Western Cape Government to assess impact of fires on agriculture sector

By Alan Winde, Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities:

The Western Cape Government hopes on Monday (25 January 2016) to start an impact assessment of the recent fires on the agriculture sector.

Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities, said teams from the Western Cape Department of Agriculture aimed to visit affected farms on Monday.

“If the fire is under control and the smoke has subsided, the officials will be able to access the farms to conduct surveys. This will give us an idea of the damage to agriculture land and infrastructure.”

Minister Winde yesterday visited the Joint Operations Centre, based at Delvera off the R44, where he received a comprehensive briefing on the fires.

“The fires, and the drought, are putting pressure on our agriculture sector, particularly on the wine-producing regions. It is taking focus and manpower away from harvesting.

“This is going to have a major cost to our economy. The agriculture sector, with its backward link to agri-procesing, is one of our key growth sectors.”

Minister Winde yesterday also appealed to residents to assist authorities with their investigation into alleged arson attacks.

It is alleged that arson has caused some of the recent fires.

Minister Winde further commended the firefighters for their effort in bringing the blazes under control.

“Our firefighters are true heroes and we salute these brave men and women. I’d also like to thank the public for their support. It was encouraging to see several companies and residents arriving at Delvera with donations for the firefighting teams.”

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Elsenburg: the youth is the Future of Agriculture in the Western Cape

By Beverley Schäfer MPP, Standing Committee Chairperson for Economic Opportunities, Tourism and Agriculture, Western Cape Provincial Parliament:

Ms Joyene Isaacs – HOD

Officials from the Department of Agriculture

The Management and Staff of Elsenburg College

Students,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A welcome to all of you here today, at the opening of the 2016 Academic Year at Elsenberg College.

While 2016 brings a number of great economic and climatic challenges to the forefront, it also brings a wealth of opportunities.

You may wonder why I come across as an eternal optimist, even though I must admit, I actually am.

But, I really do believe that 2016 is the year of the student!  All of you sitting before me here today, will be the very young people that, in the near future, will lead our agricultural sector and take agriculture to a new level.

We know in this Province, that one of the best investments this government can make, is in our youth. The Western Cape has allocated R56.9 million to the Structured Agricultural Education and Training programme for the 2015/16 financial year.

The future of agriculture must be protected and sustained and it is through places of learning such as Elsenberg, that we can continue to grow this agricultural economy, create competitive and innovative farming practices through new ideas, and bring passion and pride back to the agricultural sector.

Project Khulisa – our project to reduce poverty in the Western Cape, has identified Agri-processing as a high-potential sector. Agri-processing holds particular potential to increase employment in rural areas. If it receives the dedicated attention and support, it could add up to 100 000 jobs and generate R26 billion for the economy under a high-growth scenario.

But we cannot achieve this, without the much needed water resources and infrastructure, and we certainly, cannot achieve this without you.

We need the necessary training and skills that you will receive here at this college, together with a mind-set of innovation, to ensure that Agri-processing in the Western Cape remains competitive to current global markets.

We have taken the language tensions and transformation issues at Elsenburg very seriously. A full team, of both management and the College Council, is engaged in finding sustainable solutions to overcome these issues in the interest of the future of agriculture and of our country.

To date, the following steps have been undertaken:

-The College Council instituted a task team to engage with students and key stakeholders to facilitate the development of a new language policy;

-As undertaken by Management, several engagements have already been held with the Student Representative Council, House Committee as well as the entire student population;

-Independent mediators have been appointed to facilitate the transformation process, diversity management training and conflict resolution has been implemented involving students, lecturers and administrative personnel.

Flowing out of last year’s protest actions, it was agreed that the best course of action going forward will be:

  •          In the short term, lectures will be duplicated so that they take place in both English and Afrikaans, this gives students the choice to learn in the language in which they feel most comfortable. A full programme was implemented to ensure that lost learning time was made up, as well as a programme of tutorial classes was introduced.
  •          In the medium term, a new language policy is being developed. This process is already underway, and forms part of the broader transformation imperative being implemented to encourage inclusive and quality education.
  •          We also welcome the partnership with the University of Stellenbosch for innovative ways to tackle the language issues.

