ATC110607: Report International Study Tour to India from 12 – 21 February 2011

NCOP Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy

Report of the Select Committee on Land and Environmental Affairs on the International study tour to the Republic of India, dated 7 June 2011


1. Introduction and background


1.1. The Select Committee on Land and Environmental Affairs undertook an International Study Tour to India from 12 – 21 February 2011. The delegation consisted of the following members of Parliament, Ms AND Qikani (Chairperson, ANC), Mr GG Mokgoro (Committee Whip, ANC), Ms BP Mabe (ANC), Mr DA Worth (DA), Mr O De Beer (COPE) and Mr M Makhubela (COPE) as well as Parliamentary support staff, Mr AA Bawa (Committee Secretary) and Ms D Pillay (Content Adviser).


1.2. The aim and objective of the visit was to meet with the relevant government Departments responsible for addressing the issue of climate change, rural development, and food security with an emphasis on rural communities.


1.3. The Committee wished to observe how a developing country like India is balancing economic development with sustainable development to ensure a better life for all their citizens. The emphasis on using agriculture to reduce poverty and ensure food security whilst developing the rural economy was also discussed. The Committee also held discussions with the relevant authorities around the Implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.


1.4. The visit to India was undertaken in two stages, with the first stage occurring in New Delhi where the delegation was invited to attend a parliamentary meeting by the Standing Committee on Rural Development. The Delegation together with officials of the South African High Commission met briefly with the Chief Minister of Rural Development and Secretary of State for Rural Development.


Other stakeholders that the delegation interacted with were the Secretary General of the Afro – Asian Rural Development Organisation (AARDO) and officials, who gave the Committee a briefing on the organization, its activities, collaborative partnerships and projects.


1.5. The second stage of the trip was undertaken in the city of Hyderabad, in Andra Pradesh State, where the committee met with officials and visited projects of the National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD), the National Academy of Agriculture Research Management (NAARM) and the Swamy Ramananda Tirtha Rural Institute.


1.6. The delegation also visited the Rural Technology Park at the NIRD campus, where examples of different rural technologies for renewable energy, water recycling and recycled waste products were specifically showcased for use in rural areas.          


2. Meetings held in New Delhi


2.1. Parliamentary meeting with the Standing Committee on Rural Development    


2.1.1. During this meeting the Chairperson of the Standing Committee briefly explained the structure of the Indian Parliament stating that it comprises of two houses, the Rajah Sabah and Loch Sabah. The Standing Committee was constituted from members from various parties and the primary function of the committee was to scrutinize budgets, oversee programmes and projects pertaining to their portfolio and advise the Indian Parliament accordingly.   


2.1.2. The Chairperson of the Select Committee on Land and Environmental Affairs gave a brief presentation on the objective of the visit of the South African parliamentary committee and the role of the National Council of Provinces in the South African context.


2.1.3 The two Committees exchanged views on the empowerment of indivuals living in rural areas; land claims issues and the dissemination of information in light of the many languages spoken in India. The delegation was told of how the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act guarantees an individual 100 days of work and that it has proven to be a huge success in rural areas of India (e.g. in Narida region). The committee also stated that many other projects are currently under way in this region, such as a rural road works programme and a water purification projects.


2.1.4. It was the opinion of both Committees that a closer working relationship should be established between the two countries and other countries such as Brazil, where knowledge can be shared and transferred.


2.2. Meeting with Afro – Asian Rural Development Organisation (AARDO)  


2.2.1. The delegation met with the Secretary General of AARDO, Dr Abdalla Yahia Adam who briefed the Committee on the organisation and its mandate and achievements.


2.2.2. Dr A Y Adam further explained that the organisation was formed in 1962 as an autonomous inter-governmental organisation comprising of thirty member countries from Africa and Asia. The mandate of the organisation is to address both agricultural and rural development, by ensuing that development of member countries as a main goal was achieved.


2.2.3. The organization functions to facilitate agricultural and rural development in African and Asian member countries by providing the funding to promote these projects.


2.2.4. The delegation raised issues around monitoring and evaluation mechanisms of the projects and management of the funding allocated to the projects as well the criteria used for selection of projects.


2.2.5. It was further noted that the main objective of AARDO is (i) to act as a catalyst in the Afro – Asian region for promoting social change and develop cooperation amongst member countries; (ii) provided assistance in evolving an integrated approach which is conceived to be the crucial pre-requisite in rural settings of Asia and Africa; (iii) to facilitate exchange of propositions which have proved successful in the field of rural development and the flow of technical assistance amongst member countries; (iv) to provide direction and take up relevant pilot  work to demonstrate the feasibility of selected propositions.


