Budget Vote; Work in Provinces: briefing

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Meeting report

AGRICULTURE, WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
21 April 1998
BUDGET VOTE; WORK IN PROVINCES: BRIEFING

Committee Chairperson Janet Love called the hearing to order, followed by opening statements from Deputy Minister of Land Affairs and Agriculture, Ms. Thoko Didiza-Msane. The floor was then handed over to the Director-General of the National Department of Agriculture, Ms. Bongi Njobe-Mbuli. As the session was designated as a hearing of evidence on the agriculture budget for fiscal year 1998-1999, it was appropriate that the Director General make the opening presentation on the status and prospects for the agricultural sector. Members of the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) supplemented her presentation with comments and statistics in clarification of issues raised by hearing participants.

The Director General provided an overview of general objectives of the agriculture department for the coming fiscal year, vis-à-vis short- and long-term goals. The following aims were outlined:
access to agricultural resources and service needs to be broadened in order to add to job and income generation through agricultural development.
the process of policy discussion must proceed in terms of nationwide budget allocation.
planning must focus on equity and economic growth.
focusing on the lack of capacity within the department (e.g.: for risk management) must be a priority.
entrepreneurial and trade promotion activities must be developed as a way to achieve sustainable agriculture.

To address these objectives, the following strategic goals were identified:
promotion of agricultural trade and investment through a range of development programs and services,
development of human capital in the agricultural sector, with a focus on women and youth,
development of entrepreneurship in order to make the sector more competitive and to achieve: black economic empowerment, job creation, and income increases,
insurance of the sustainable use, management, and development of agricultural natural resources, and creation of a department that has service excellence and that is responsive to the diverse client base. Note: service provision has been a problem thus far as there are lacks in communications and information dissemination; also, service providers such as veterinarians and economists have moved into the private sector.

The DG’s presentation included accounts figures which related each project and plan mentioned to a specific budgetary allocation. The DG stated that although there has been a 13.6 per cent budget cut this year, six major programs are being developed to carry out the functions of the strategic goals. These programs include several initiatives to strengthen the role of women and youth in agriculture, the operation of 24 workshops to train farmers on risk management and security, capacity-building efforts to strengthen the links between land users and policymakers, as well as an Information Technology (IT) initiative that focuses on genetic resources.

MPs posed several questions in response to the evidence presented. In general, their concerns addressed:
department restructuring
cost recovery
outsourcing
possibility of privatizing aspects of the department
restructuring and establishment of new parastatals and trusts
entrepreneurial activities
pilot programs, such as: veterinary services, resource conservation, and linkages between extension services and farmers

Some particular questions and answers exchanged (paraphrased):
(MP) Madame Chair - Why is there a numerical discrepancy in numbers of the actual budget cut in the documents provided today?

Director-General - 13.6 per cent refers to the official national budget as a whole.

(MP) Mr. Gininda - Why have there been roll-overs in veterinary services and production inputs?

Dr. Janse - funds have been put toward pesticides and costs for improvement of conditions.

(MP) Ms. Seperepere - Why has there been a phasing out of assistance to small and beginner farmers?

Deputy Minister - a pilot program of small projects (cooperatives), which had a set life-span, is now coming to an end. This accounts for the apparent decrease.

Member of the NCOP - What is actually happening with respect to including women and youth?

Deputy Minister - It was noticed in prior programs that there was no specific focus on women or youth. As a result, the Ministry has been engaging with youth commissions trans-provincially. This dialogue has looked at a number of focus areas for raising awareness around agriculture as a sector for career and economic development.

Director-General - The Department had tried to develop a policy for women in agriculture. Instead, it was opted that smaller projects relating to issues of transformation be undertaken. The aim was to first identify problems in the department in terms of gender sensitivity. A study was conducted to see how policies are constraining to women’s participation vis-à-vis legal instruments. In relation to economic empowerment, capacity needs to be strengthened.

To what extent are loans being granted to farmers in conjunction with provincial departments?

