Forestry and Poverty Aleviation: briefing

Water and Sanitation

23 May 2007
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

23 MAY 2007

Chairperson: Ms C September (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Forestry and Poverty Alleviation, a Policy Perspective
Draft Key Issue Paper on Forestry and Poverty in South Africa
Role of Forestry in Poverty Alleviation: Input from CEPPWAWU
Department of Water and Forestry presentation: Forestry and Poverty Alleviation

The Committee was briefed on the Issue of forestry and poverty alleviation. The Trade Union Ceppwawu also briefed the committee on key-issues. Issues emphasised in the meeting included: poverty alleviation, policy issues, the role of government, the appointment of beneficiaries, issues surrounding certification and collaborations with other government departments.

Forestry and Poverty Alleviation Presentation
Ms M Rampedi (Deputy Director-General: Forestry) listed the important issues to be addressed: Forest Policy and Legislation, Forest and Poverty Alleviation, Forest and Development and Policy Perspective. 

Ms Rampedi further noted that an overriding Forestry Sector Strategy, the Charter and the National Forestry Program as well as a guiding document for local economic development are being developed to help set the priority work programs for social and economic development through sustainable management of forests. She continued by explaining that members should take note that programs related to the Working of Working for Water and Working on Fire will contribute considerably to poverty eradication within the expanded Public Works framework.

Input from the Trade Union CEPPWAWU
Mr Sakhiwo Zako (CEPPWAWU Regional Secretary: East London Office) apologized for the absence of the Trade Union’s President, Mr Pasco Dyani. He emphasised specific important issues for consideration: the roundwood supply shortage as an opportunity, the supply chain impact on poverty alleviation, land use regulation, privatisation, consolidation of the charcoal sub-sector, out growers and small scale farmers, research and alternative fibre sources, access to land and resources (non timber forest products) and the BEE charter for the forest sector.

Mr Zakosakiwo highlighted that the Committee’s should look beyond the formats and technical aspects and focus on what the annual report actually says about the entity’s performance in the past financial year.

Mr K Moonsamy (ANC) raised his concern with regard to the devastating effect of HIV on the country as a whole but specifically on rural communities. He wanted to know whether statistics were available that reflects ownership of forestland in South Africa.  He further raised his concern as to the ownership of state land and suggested getting the community involved in the freeing of land. He continued by commenting that most of the big companies in the forestry-industry were concerned only about their profits margins.

Ms J Semple (DA) wanted to know why the transferring of rights to the community had taken a backstage. She also questioned what was being done to ensure that forestry communities were being empowered and raised the issue of why communities were not being assisted in the management of their forests. She was concerned by what was being done - seeing as forestry is a long-term project - in the short-term to alleviate poverty in forestry communities.

Mr B Mosala (ANC) asked how the poorest of the poor were being assisted to participate in the forestry sector. He also asked whether the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) was collaborating with other government departments in terms of regulating forestry.

Ms M Manana (ANC) suggested that the Water Board Report should be accepted as is. She continued by asking (with reference to point 4.1 on page 4 of the presentation handout) exactly where the 30 000 small growers, 240 small saw millers and 300 independent contractors mentioned in the presentation were situated seeing that so many others were struggling.

Mr Sibuyana (IFP) commented that currently the communities are not benefiting from the products they themselves help produce and, as a matter of fact, have to buy the products from the manufacturers at retail prices. He continued by enquiring whether the Department would allow for the local communities to have a larger stake in the products that they themselves have a hand in producing.

Mr Mosala asked what was being done with regard to licensing issues.

Mr I Mogase (ANC) wanted to know what government was doing to stop the destruction of forests.

Ms D van der Walt (DA) commented that there are several important issues relating to forestry in the Eastern Cape that still need urgent discussion. She also raised the question as to whether studies and or audits have been done to establish the long-term and financial sustainability of projects within forestry. She raised her concern about the health conditions of forest-workers asking what the Department of Forestry was doing to ensure good and safe working conditions of forest workers.

Ms T Lishiva (ANC) pointed out that rural woman are some of the most vulnerable sectors of society and continued by saying that in many instances they are forced to vacate their homes on forestry plantations when becoming ill or injured. She asked what the unions are doing to intervene in acquiring permanent homes and land for its members. She also emphasised that there is still a long way to go in alleviating poverty in rural communities.