We are pleased that all parties have come together to find solutions, and have agreed to go forward in a constructive manner. We are eager to address the language and transformation issues at Elsenburg, and are dedicated to pursuing this jointly with all stakeholders involved.

It is important to note, that Elsenburg delivers a world-class education in one of our key economic sectors and it is important that we work together to maintain this high standard.

We have the best interests of all the students at heart, and we will continue to develop creative solutions in line with our broader transformation imperative.

To all the students here today, we must take you forward with us -to ensure that your years of learning are quality years of acquiring the necessary knowledge and skills as the future of agriculture in South Africa is in your hands.

Institutions of learning are places where bonds should be formed, and we trust the students of this College will, in good faith, do their utmost to be part of building a stronger democracy in our country.

I thank you.

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Mpumalanga’s economy bears the brunt of dodgy land claims

By Bosman Grobler MPL, Spokesperson on Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs:

The DA in Mpumalanga welcomes the court order instructing Rural Development and Land Reform Minister, Gugile Nkwinti, to take back land that was given to a controversial trust and to review the claim.

The validity of the Ndwandwa Community Trust Claim which involved 105 farms worth R51 million in the Badplaas area has been questioned since it was instituted more than 10 years ago. This claim saw farms being transferred to the Trust amid allegations of fake beneficiaries and hugely inflated land prices.

During the time that this land claim was filed, current Mpumalanga Premier, David Mabuza, was the MEC for Agriculture in the province. Although his office has denied his involvement in this land claim, his name continued to come up.

As MEC, Mabuza, should have been able to see the discrepancies with the valuation of the land and prevent the government from being duped into purchasing overpriced land.

It is concerning that over the past few years almost every dodgy land deal that has surfaced in the province has made reference to Premier Mabuza’s involvement.

Corruption within the agriculture and land administration sector has marred the legitimate plight of South Africans to receive their rightful compensation after they were displaced by the apartheid government.

Dodgy land deals are detrimental to the economy of the province and the country because all too often;

  • Land that was productive is left fallow and no longer productive;
  • Agricultural infrastructure gets stripped and sold for its scrap value;
  • Thousands of people who are employed in tourism or agriculture lose their jobs;
  • Opportunities to create employment vanish as planned projects fail.

This once again shows that the current government has little regard for the thousands of skilled people sitting without employment.

By rooting out the seeds of corruption and making meaningful investments in sectors that are known to provide employment for the majority of rural dwellers, the DA can alleviate poverty and create much needed jobs.

The DA calls for the release of the report on the forensic investigation into this land deal that was instituted by former Land Affairs Minister, Thoko Didiza. We believe that this report holds the key to exposing those involved in the scam and ensuring that they take accountability for their actions.

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Bureaucratic incompetence behind NC government’s inadequate drought response

By Ismail Obaray, DA Northern Cape Provincial Spokesperson of Agriculture:

The tardiness on the part of the provincial government to declare the drought conditions in the Northern Cape a disaster, threatens to cause irreparable damage to the agricultural sector.

While the DA waits for the ANC government to heed its call to declare the drought a national disaster, the Northern Cape, one of the hardest hit provinces, is yet to be declared a disaster area due to administrative bungles by the provincial government. With drought conditions long ago having reached crisis point in the province, the delay in declaring it a disaster area is delaying the allocation of emergency assistance to farmers. This is in spite of Premier Sylvia Lucas having signed the drought declaration on 18 December 2015 already.

It has come to light that government officials are blaming new business requirements, as set by the Government Printers for the submission of publications in the Northern Cape Provincial Gazette, for the delay in publishing the Premier’s drought declaration.

The DA finds this totally unacceptable.

Late last year, at least three notices were openly and timeously sent by the legislature to all government officials in the province, including Heads of Departments, clearly informing them of the new processes to be followed when publishing Proclamations, Acts, municipal notices and so forth in the provincial gazette.

Laying blame on the new government printing processes is thus a feeble excuse. It not only highlights the ineptitude of the provincial government, but also once again underscores their attitude towards the ailing agricultural sector in the Northern Cape.