Director-General - The Department is working with provinces in terms of general assistance and restructuring financial institutions. Regarding production loans, the role of the provinces has been boosted in monitoring and directing financial assistance. Links exist between provinces, national departments, and financial institutions.

(MP) Mr. Arendse - Why has there been no mention of Land Care?

Director-General - There will/has been a conference to sell the conference. Also, details on specific program measures will be tabled looking into projects in the homeland areas and not just the developed areas.

(MP) Mr. Mentz - Is the veterinary services allocation large enough?

ARC member - The OBP is the only vaccine factory on the continent. An aim of the department is to retain it as a strategic asset. Therefore, there is a budget to retain it until it becomes a self-sustaining company.

(MEC of Gauteng) Ms. Titi - How close are we to meeting the information services goal for the year 2000?

Some computer facilities have been upgraded but the responsibility for retention lies at the Director administration level. This has, nevertheless, been taken as a priority for agricultural planning.

In the second phase of the session, provincial representatives made presentations focused on agriculture sector challenges specific to each region. Presentations were given by MEC officials from the following provinces: Western Cape, Northern Cape, Free State, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Northern Cape, and the Northern Province. The KwaZulu-Natal MEC was unable to attend due to extenuating circumstances.

Main points:
Mr. Fick (W. Cape) - there ought to be planning to reform the provincial agriculture department into a privatized agricultural development research council. The Council should take over government functions in order to access the knowledge and support necessary in the new environment of the global economy.

Mr. Mamase (E. Cape) - the department needs to be restructured to work towards converting subsistence agriculture to productive agriculture. While identifying new markets, the department must also stress resource conservation.

Ms. Titi (Gauteng) - because Gauteng has a rather small agricultural sector, it is not so hard-hit by the budget cuts.

Mr. C. Human (Free State) - stressed that the job of the department is to make the marginalized poor a productive sector of the population through agriculture.

Appendix:

FREE STATE PRESENTION TO THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE, WATER AFFAIRS & FORESTRY - CAPE TOWN 21 APRIL 1998

OUR PROBLEM IS POVERTY! AGRICULTURE DOES MAKE THE DIFFERENCE!

Sir Lourence van der Post once said "Our problems are the raw material of our salvation."

Shacks along the highway at Winburg. BMW, Mercedes Benz and Volvo cars and large trucks with valuable cargo pass by all the time. I have calculated a value of at least R1 million passing by every minute - and 200 metres off the road, a shack worth less than R100 is "home" for a few people. There are poor, not a family anymore, no prospects of jobs low skills - no choices and opportunities for living a better life. We find this not only in Winburg, but all over the Free State and especially in and around the "dorpies" in the "platteland".

The rate of poverty in rural areas is about 70%, compared with 30% in urban areas. This situation of poverty and suffering contributes to a culture of poverty. A situation where people themselves see no light at the end of the tunnel and become beggars, thieves and drunkards. A lot of projects have failed, especially after the first profitable crop, because the participants have eaten all the capital. All these contribute to eroding the moral fibre of our society.

Hierdie kultuur van armoede, met 'n gepaardgaande morele agteruitgang, is egter ook te vinde by die wat in hul blink motors net verbyry op pad na iewers. Dit is nie n materiele armoede nie, maar dalk 'n armoede van gees. Die Gini Koeffisient in Suid-Afrika (die verskil tussen ryk en arm) is die tweede hoogste in die wereld. Is ons skaam hieroor, of wat?

Hierdie kultuur is ook onder die amptenary en ons politici te bespeur. Om so min as moontlik te werk en mekaar te beswadder, is niks meer as morele verval nie.

We, as leaders of society, have to put an end to this situation. It is our responsibility.

The question is how?

Firstly, we must look deeper and with a view to really see. If you look through this eye at the poor in the shacks you will see that they "struggle to make ends meet."

