DA Budget Debate on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

By Ismail Obaray, MPL, DA Provincial Spokesperson on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development:

The following is an extract from the speech delivered today in the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature by Hon. Ismail Obaray during the debate on the budget of the department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development.

South African citizens’ access to sufficient food is the right of all, as stipulated in section 27 of the South African constitution. The Constitution obliges the State to provide legislation and other supporting measures to ensure that all citizens are enabled to meet their basic food needs.

However, many today are vulnerable to food insecurity, leading to nutritional problems including low body weight and malnutrition.

Within the household, food insecurity often affects the more vulnerable members of the family, namely children and women. The costs associated with food-insecurity at the household level relate to slow educational development.

The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development is mandated to ensure food security for all by increasing agricultural production; providing technical support for the development of farmers and communities. With a budget of just above R600 million, this department must lead in the development of a vibrant agricultural sector for food security and sustainable rural development.

While we commend the department for its intensive programmes in addressing food security in the province, through supporting community, household and institutional gardens it is important that gardens are geared to become sustainable. In many cases these community gardens solely rely on state funding and without government support they cannot operate independently.

The department must ensure that these agricultural projects that are supported through the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP), the Fetsa Tlala and Zero Hunger Programmes are tailored to become self-reliant and self-sustaining in the long run. Small-scale farming units play an important role in supplementing incomes and household food requirements and contraction in this level of production can have a significant impact on access to food in poor rural communities.

Of concern to the DA is the drought that has hit the country recently which has put our maize harvest in peril. According to estimates the current year, as well as next year, will be a very difficult season for the country. The expected poor summer crops will impact negatively on the agricultural sector and basic food products are going to be very expensive for consumers, we want to know how has this hit the Northern Cape and has a survey been conducted.

The set targets for abattoir inspections are usually not met. This is despite the department identifying about 8 for this financial year inspections to be done. The department will also conduct 12 food safety campaigns, the DA believes this function must ensure that abattoirs are fully compliant with legislation and adhere to regulations.

The recent incident that was witnessed at the Kamfers Dam where blood, intestines and guts were seen flowing in the water should never happen again. Challenges continue to persist in the current system, especially with regard to technical independence and impartiality.

This is of particular concern where commercial interests compete with the principles of food safety.

Extension and training of the emerging sector in disease control and prevention cannot be left to the private sector, but need the constant attention of the animal health section to guide the sector to reach the targets set by the industry.

The section also has to look at the upgrading of facilities and the rendering of primary animal health care to the emerging sector.

Rendering this service will mean that personnel have to be equipped with adequate equipment and remedies.

Offices have to be upgraded and registered as veterinary consulting rooms. The registration of Animal Health Technicians with the Veterinary Council put an extra burden on the section to assist personnel with training and to equip them to give up to date and well informed extension. This functions must be given the attention that it deserves. The department must address it as a matter of concern.

It is a requirement of the Veterinary Council that officials must keep up to date with the latest developments in the veterinary industry.

This means that a lot of emphasis will have to be put on the training of staff as well as planned quality improvement measures.

The organizational structure needs to be re-aligned.

The filling of vacant posts especially for scientists, technicians and farm support personnel must be a priority.

The development and implementation of an appropriate multi-disciplinary project management approach including adequate monitoring and reporting must be implemented.

This department must promote and strengthen linkages within the department. This will facilitate effective and efficient information flow and service delivery to the clients.

Another case in point is the farm workers in the Northern Cape many who face various vulnerabilities in respect of their labour, land, housing, social security, and health rights.

With insecure seasonal labour, farm workers’ livelihoods are constrained by the lack of off-farm employment opportunities. The high incidence of gender-based violence among farm workers in the Northern Cape is closely correlated with the high rates of alcohol and substance dependency. This department must present a comprehensive plan addressing these challenges.

Progress in achieving equitable land ownership has been very slow and the ANC government’s land reform approach has not been successful in establishing an emerging class of commercial farmers.

This is vital to support subsistence farming to maintain and enhance food security, in addressing the insecure land rights of thousands of our citizens living on state-owned communal land, or in addressing the urgent land pressures in urban areas.  We must shift the focus of land reform from meeting targets to meeting needs.

The DA proposes an approach to land reform based on the following principles:

  1. Land reform is a moral and political imperative and represents an

opportunity to invigorate rural economies by giving rural dwellers greater access to productive assets.

  1. The land reform programme must look beyond rural land and truly

address the land needs of people of this province who have historically been excluded from land and property ownership, including the need for access to urban land.

  1. We must ensure that citizens in rural areas enjoy their full rights

as democratic citizens by giving them security of tenure on the land on which they live and farm.

I have raised a number of issues in the committee, in this august house as well as written correspondences. I am still awaiting responses on most of these issues and request the MEC to assist in this regard. I will continue to engage this department and the MEC through various channels and hope that we will continue to build a cordial relationship in executing our duties and improve the lives of the citizens Northern Cape.