2.2.6. The organization further functions to:

§   develop an understanding amongst members for better understanding of common problems or challenges and to explore opportunities for collaboration of efforts for sustainable agricultural and rural development;

§   collaborate with the appropriate international and regional organizations, including UN agencies, the national bodies, governmental or non-governmental, both in the developed and developing countries, for purposes of taking action to accelerate agriculture and rural development in the member countries;

§   hold international and regional conferences, seminars, workshops and meetings to facilitate exchange of ideas and experiences among the member countries and to identify new areas of collaboration;

§   organize and facilitate the conduct of international, regional and in-country training programmes to strengthen the institutional capacity of Afro-Asian member countries in sustainable agriculture and rural development and promote networking among these countries through exchange of views, experiences and good practices;

§   initiate research and action research studies of specific or common interest and disseminate disaggregated data/statistics and information to member countries;

§   provide technical and financial support to member countries to undertake pilot projects for experimentation and replication;

§   serve as a clearinghouse and data bank for communication and information on agriculture and rural development and promote dissemination of such information through multi-media approach; and

§   pursue environmental and climatic changes in the context of rural development.


2.3 Meeting with the Union Minister of State for Rural Development –



2.3.1. During the delegations interactions with the Minister, Mr Pradeep Jain Aditya, issues pertaining to projects currently being run by the government to address the issue of rural development and specifically the national rural development  employment guarantee scheme were discussed.


2.3.2. Members of the delegation discussed the sustainability and implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee programme and raised the following questions;


(i) what types of unskilled work qualifies under the scheme? (ii) is the programme sustainable in the long run? (iii) what happens once the worker has completed the allocated 100 days? (iv) what is being done to stop the migration of people from the rural areas to urban areas? (v) what is being offered in terms skills development to the rural communities,? (vi) was genetically modified(GM) crops grown in India and what was the government’s view on the use of GM crops for food security?


2.3.3. In response the Secretary of State: Rural Development (Mr B.K Sinha) stated that sustainable agriculture was the main focus of the governments plan. Sustainable agriculture also looked at more organic and environmentally friendly ways of farming. The government has also started to introduce technology and more effective and efficient farming methods in rural areas in an attempt to prove that one does not have to migrate to urban areas in order to provide for one’s family.   


2.3.4. To further address the issue of rural development and sustainable agriculture the government guaranteed 100 days work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), which could be extended to a further 100 days according to the availability of work in a particular area.


2.3.5. The aim of the programme was to show rural farmers that farming can become profitable if done properly, such as by employing proper irrigation methods compared to “flooding” when growing rice crops, for example. This way water can be used sparingly and so that others may also benefit from the scarce commodity. By using these new techniques and the MGNREGA, the local communities benefit from technology transfer whilst creating jobs for the unemployed.


2.3.6. According to the information presented the MGNREGA scheme provides a safety net for the rural poor and has, since it’s implementation been well received in many rural communities. This programme is also demand driven but can be accessed by all unemployed persons wanting to participate and is implemented by the local authorites. People living below the poverty line are targeted and skills are imparted according to the needs of the area.


2.3.7. The programme has produced laborers that can now work in commercial farms, following the skills gained during the programme.


2.3.8. In response to the question concerning the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s), the Ministry stated that they were not for or against the use of GMO’s as their preliminary research was as yet inconclusive. However, for now, only traditional seeds are used and supplied to farmers in rural areas.



3. Meetings held in Hyderabad


3.1 Meeting with officials from the National Institute of Rural Development   


3.1.1. The delegation was met by the Director – General (DG) of the institution, Mr M C Kunnumkal who facilitated introductions and welcomed the delegation. Mr Kunnumkal proceeded to give the delegation a brief background of the institution by means of a short film followed by a verbal presentation.


3.1.2. Mr M C Kunnumkal conveyed that the primary aim of the NRID was to examine and analyse the factors contributing to the improvement of economic and social well-being of people in rural areas on a sustainable basis with focus on the rural poor and the other disadvantaged groups. The institution is primarily responsible for undertaking training, research, action research and consultancy assignments in the rural development sector in India, acting as an autonomous organization supported by the Ministry of Rural Development and Government of India. The NIRD attempts to facilitate rural development through various governmental and non-governmental initiatives.


3.1.3. The Institute is located in the rural surroundings of Rajendranagar, in the city of Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh state.  The NIRD is governed by a General Council headed by the Union Minister for Rural Development, with an eleven-member Executive Council appointed to oversee the implementation of policies. The institution also has an academic committee comprising of experts that assist with planning, training and research programs.        