Die mense "trek swaar" om net water, vuurmaakhout en kos vir die dag te kry. En juis hieroor is dit mense met n goeie inbors. Kyk dieper en u sal sien dat die mense wel vaardighede het, agterplaastuine maak, bome plant en hul vee versorg. Met die geringste geleenheid is daar vooruitgang. Die mens is nie lui nie.

As ons met die oog kyk na die wat "net verbyry" op die snelweg, dan sien mens ook dat daar tog 'n passasier 'n geleentheid gegee is. Pragtige stories van welvarende mense wat 'n student met sy studies help en verblyf gee. Huis vir die huishulp, betrokke by aandklasse (gratis), onderwysers wat uithelp by plaasskole. Hier moet ek melding maak van veral die kommersiele boere-gemeenskap waar hul betrokke is by die opheffing van hul eie werkers deur behuising, opleiding en die beweging na arbeidsintensiewe boerdery-praktyke om meer werk te skep, behulpsaam is met ontwikkelingsprojekte op meentgronde rondom die dorpe, hulp verleen aan nuwe swart bure ens., die Landbou-unie en produsente-organisasies wat kursusse aanbied vir nuwe toetreders en soms selfs finansiele hulp verleen.

The contemporary politicians really need to be viewed through this eye. They are people who spend hours with communities trying to understand their problems, resolve conflict, motivate participants in projects and have endless discussions with officials to explain policy and to drive them into the implementation mode. In my own organisation, the ANC, I see politicians leading in political education and organisation building, with the result of a much stronger and matured organisation to support the transformation of our society.

Also, I see officials, planning and working through the night to prepare reports and business plans to implement projects.

What do we see? New houses. I was looking for an old friend of mine in Warden the other day. He used to stay in a shack. There were no more shacks for he is now staying in a house, with brick walls, electricity and a waterborne toilet. It gives him dignity. For the first time in his life he is not ashamed of the "Bucket". These houses, with electricity and water, are shooting up all over the province. For 22 years there were only two tarred roads in 42nd Hill at Harrismith. Now there are two new ones, it doubled in four years. They also have a taxi rank and more. One can walk the streets with new shoes can see the smiles on faces.

Yes, if we look closely, we will see the transformation.

We need to change our outlook to be able to look through these eyes, especially we as the politicians. Our vision is sometimes so clouded with the injustices of the past and/or the so-called lost privileges of the past, that we lose focus. In the book "YENZA, a blueprint for transformation", Human describes it as follows:

"In South Africa, an essential social transformation is needed. As a result of years of oppression, a national culture that is based on dependence, compliance with external impositions, and a mistrust of authority has developed. This must be transformed to a culture of self-reliance. This social transformation should focus on giving back to South Africans the conviction that they can act to change and control their own destinies.

Cabral felt that the transformation process should involve a culture-changing process, which he described as follows.

while we scrap colonial culture and the negative aspects of our own culture, whether in our character or in our environment, we have to create a new culture, also based on our traditions but respecting everything that the world today has conquered for the service of mankind

The only genuine and creative way in which this culture-changing process can take place, is if ordinary people participate. The State alone cannot create a culture, and even if it could, it would fail. Social and cultural transformation results from a long process of interaction between people and their leaders, communities and state institutions."

This leads us to the second aspect, and that is that we must DO.

We have to do things, new things that we have never done before, even if it means learning by doing. This is our philosophy.

It is not normal to be poor, it is not normal to be poor because of where you live and it is not normal to be poor because of race. We must see this poverty and do something about it.

Our salvation lies in the eradication of poverty.

To realise this, a total transformation of our society is needed. If we are serious about our slogan "Batho Pele" (People first), we have to start transforming society from below, and we have to do it now.

To evaluate this transformation, we must look at the tangible results on the ground, what is happening "below"?

What did agriculture in the Free State achieve?

