Land Reform Programme. Resolving administrative glitches at an administrative level continue to be a matter that we are addressing. This is largely to try and coin the developmental approach in instances where it is most applicable.

ONDERSTEPOORT BIOLOGICAL PRODUCTS

We have identified the need to train the emerging farming sector around animal health and we have also identified partners to assist in developing sustainable training programmes. OBP has also recently visited the Wool Growers Association in the Eastern Cape.

In the area of export, OBP sales have increased in the last three years from 8% to around 37%. We are supplying a number of countries in Africa such as Tunisia, countries in the SADC regions as well as Europe, the Middle East and South American countries such as Brazil with number of vaccines diseases such as Blue Tongue.

CONCLUSION

The presentation in this briefing in our view does indicate positive progress in our challenge of pushing way the frontiers of poverty and underdevelopment. We are proud that we have done this work in partnership with our communities.

Issued by Ministry of Agriculture and Land Affairs

 

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