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Taking Parliament to People, and People to Parliament
The aim of this report is to summarise the main events at the meeting and identify the key role players. This report is not a verbatim transcript of proceedings.
WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
12 September 2001
WORKING FOR WATER PROGRAMME: BRIEFING
Chairperson: Mr J. Van Wyk
Documents handed out:
Working for Water Programme Annual Report 2000/1 (Working for Water)
The Committee heard briefings from the Working for Water programme. Dr Preston, Mr Mondlane and Ms Noemdoe briefed the Committee on the direct employment benefits, socio-economic benefits and the occupational and institutional challenges of the programme. The Committee Members were given an opportunity to ask questions.
The acting Chairperson, Mr J Van Wyk (ANC) stated that Chairperson Sonjica was away on a Parliamentary delegation and was not able to chair the present meeting. He stated the agenda to be a briefing by Dr Preston on the Working for Water (WFW) programme. As a reminder to Committee Members who were on the delegation to Chile, he stated that they should meet as soon as possible and present their report to the Committee. The Chairperson stated that the WFW programme was part of a larger group of programmes in the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry and had a broad approach to development. He added that it was a good example of public-private partnership deliveries and also of co-operation between various levels and departments in government.
Working for Water Briefing
Dr G. Paterson, National Leader of the Working for Water programme, expressed his thanks for the opportunity to share information with the Committee. He proceeded to introduce his team Mr Mondlane, the Implementation Manager, and Ms Noemdoe, the Social Development Coordinator.
Ms S. Noemdoe proceeded with the briefing by outlining the current status of implementation. She stated that the programme now had 300 projects and added that the majority of the work was the clearance of invading alien plants.
Mr M. Mondlane then provided the background information on the project. In the clearing of invading alien plants, he stated that in 1995/1996, 33 hectares had been cleared with a R26 million budget and in 1999/2000, 112 hectares had been cleared with a R222 million budget. He stated that the price was escalating and there was an increasing focus on keeping the clearing cost per hectare down. In discussing the reason for the high clearing cost per hectare, he stated that occupational health hazards were a major contributor. He stated that occupational health and safety issues were inhibiting worker productivity and raising clearing cost per hectare. He revealed that in 1990 there were 1400 injuries. In the period 2000/2001, the figure had been reduced 780 injuries and in the 2001/2002 period there had been 480 in total. He stated that this reduction in injuries was achieved by containing the risk factor. He then proceeded to discuss the risk summary.
He divided the risks workers faced into those arising from tree felling, staff transport, slashing and frilling, walking, bites and stings. He then gave the occurrence and severity of each risk category which revealed that tree felling and staff transport, although they were lower in occurrence, were the highest in severity, while the other categories had higher occurrences but were very low in severity. He stated that this understanding of the risks was used to work out the National Health and Safety Implementation Plan. He stated that in phase one of this Plan emphasis was placed on reducing exposure to accidents and ensuring basic legal compliance to national health and safety standards. In phase two, he stated that the emphasis was on implementing standards and procedures and auditing the WFW work environment.
Ms Noemdoe continued the briefing by discussing the socio-economic aspects of the WFW programme. She stated that the programme had a number of socio-economic benefits. She stated that training the workers was challenging but added that empowerment programmes would take time. She stated that the objective of the programme was to offer opportunities for women, youth and disabled people by putting training at the core of the programme. She added that the bulk of the training had been on providing functional training so that the workers could perform their tasks. She stated that with the workers expressing increasing interests in other skills that would be more easily transferable, the programme branched out to broaden the skills training and incorporated other types of training such as business skills training.
She then discussed the issues that arose out of employing women and men with children. She stated that when working with women and single-headed households, there was a need to look at childcare issues. She stated that childcare was not merely providing a safe environment, but should also include early childhood education. She stated that there were approximately 1200 children being cared for at 120 facilities and added that the childcare programme developed into an Early Childhood Education programme. She added that the programme focused on education, nutrition, training and institutional development to train childcare workers and families so that the community projects could be sustainable in the long-term.