We have been blessed in a number of ways during 1997/98, not the least of which is the favourable rainfall we are experiencing during the latter half of the season, despite El Nino manifesting itself strongly during the early season. The contribution of Agriculture to the provincial economy increased by a margin of 4.3% to R2 348 million during 1997. The Total Gross Income from agricultural production in the province increased by 1.1 %, which is significant if it is kept in mind that the contribution of agriculture to the Gross Domestic Product of the country as a whole, decrease by 1.0 % over the same period. This performance was due mainly to the contribution of commercial agriculture. The gross income form summer-crop production showed a decrease, that from winter crops an increase and the main support seems to have come from a substantial positive contribution by animal husbandry. There has also been a marked increase in the value of horticultural production in the Free State during the same period.

Commercial agriculture is currently and will still be the main driving force for economic growth and job creation in the "platteland" of the Free State. This government recognises this and will endeavour with our efforts to create a suitable enabling environment conducive for this growth.

Poverty is the main threat, therefore the vast majority of our clients, however, find themselves in a rural and peri-urban setting as small-scale farmers, peri-urban dwellers or farm workers. To these people we devote 80% of our attention. Tangible results have been attained amongst these people. The strategy is to redirect services and resources towards these clients, providing access to land, capital, know-how and markets. We also need to maintain an enabling environment for the commercial sector so that there is sustainable growth of over 3% in the Gross Agricultural Product per annum. Overall, we will help to create the required environment so that over 80 000 households in the Free State benefit substantially by 1999.

This department has done well in reaching most of its targets and has in some cases even exceeded those. Some of the most noteworthy achievements have been:
· Support was rendered by this department over the past two years to have 23 827 home gardens established by our beneficiaries. After-care is provided on a continuous basis. A total number of7 411 households benefited from our Market Garden programme.
· Our Livestock Support Programme, comprising Community Kraals, Small-scale dairy projects poultry and piggery units, has reached some 8 715 households
· A total number of 3 249 households were involved in the New Commercial Farmer establishments programme, run jointly by my department and the Department of Land Affairs, in one way or another.
· The interest in Export horticulture is increasing rapidly in the Free State. The Department of Agriculture is playing a key role through the development of settlement projects to introduce prospective farmers from previously disadvantaged and resource-poor communities to new- and sophisticated technology. This venture has an income potential of some R 100 000 per family, farming one hectare each. There are currently two projects of this nature which have progressed significantly by already having identified and trained 120 prospective farmers and having established orchards.

It is planned to settle a further 180 farmers over the next 4 years. The internal rate of return (IRR) of the project is 25 %. With an eventual project of 300ha, the annual
income generation will be more that R63m within the multiplier effects, the nett
contribution towards Gross Geographic Product will be Rl90m per annum and the direct permanent employment figures will be about 500 per annum. Through
government taking the lead, it creates confidence for the commercial sector to invest in the horticultural export industry which has the potential to become a buoyant farming sector, especially in the Eastern Free State. The industry could create nearly 8,000 permanent jobs, a similar number of part-time jobs and to draw into the rural economy of the province nearly 300m per annum.

· The Free State Provincial Office of the Department of Land Affairs has completed 102 projects this year, which has ensured that 2 448 households have acquired, or are in the process of acquiring, access to land. My department supports this programme with all agricultural expertise required in terms of Business Plans, after-care and the like. The land reform effort has also shifted focus successfully over the last year by concentrating on helping smaller groups in terms of redistribution projects. The cumulative figure is 3 700 household, already 700 more than was targeted for by April 1999 and compares very favourably with any other province.
· Agri-Eco has a considerable measure of success during 1997 by having trained 558 entrepreneurs, having established 602 entrepreneurs and drew up 380 Business Plans over the first 11 months of the financial year. Alter-care service was provided to 857 clients to obtain loans.
· The Rural Foundation performed the Farm Productivity programme on behalf of the department. The Foundation had gain-sharing well under way with 1 400 farm workers. Some farm workers' incomes had increased by 50% and at the same time farmers' profits increased significantly. This programme will now be run by the department itself They also assisted evicted Farmworkers and prevented dismissals by popularising ESTA.

