Department Poverty Alleviation Initiatives: briefing

Water and Sanitation

31 May 2005
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Meeting report

WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
1 June 2005
DEPARTMENT POVERTY ALLEVIATION INITIATIVES: BRIEFING

Chairperson:
Ms C September (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Department Powerpoint presentation on Job Creation Initiatives

SUMMARY
The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry reported on its job creation initiatives in support of the Expanded Public Works Programme’s (EPWP) labour-intensive strategy. Most programmes undertaken by the Department were inter-departmental and went beyond satisfying the basic labour-intensive requirements of public fund infrastructure development. The programmes covered sanitation, forestry, Working for Water, fire prevention, and wetlands.

Members were concerned about the exit strategy once workers had been trained and skilled, about whether harvesting traditional plants were sustainable and controlled, and about the legality of beekeeping as a profession. They wanted to know whether there was a timeframe to clear invasive alien plants, whether women were adequately represented and whether communities were benefiting from the removal of alien trees. The Department needed to consider wage levels of workers as per the Nedlac agreement.

The Committee Clerk’s minutes were adopted without discussion, as was a minor, technical amendment to the Committee Report on the Department budget.

MINUTES

Department briefing
Mr J Sindane, Department Deputy Director-General: Regions, briefed the Committee on the Department’s job creation initiatives in support of the EPWP. The programmes were inter-departmental in nature and covered sanitation, forestry, Working for Water, fire prevention and wetlands.

Programme for Sanitation
A seminar led by Labour Job Creation Trust and the Department had focused on job creation in sanitation. This initiative had created 55 574 jobs and trained 11 205 workers The provinces’ records were divided according to people trained and jobs provided for men, women and youth.

Programme for Forestry
The Department offered bee-keeping opportunities through their Forestry Enterprise Development initiatives in collaboration with Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and DANIDA. These opportunities included provision of training, supply of materials and access to markets. Bee-keeping opportunities were available throughout South Africa except the Northern Cape and Southern Cape. Each bee-keeping project had an average of 50 hives, which could yield between R70 000 to R1 million per annum.

About 28 million South Africans relied on medicinal plants for their primary health. There were 255 000 traditional healers in South Africa. The majority of these plants came from the indigenous forests. Some plants were provided through nurseries. These plants provided income opportunities for local communities and traditional healers. There was an estimated trade of 20 000 tonnes of plants with a street value of approximately R270 million.

The Department provided firewood free of charge to communities in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo Province, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal.

Programme for Working for Water
The Working for Water project controlled the growth and spread of invasive alien plants, because they used 7% of the annual national water run-off. This impacted on water security. Invasive alien plants impacted on biodiversity, which was a threat to life and livelihoods in the nature-based tourism industry. Many invasive plants were fire-prone. The negative impact of invasive alien plants on water availability, biodiversity, fires and human health, worsened poverty challenges.

Working for Water would take a labour-intensive and integrated approach to address these challenges. The overall budget of R403 million had been underspent by R38 million. The Department had found it difficult to implement an exit strategy for workers once they had been trained and skilled. There was no standard daily wage within the EPWP. Inter-departmental corporate governance needed tightening up. There was also the challenge of co-operation from landowners.

Discussion
Mr J Arendse (ANC) asked whether the Department was aware that workers experienced problems of tendering for and gaining work at local government and provincial level once they had exited the programme.

Mr Sindane responded that there were conditions of implementation for huge projects. For example, tenderers should comply with Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) guidelines and use local labour. Rural areas were low-skills based, but found sustainability in sanitation projects. Skills were then transferred to Reconstruction and Development Projects (RDP) housing projects. The thinking behind short-term projects like these was that the income stayed within the community. Labour-intensive projects like timber sawmills, employed many workers. Mr G Preston of the Department added that in the longer term, an open contract process would be implemented to train and capacitate workers to end the "feast and famine". Sometimes workers sold their equipment when they experienced cash flow problems.

Ms J Loza (Department: Working for Water) said that a research team had identified potential job opportunities for the exit strategy. The document had been distributed to provinces so that local government could integrate it with their development plans. A capacity building programme run with Rhodes University enabled workers to obtain an accredited certificate in biological control. This initiative went a long way to address the question of job creation versus career creation. It also improved the marketability of workers. The Working for Water Project used 50% of their budget on training to expose workers to a wider scope once they exited the programme.

Mr P Ditshetelo (ACDP) enquired whether the harvesting of traditional plants was sustainable and controlled.

Mr Sindane responded that the sustainability and control of medicinal plants had become the responsibility of provincial governments. Local communities managed indigenous forests. Traditional healers ran medicinal plant nurseries, and this minimised illegal harvesting.

Ms M Gumede (ANC) wanted to know if such beekeeping was legal. Mr Sindana answered that beekeeping was a legal profession. A potential beekeeper could obtain more information from the local municipality, especially in terms of harvesting and marketing. There were challenges when harvesting honey because this could spread of fires, and affect agriculture.

Mr Ditshetelo wanted to know how the Department had assisted previously disadvantaged, aspirant farmers with fire control, because it was an expensive exercise.

Mr Ceba Mtoba (Department Regional Director: Forestry South) replied that communities needed to be educated about fire-breaks.

Ms D Van der Walt (DA) asked whether there was a timeframe for clearing invasive alien plants. Spraying these plants were not effective and posed a threat to farmworkers who fished for food. If left unattended, the spread of invasive plants could become an international problem. She also wanted to know what had happened to the mushroom and ‘bas van die boom’ forestry projects. Ms Loza confirmed that there was a deadline for clearing these flora.

Ms M Nkompe-Ngwenya (ANC) enquired whether women were adequately represented in this sector. Mr Preston replied that Working for Fire staff had historically been white and male dominated. They needed a balance of 60% of women. One of the fitness requirements was the ability to run 2.4 kilometres in twelve minutes to qualify. Men and women averaged 7 minutes. Women did not qualify when they became pregnant.

Ms September asked the Department to consider wage levels in terms of the NEDLAC agreement and the inter-relationships between departments. Mr Sindane agreed that the Department’s inter-governmental relations would receive urgent attention.

Ms Nkompe-Ngwenya wanted to know whether communities benefited from the removal of alien trees. Mr Preston responded that trees were harvested and used for firewood, crafts, furniture and woodchips.

Ms Nkompe-Ngwenya queried whether landowners co-operated in the clearing of invasive alien plants. Mr Preston said that the Department had considered offering incentives for private landowners to help Department employees to clear land.

Committee minutes
Adoption of the Clerk’s minutes of the last Committee meeting was moved by Mr Arendse, and seconded by Ms Van der Walt. The minutes were adopted unanimously.

Committee Report on Department budget
The Committee amended the report of Budget Vote 34 of 13 April 2005 to include ‘Geosphere’ instead of ‘Contact Sphere’ in clause 3.8 and anywhere else that it appeared. This was moved by Mr Ditshetelo and seconded by Mr M Sibuyana.

The meeting was adjourned.

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