She proceeded to discuss reproductive health and HIV/AIDS education and awareness. She stated that to create awareness around reproductive health issues, the programme went to the Social Development Department and other agencies such as the United National Population Fund to form a partnership. She stated that the communities revealed that the problems and challenges were the socio-economic and empowerment issues associated with sexual and reproductive health issues that created the problem. She then gave the Tsitsikamma and Kouga pilot project as an example of what the WFW programme was doing about the inter-relatedness of reproductive health issues and socio-economic issues. She stated that this pilot project reached approximately 74,000 people and looked at domestic violence, HIV/AIDS and reproductive health issues, nutrition, environmental health training and institutional development.
Mr Mondlane then proceeded to discuss the partnerships within which the WFW operated. He stated that during 2000/2001/2002, partnerships with Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism were formed to work on Wetland Rehabilitation; with the National Department of Agriculture were formed to work on Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act; with Department of Water Affairs and Forestry were formed to work on Dukuduku Resettlement and Community Forestry; with Industrial Forestry were formed to provide technical knowledge and with ANDF were formed to work on ex-combatant project. He stated that the WFW programme played a key role in ensuring legislation was amended and developed to suit the current challenges and needs of people.
Dr Preston then took over the briefing to conclude and to put the issues in context for the Committee. He stated that next to global warming, the threat from invading alien species was the most important issue. He gave HIV/AIDS and Foot and Mouth Disease as examples of invading species and stated that there were phenomenal implications when looking at the speed with which human beings were transporting plants and pathogens around the world. He stated that the key aspects of the WFW programme were to bring this threat from invading species under control and socio-economic development. He stated that WFW was an inter-departmental programme and he added that, in order to maximize the benefits from the work done by WFW and reduce bureaucracy, they were investigating the establishment of a specific government entity. Referring to the cost per hectare figures given by Mr Mondlane, he stated that the cost figures were overall figures and he added that it was difficult to draw conclusions without having specific information on the situation at ground level and expressed his confidence with where the programme was going. He then touched on the benefits of the various partnerships WFW was engaged in and discussed the impacts of fires on the work of WFW. In conclusion, he stated that, although much work remained, considerable progress had been made in the movement.
Mr G. McIntosh (DP) commented that he was pleased with Dr Preston's awareness of difficulties that came with being a multi-faceted organisation. He added that the programme had a holistic approach to development that involved dealing with issues as they appeared, and as a legislator, he expressed his concern regarding this strategy. He then stated that the clearing per hectare figures were very high and asked if any plants were being planted to replace the invading plants being cleared. He then asked if the programme was doing anything about the "Cromalina" problem in KwaZulu Natal.
Dr Preston responded by stating that WFW serviced many needs. He stated that it was a poverty relief programme, so there were requirements to invest in the development of communities. He added that, although they relied on partnerships and did not do all the work, the multi-perspective aspect was one of the strengths of the WFW programme. He further stated that a narrow approach would have had consequences on the programme. Regarding the high costs of clearing, he stated that there were multiple benefits for the money invested.
Ms Noemdoe added that socio-economic issues were unavoidable because the people who did the clearing were people termed 'unemployable' and they brought their socio-economic problems to work. She stated that WFW was a facilitative process that intervened or took initiatives to bring in partners that extend the services.
Mr Mondlane, responding to the question on "Cromalinas" in KwaZulu Natal, stated that the climatic conditions were conducive to continuous growth and added that the programme was aspiring to keep up with it and exploring other means of clearing.
Mr S. Simmons (New NP) asked if the battle against invading alien species was being won or lost. He also asked if an evaluation was being done, and if so, he wanted to know what the results were.
Mr Mondlane responded by stating that some invading species would be eradicated in five years while others would take fifteen years. He added that the key issue was going to be the amount of money budgeted and land use after the clearing.