In our programme access to markets, our progress seems to be limited and ad hoc, but no reliable statistics are available. We have completed a needs analysis and we are currently designing a strategy. Our strategy is to settle new farmers in the peri-urban environment and to stimulate direct sales to the close by consumers.

Unfortunately we are under target with our access to finance programme. Never the less, we were able to transfer the finance function, previously done by the Agricultural Development Corporation, to the private sector in line with the Strauss Commission's guidelines. One of our major barriers, is the inability to access suitable collateral. We established the Free State Rural Finance Fund (FSRFF). It was started with money from reserves and income from restructuring state assets at our parastatal Agri-Eco. Cash deposits were made at various Financial institutions which act as a "guarantee" to these institutions and not to the end borrower. We have facilitated the establishment of lines of credit with several of the commercial banks and other financiers. It has assisted with the successful negotiation of more than 300 loans by these financiers to small rural entrepreneurs and small and communal farmers. Although the number of loans are well below target, the processes and relationships are now in place for an increased level of lending activity.

The capacity of the New Landbank to create access to rural finance must not be
underestimated. They will play a pivotal role in the transformation of the rural society and need the support of all of us.

There is a greater understanding of the supply and demand for rural credit, and greater potential for valid intervention, in the approach, now co-funded by the European Union (EU). (R100m from EU and R40m from DoA over 5 years). The Community Projects Fund Support Programme will seek to place grants for infrastructure and limited amounts of working capital with the community. This programme has the potential to make an impact on the alleviation of rural poverty in the province and 50% of the participants must be women.

In the specialised agricultural support programme the former sectoral research units are now restructured in a decentralised FSR&E unit, concentrating on on-farm research and they have developed farming enterprise "packages" which are available on the internet for world-wide use. They work closely with the economic service division and the engineering section. The information technology division has now become the commercial agricultural producer in the Free State's best ally in minimisation of risk.

A new non-formal training unit has been established and formal training at Glen College is now much more representative of society by having an enrolment of students from previously marginalised communities in excess of 80 per cent.

The performance of a fully integrated spectrum of agricultural services at regional level remains the mainstay of departmental operations. Extension Services, veterinary services and soil conservation services are directed and supported by regional management and regional administrations.

Extension officers, people trained in agricultural, rural animation officers, who are more socially orientated and who organise people in groups, work in teams together with industrial technicians and animal health technicians. These teams work together in a town or district, identify needs and design projects to empower the participants to improve their lives. They also provide "aftercare". Over the past few years they received training in participatory rural appraisal (P.R.A) and in the project management approach. Their training is not sufficient and a comprehensive training package is being designed and training will accelerate in due course. Soil conservation services, executed mainly by the industrial technicians, centre around the conservation and reclamation of our natural resources. This service is gradually developing away form the subsidy scheme to technical assistance in identifying conservation problems and supporting farmers to work together to solve them. They are moving in the direction of the "land-care" concept in their methodology. The "land-care" concept will be popularised through youth programmes.

Veterinary services are performed on large scale in all communities. Of particular significance is the identification of diseases which can also affect man. The ever increasing numbers of livestock in a peri-urban environment makes the early identification of some diseases of the utmost importance. My department has taken the initiative of erecting cattle handling facilities in many communities in order to diagnose and treat for diseases, and to assist with the compulsory stock-branding campaign in the province. This is done in close co-operation with the FSR&E Unit Glen.

A substantial number of staff from the previously centralised centres at Glen, Qwa Qwa and Thaba Nchu have been redeployed to towns and districts all over the Free State.

This department is concentrating 80% of its time on the poor and no cost recovery mechanisms are in place. It is difficult to quantify the output in financial terms, but from table 1 it can be assumed that the department were cost effective with it's budget of R114m for 1997/98.

[Ed. note: Table 1 not included in document]

TABLE 1. Value of benefits for activities targeted at the poor.