3.1.4. The DG then made a presentation to the delegation elaborating on the mandate of the Institute. The vision of NIRD is to focus on the policies and programmes that benefit the rural poor, strive to energize the democratic decentralization process, improve the operational efficiency of rural development personnel and promote transfer of technology through its social laboratories and Technology Park whilst creating environmental awareness.


3.1.5. The mission of NIRD is to examine and analyse the factors contributing to the improvement of economic and social well-being of people in rural areas on a sustainable basis with focus on the rural poor and the other disadvantaged groups through research, action research and consultancy efforts. To facilitate the rural development efforts with particular emphasis and focus on the rural poor by improving the knowledge, skills and attitudes of rural development officials and non-officials through organising training, workshops and seminars


3.1.6.The main objective of NIRD is to organise training programmes, conferences, seminars and workshops for senior development executives; (2) undertake, aid, promote and coordinate research on it’s own or through other agencies; (3) analyze and find solutions to problems encountered in planning and implementation of the programmes for rural development, decentralized governance or panchayati raj[1] , and related issues; and (4) disseminate information through periodicals, reports and other publications in furtherance of the basic objectives of the  Institute.


3.1.7. The DG and each of the division heads then facilitated a discussion session with the members of the delegation, .on the implementation of rural development programs in India


3.1.8. As part of the visit to the Institution the delegation undertook a field visit to the Rural Technology Park situated on the campus at the NRID. The techno-park was established in 1999, in an area spanning 65 acres . The intention of the park was to be an instrument for the transfer of technologies to neighboring villages and foreign countries. The approach used was to illustrate and disseminate the information pertaining to appropriate and affordable technologies available to the rural population in a practical manner.   


3.1.9 The transfer of technology takes place through the assistance of self help groups, individuals visiting the park on behalf of other rural villages, consultants from the institution visiting rural communities and visiting delegations who take back to their respective countries knowledge gained from visiting the park. Technologies used at the park include rural sanitation models; water harvesting for hot humid terrain; solar energy harvesting and usage.


3.1.10. The park also boasts a number of rural enterprises and business ventures such as recycled hand made paper; dyeing using natural products; honey processing; bio technology; as well as garment and pattern making.


3.2. Meeting with officials from the National Academy of Agricultural Research Management


3.2.1. The delegation was met by the Director of the institution, Dr PK Joshi who introduced the delegation to officials from the institution. Dr Joshi gave the delegation a brief background of the institution and the aims and objectives of the institution.


3.2.2. The institution was established by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) at Hyderabad, in 1976, to address issues related to agricultural research and education management. During the initial years, the primary function of the academy was to train new officials from the Agricultural Research Service of ICAR.


3.2.3.,This role later diversified to include research, capacity building of professionals in agricultural research, education management, as well as policy and consultancy support to research institutions. Recently the Academy has set up post graduate education programmes and an Agribusiness Knowledge Centre. The scope of functions of the institution has been further enhanced with the introduction of tailor-made training programmes for international developing countries, such Asia, Africa and Latin America.


3.2.4. The primary role of the institute is to ensure agricultural development and training within the stakeholders in the sector and to:

§   impart agricultural management education;

§   enhance the teaching-learning effectiveness through proper management of agricultural education;

§   plan and organize need-based, multi-tier, stakeholder-driven and customized on-campus and off-campus training programmes;

§   facilitate knowledge and technology dissemination management through innovative use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs);

§   undertake research on agricultural and technology management, and address emerging concerns in agriculture;

§   offer consultancy and manage dialogues to backstop training and to provide policy support to NAS;

§   develop suitable management tools, practices and processes for facilitating organizational effectiveness;

§   assemble quality resource material and function as a resource center of information and knowledge;

§   promote work culture for fostering creativity and innovativeness;

§   enhance administrative and financial management in the system;

§   forge and strengthen partnerships, linkages and networking at regional, national and global levels; and

§   take up other related activities for fulfilling the mandate.

3.2.5. Most academics that complete their Masters Degrees and wish to continue their studies in the field of agricultural research approach the National Academy of Agricultural Research Management to further training. The institution has to dated trained approximately 30 000 individuals and has extended an offer to award scholarships to students from South Africa.  


3.2.6. During the discussions with the delegation, the members once again raided the issue of GM crops and Dr Joshi re-iterated that the institution was not totally apposed to the use of GMO;s as they have already used this in cotton crops, with resounding success. They are also looking at using GMO’s in other crops, but have been asked by the Indian government to hold off using GMO’s in anything other than cotton harvesting as the GMO tests have proven to be inconclusive thus far.