Ms M. Ngwenya (ANC) stated that people were not aware of the threats invading species posed and added that some families even grew them in their homes. She stated that training and education would be very important. She then related her experiences from childhood. She stated that, when she was growing up, communities new that alien species grew fast after the rain and that some of these plants were harmful to their herds. She added that the community would periodically clear the alien plants so that they didn't interfere with their crops after the next rain. Regarding protection, she asked if the workers were protected by Worker's Compensation.
Dr Preston responded by stating that some invading plants were useful and he added that the WFW programme was looking into turning invading species jungles into productive areas.
Mr Mondlane responded that WFW had mainstreamed their contribution so that injured workers were covered. He stated that it was a costly but responsible measure.
Mr M. Masala (ANC) asked how the WFW programme identified areas where projects were to be established. He stated that the programme seemed to be aimed at eliminating invading plants and with fire, the threat from invading plants returned again and asked if the WFW programme was ensuring the permanent elimination of invading plants. He also asked for a clarification on the partnership with ex-combatants.
Ms Noemdoe responded by elaborating on how areas for WFW projects were identified. She stated that the criteria were water resources, poverty, land use and ability to control the situation and costs. She added that prioritising of areas was done in consultation with provinces.
Dr Preston, adding to the response on how areas were identifies, stated that there were also biological reasons such as using natural enemies to eradicate alien species that influenced the decision on where to establish projects. He added that the programme's intention was to reach all areas, but agreed that the programme did not put enough emphasis on education, research and legislative aspects.
Mr Mondlane, responding to the issue of ex-combatants, stated that entering into a partnership with ex-combatants was to maximise what could be done by exposing ex-combatants to work they could do. He added that the partnership created opportunities for them.
Mr M. Phala (ANC), referring to the figures on the number of injuries, stated that if the numbers were so high, the training must be inadequate. He stated that protective measures should be in place for the workers.
Mr Mondlane responded by stating that 114 injuries were with minimal training and he added that the training given now went over and above the minimum training and included more on protective gear and awareness of the various threats workers faced in the fields. He stated that new workers faced higher injuries, which was to be expected, and added that the training helped to reduce injuries.
Mr D. Maimane (ANC) asked what type of assistance injured workers were given.
Mr Mondlane responded by stating that, to assist injured workers and their families, a replacement worker from the same family would be encouraged to ensure that the family had a source of income. He added that the programme was in the process of getting insurance for the workers to further ensure that injured workers and their families were cared for.
Dr Preston added that insurance was important. He stated that in recent times, the programme had achieved excellent safety ratings. He mentioned that, due to the nature of the work, there would always be a certain amount of risk to the workers. He added that the programme was tackling the safety issue and had focused on defensive driving and protective gear to reduce injuries.
Mr J. Ardense (ANC) asked if the cleared areas were being monitored, and if there was monitoring, who was doing it. He also wanted to know what obligations WFW had to its private funders. He also asked if there was any scientific data on the speed of the alien plant invasion, and if that data was available, he wanted to know if the clearing was keeping up with the invasion.
Dr Preston responded by stating that there was monitoring of all areas and added that, however, there had been cases where proper monitoring had not been done. He stated that monitoring was done by using workers as the eyes and ears of the process while empowering the workers at the same time. He stated that the legislation had to be done right first. Referring to the obligations WFW had to its foreign funders, he stated that the funders were happy with the work being done and he added that they had no requirements that would hamper the work being done by the programme. On the issue of scientific data and what it revealed, he stated that the programme was neither loosing nor winning the battle against invading species. He added that the development of the Biodiversity Bill was encouraging and had the potential to take over-arching control of the issue. In concluding his comments, he pointed out the inter-relatedness of issues and stated that the success of the WFW programme depended on the successes of other programmes.
The Chairperson summarised the key issues of the programme as being the impact on poverty and the long-term impact of invading species on water resources. The meeting was adjourned.
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