If we consider this together with our input/output: Reconstruction, Development, Employment and Growth rational as illustrated in Fig. 1. It must be urged that poverty eradication did take place. People do have better lives!

Why?

In the transition period over the last 4 years, changes did take place which enabled us to start the transformation of our society.
Fig. 1 - Input/Output: Reconstruction, Development, Employment and Growth Rationale

[Ed. note: graph not included in document]

Our clients are the poor; they are not on the development line (A - B). It is the task of our Department to put them onto the development line. This we do through creating access to land, capital and technology (training) in projects aimed at creating sustainable agricultural based livelihoods. This is the Department's primary task. We devote 80% of our time and budget to this task.

A substantial number of these clients can and want to move forward on the development line. There is a gap in society in that there are no existing agencies which concentrate on basic hands-on business support and after care to serve the needs of individual micro and small businesses in the agricultural or non-agricultural sphere, and which operate in the rural areas of the Province. Our restructured parastatal, Agri-Eco, specialise in filling this gap.

Previously the agriculture department's task in the Province was to serve large white
commercial farmers and smaller commercial farmers in Qwa Qwa and Thaba Nchu. The commercial farmers are developed and in fact did not make use of the department. The department were in fact very much inwards orientated and served itself The same could be said about the homelands departments and especially the parastatal in Qwa Qwa, which was operating and owning economic activities and serviced farmers at huge cost that could not be duplicated. These organisations had pyramid structures and were centred at Glen, Qwa Qwa and Thaba Nchu.

During 1994 most of our time was spent listening and understanding the needs and aspirations of the rural people of the Free State. The following year the Heyns Commission on Restructuring of the Free State Agriculture completed their excellent work and a strategy for assisting these needs was designed and implementation thereof started. All this work was analysed and structured into a holistic overall strategy by the Free State Mission on Rural Investment. A joint effort by private institutions and my Department on what must be done to better the lives of our clients. The work of the Free State Mission culminated into an integrated business plan of the Department of Agriculture on how to better the lives of 80 000 household in the rural Free State over three years (1996/97 to 1998/99).

A major achievement by my department was to design a Credo of operations in order to effectively and efficiently assist our clients in obtaining their vision of a better life. We believe wholeheartedly that our Credo is crucial to our success in reaching our goals. It deals with the following major elements

· The Free State mission has been translated into a quantitative statement of objectives. The whole department will focus all its activities and resources for the next three years on achieving these objectives. This is part of a conscious strategy of transforming the DoA rapidly.
· The DoA focuses on delivery. It assumes that the process of policy making has been completed and the way forward is to implement policy, and, therefore, to deliver rapidly.
· The process of implementation is also assumed to be an open ended learning process (leerende trekkende).
· The DoA responds to the needs of the client and internal sectors structured in a service chain. Thus, the dominant way of operating is demand driven. All staff and units in the DoA provide service to external or, in the case of the management and support functions internal clients. The policy aims and objectives of the department are responses to the needs and wants of the clients whereas the objectives of every manager, employee, unit and service within the department are shaped by needs and wants.
· The delivery structure is decentralised into three regions and then wards within each region. The decentralisation approach is adopted in order to have the greatest responsiveness to demands and conditions 'on the ground' and to allow for learning to take place.
· The managerial approach adopted by the department in delivering services is the project management approach. This approach aims to breakdown large tasks into manageable and achievable short term tasks. The aggregation of all the small projects will enable the department to achieve its overall policy objectives.
· The DoA adopted the team approach to delivering services. This takes place from the micro level (the Extension Officer (EO) works with the Rural Animation Officer (RAO) and support functions) to the macro level (the department as a team working with players such as the private sector, other government departments and local authorities).
· The department is only one player in the range of support needed for rural people. It is the role of the Department to help ensure and enabling environment, to help ensure that the private sector, local government, and civil society play a frill role in rural development.

By adopting these "managerial principals" a major change in the approach of our department has developed.