Ms C September posed the question of why Government has no existing policies in regards to Forestry. She continued by asking what the status was of the Certification and Transfer processes, and added, that it seems to be off-track. She also enquired whether government has been taking stock concerning the loss of jobs and retention thereof in the sector is concerned. She continued by asking for an indication on the progress of the appointment of beneficiaries.

Mr M Matipo (COC: DWAF) explained that achieving the development goals by 2014 is a goal set out by government for which no policy is necessary.

Ms Rampedi emphasised that NAFAC is a body within the Department of Forestry that meets quarterly to advise the Minister on the issue of sustainable forest-development. She continued by saying that the Minister of Public Enterprises is also advised on the effect that established forestry has on development within certain sectors. There is currently an ongoing process aimed at helping local municipalities to recognize the issue of forestry development.  The department is currently providing bursaries to students to study at the University of Stellenbosh and Nelson Mandela University and is also providing in-house training. She emphasised that in certain areas, for example, an area in Tokai, agreements between the Department of Forestry and other departments had been reached to release land for the purpose of housing developments.

On the question of the certification and transfer processes she answered by saying that there is agreement that the rights of communities to land needs to be protected but added that the problem currently experienced is the appointment of beneficiaries which takes time an great effort to be confirmed. This was a difficult situation as communities are denied accesses to money until the process has been completed but added that a Trust Fund is in the process of being established.
The issue of land-reform was being discussed on a constant basis but she added that the title-deed issue is directly linked to licensing which requires a processes in order to be completed. However, competency and skills are needed in securing livelihood for communities. On the question of what government was doing to stop the destruction of forests she answered by pointing out that government has compiled a list of protected trees.

Responding to the question raised regarding engagement with other government departments, she said that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is seen as an essential partner and added that the Department of Forestry cannot make progress in achieving its goals without other government departments’ being involved. In response to the question of land-ownership she emphasised that the State currently owns approximately 23% of forestland while the rest is owned commercially.

Mr C Mtoba (Director: DWAF) explained that the Umzumvubu Development Project aims to address poverty by focusing on forestry and possible hydroelectric developments. He added that the appointed board of the Umzimvubu Development Project consists of the members of the private sector as well as stakeholders but added that DWAF has regrettably been excluded from this board. On the question on point 4.1 on page 4 of the presentation he responded by saying that the 240 sawmills referred to are mostly in a very poor condition and employs families of around 5-10 people and, because of the small scale on which they operated, security in the supply of timber was lacking mostly due to existing contracts with larger sawmills. The key concern with regard to the small mills in the rural area is growth. In a joint venture with DTI both departments planned to set up a medium sized sawmill. On the issue of beneficiaries he added that currently an audit was underway which, once completed, will be presented to top-management. He furthermore added that DWAF seeks to facilitate negotiations between big business, communities and other stakeholders.

Mr Zako commented that tenders are usually awarded to the lowest tenders, who only tended to employ contract workers enabling the companies to pay them below minimum wage. Workers, he emphasised, were now even worst of and he called for government’s intervention.

Ms van der Walt posed the question of how the tender process was going to be dealt with. She pointed out that if privately owned sawmills were to be excluded from the process that it could result in job losses. She also enquired as to what will be done in cases where tenders were awarded are unable to perform due to a lack of skills.

Mr Moonsamy wanted to know how the issue of absent landlords would be addressed.

Ms Semple asked what would be done in the short term to advantage communities in the long-term.

The chair emphasised the need to bring stakeholders to the table and added that it should be the intention of the Portfolio Committee to include all relevant parties. She continued by saying that issues such as how to protect the poor, alleviating poverty, sustainability as well as other important issues needed to be brought to the table again.

Mr J Sindane (Director-General: DWAF) commented that he had taken note of issue of ineffective communication and also expressed the need for some policy intervention. Government made a decision in 2004 for various reasons to pull out of forestry but added that this had now changed. The Department of Labour had set out minimum wages, which applied to the forestry sector. Tenders from the Limpopo Province will be investigated. He also emphasised that in as far as the Umzimvubu Project was concerned, Government should be represented on the board so as to ensure effective communication.

The meeting was adjourned.



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