3.3. Meeting with officials from the Swamy Ramananda Tirtha Rural Institute (SRTRI)


3.3.1 The delegation was welcomed by the Chairman of the institution, Dr MS Reddy who introduced the officials present. The Chairperson, Mrs Qikani, then made a presentation on the objective of the study tour and raised issues for discussion between the delegation and the officials of the Institute.


3.3.2. The primary role of the institute was to create an appropriate platform for pro-active rural development in the region which was started in 1995. Today, the institute is one of the leading institutions in India working for rural empowerment through suitable educational and vocational training initiatives.

3.3.3. The philosophy of the Institute is based on an approach where rural people are provided with access to skills in the latest sustainable technologies using improved tools and equipment for enhanced productivity and quality dimensions. Special emphasis was put on capacity building and income generating of the underprivileged, women, unemployed youth, and other vulnerable sections of the rural community.


3.3.4. The primary focus is to make use of technology that is sustainable and rurally friendly so as to enable the rural poor to earn sustainable incomes and lead quality of life, thus installing confidence in rural communities to embark on even bigger sustainable projects. The institute aspires to fulfilling the dream or if one can say the wishes of Mahatma Gandhi’s, of making rural India the focal point of holistic development.


3.3.5. From the discussions it was noted that the main aims and objectives of the institute are to:


  • play an pro-active role for the cause of Rural Development and Rural Transformation following the Gandhian principles and Bhoodan Movement to promote the principles of equality, social justice and integrated rural development.;
  • help create sustainable livelihood by providing access and training through the rural friendly technologies for the purpose of rural employment generation and empowerment of rural poor by providing suitable training;
  • provide skill advancement and skill refinement training to rural youth and women for improved living standards; and
  • focus on entrepreneurship for self – employment promotion in rural areas.


3.3.6. The delegation then visited the training centre and viewed the various training programmes that were being run at the Institute.


 3.4 Meeting with officials from the Society for the Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP)


3.4.1. The Committee met with Mr Raidu who made a presentation on the organisations mandate and function. The Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP) is an autonomous society, run under the Department of Rural Development, Government of Andhra Pradesh and is chaired by the Chief Minister as the ex-officio Chairman of the General Body (GB). 


3.4.2. The SERP has broad representation from key stakeholders, government and NGOs. The GB consists of twenty-five members, with five ex-officio government officials and 20 representing leading agencies and individuals contributing to rural development, community mobilization and poverty alleviation.


3.4.3. The main objective of the society is to:

  • sustain agriculture based livelihoods with multiple livelihood options; with a special focus on small and marginal farmers, Women, tenants, agriculture workers whilst improving women’s farming skills through decentralized agricultural extension system;
  • improve household food and nutritional security; by providing livelihoods to the landless poor through land lease and shops ; the enhancement of natural resource base; and feminization of agriculture and rural livelihoods.


3.4.4. Mr Raidu further explained that the success of the society depended on key elements such as the management by women’s organizations; “decentralized extension system”, being accountable to grassroots women’s organizations; exploiting locally available natural resources; reducing the cost of cultivation without compromising on yields; radical soil/moisture conservation; biodiversity and poly cropping; unique collaboration between womens organizations, farmers, N.G.Os, and government; knowledge sharing with emerging farmers; intervention prioritiesn and decision making by farmers, not by the board of the society; Infrastructure support for reducing drudgery; and the combination of traditional wisdom together with cutting edge technologies.


3.4.5. Mr Raidu stated that the aim of the society was the expansion of the programme and knowledge base of the local inhabitants, with the piloting of food security programmes in twenty more rural villages. The society wants to encourage rural villages to explore carbon credits, whereby they would then form partnerships with companies.  Also the marketing and development of organic and pesticide free agriculture commodities is another avenue to be explored.


4. Recommendations by the Committee:


  1. The Department of Rural Development should consider conducting a feasibility study on the establishment of a Technology Demonstration Park, where rural technologies can be used to train communities in a practical manner.


  1. The Committee should investigate further the impact of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and evaluate the application of the scheme in the South African context.


  1. The Committee should commission a comparative analysis of the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme models used in South Africa and India.


Report to be considered.


[1] Panchayati Raj is a system of governance used in India, in which gram panchayats are the basic units of administration. It has 3 levels: village, block and district levels and governance structures are more consultative because the communities are involved at all levels.



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