In parallel we changed the structure to a new flat organisational structure and staffing establishment with the emphasis on decentralisation and customer service, as part of the decentralisation of the department, the head office has been downsized, separating strategic and control functions from specialist support and operational management in three regions.

Restructuring of the budget to service the needs of our new clients, was a major change. The budget declines every year and the appropriation for 1998/99 of R105 591 000 is some 8% down on the previous year. We state this in frill subscription of the GEAR policy, and the responsible sacrifice required of us as a provincial department.

We will simply do more with less money.

One of our major problems in the beginning was capacity to change the department. There was a lack of capacity to develop a comprehensive strategy and programme for rural reform and development. In January 1995 the Department for International Development (DFID) approved a three year project to support the establishment of a Rural Strategy Unit (RSU a non-profit company outside the Provincial Civil Service) in the Free State Province.

The Rural Strategy Unit did stunning work over the last 3 years. They spearheaded management of change, the major restructuring planning task had been completed with significant inputs from the unit restructuring the budget; designing a new organisational structure and staffing establishment with their emphasis on decentralisation and customer service; the agreement of the right sizing management plan and the publication of the Department's business plan 1996/99 entitled, "From Entitlement to Self-Reliance".

They also assisted in client services and have put land reform systems in place. In the support for rural livelihoods and rural economic development a key output concerns partnership and co-delivery of delivery of services with the private sector and the land bank.

Last year they successfully piloted the Diyatalawa Apple Project and the Weltevrede Individual Farmer Settlement Project and tested the "Project Manager" concept. Our needs have evolved away form strategy development to implementing new operational procedures.

In this arena there is an enormous lack of capacity within the department. The R. S. U proved to be a good model to enhance the capacity of government and we hope that we can continue in the future with such a model, but which focuses on new operational procedures.

In a normal society, things we are doing are perpetual, like extension, training, support and statuary veterinary services, but in the current transformation it means that we have to do things to normalise (or stabilise) society. For this we need meganisms and structures to assist government to transform society. These are structures like the R.S.U and Agri-Eco. This is also the world view and organisations like the "Trouhand" in Germany can be mentioned.

The political hiatus in the Free State Provincial Government, with the change of Premier and the factional disputes within the Executive Council, was not foreseeable. But the ramifications have been serious with uncertainty around the future of especially Agri-Eco and the R.S.U which was draw into the "saga", maybe because of their high profile role as dynamic change agents. This event was the single biggest destructive issue in the transformation of our rural society. Perhaps 6 to 9 months have been "lost" in the transformation programme and we are now sitting with the problem that staff and politicians are afraid to do things, or like Ensenberger described it;

"All that counts is to scrape through, to avoid making decisions, to practice mimicry and to refrain from any criticism or initiative"

If this situation continues, people might say "Government has changed a lot, but the country has not changed

We, as leaders of society, especially provincial leaders, must start to understand our role in a representative democracy, develop the maturity to utilise the new democratic structures enshrined in the constitution to do things that improve peoples lives. Human in his book YENZA, describes it as follows "The present generation (leaders) of South Africa bears an enormous responsibility for the future outcome of this society. What we do now will determine what kind of society we will become. The historical opportunity to make fundamental changes in society is a rare one; and it is this opportunity which is now offered to us. We can either seize it, or let it pass. This is our responsibility - our burden".

The opportunity is there. Transformation is about the improvement of people's lives. Our clients in Agriculture are the rural poor. These people have the will to create a better life through self-reliance and utilisation of agriculture and other resources within a sustainable living environment.

With the slightest opportunity, there is improvement. I am happy and proud to report to you that the staff of the Department of Agriculture in the Free State Province did succeed in creating a better life. My thanks to them.

Our only hope lies in tangible results on the ground - in the eradication of poverty - we in Agriculture can do it

I would like to close with the words of the singer, Sheryl Crow

No one said it would be easy;
No one said it'd be this hard;
No one thought we'd come this far;
0' and look, we've come this far

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