This is not the first time that provincial government has failed to treat drought conditions with the necessary urgency. Previously, administrative bungles and the lack of a proper disaster management plan to guide a coordinated response to the devastating drought of 2013/2014, saw it take over six months for the Premier to declare a state of disaster, and another two months for the National Disaster Management Centre to classify the disaster as a provincial disaster. As a result, the province only received drought relief a year after the drought had started. In the meantime, thousands of animals starved to death.

The drought situation in the entire Northern Cape is dire despite scattered rainfall and the province simply cannot afford another delayed response to the excessively dry conditions.

Even if the province gets enough rainfall within the next few weeks, the situation will remain critical and will still necessitate additional state assistance, as farmers are under severe financial strain, grazing land needs time to recover and breeding herds need time to reproduce.

The DA is calling on Premier Sylvia Lucas to urgently take ownership of Northern Cape provincial government’s lacking disaster response and to hold cabinet members and officials accountable for repeatedly failing to manage disasters in the Northern Cape effectively.

In November last year, the Northern Cape Department of Agriculture allocated a roll-over of R7,7 million from the drought relief scheme of 2014/2015 to commercial farmers and R14,6 million from the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) conditional grant to smallholder farmers. This helped but it is not nearly enough.

If additional assistance from government is not forthcoming soon, then the Northern Cape stands to lose a number of stock farmers. This will have a calamitous knock-on-effect on food security, food prices and unemployment rates.

We only hope the Premier and her administration grasp the magnitude of the repercussions of their inaction and proceed with haste before it is too late for Northern Cape agriculture.

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Farmers made to subsidise drought relief fodder as MEC Matshoge stays silent

By Jacques Smalle MPL, DA Provincial Spokesperson Agriculture:

The DA will write to the MEC for Agriculture Joyce Matshoge to request the current tally of livestock deaths due to the persisting drought, as well as requesting the amount of fodder provided through drought relief.

The belated declaration of Limpopo as a disaster area on 6 November 2015 by Premier Mathabatha and the utter lack of planning by the department of agriculture delayed the much-needed assistance to particularly subsistence farmers.

According to information in possession of the DA, funds from the Fetsa Tlala programme have been channelled to drought relief but farmers are still waiting for assistance on the ground.

In the Vaalwater district, to date not a single bale of fodder has been delivered to livestock farmers by the department.

The DA is particularly concerned that according to the Disaster Drought Assistance  Application form farmers have to subsidise the fodder they receive from government by 10 – 30% depending on the classification of the farmer. This is not sustainable and places a serious burden on farmers already in dire financial need.

The DA believes that in order to provide effective drought relief to farmers, accurate information must be obtained and updated regularly so that drought relief is not a reactionary approach but a sustainable solution. This is the only way in which food security can be safeguarded.

The DA calls for the MEC of Agriculture, Joyce Matshoge, to be transparent and to publicise her drought relief plans, the budget allocated and where these relief efforts are effected.

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DA debates Gauteng 2014/15 Agriculture Annual Report

The following speeches were delivered in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature on 02 December 2015 by the DA’s Ina Cilliers MPL and Janho Engelbrecht MPL during a debate on the Gauteng Agriculture department.

 

Speech by
Ina Cilliers MPL

“Conservation Agriculture the new way to go”

  • The department should adopt a policy of conservation agriculture (CA).
  • Every year, the average maize farmer loses 13 tons of soil per hectare due to outdated and incorrect agricultural practices, and the GDARD is perpetuating this trend.
  • The department should stop and re-think everything they are doing in conducting business, we are in an age that requires innovation.
  • If CA were to be implemented by GDARD, teaching conservation agriculture to all beneficiaries, even homestead gardeners will benefit from no-till principles and companion planting.

The full speech can be obtained here

 

Speech by

Janho Engelbrecht MPL

“Poor economic performance is decimating Gauteng’s environment”

  • Gauteng has the most polluted rivers in the country. The main culprits responsible for that pollution are without doubt municipalities and failing reticulation infrastructure.
  • Despite numerous calls for action from the DA, the problems in Hammankskraal there not only persist, but are getting worse. The residents have to bear the brunt of failed governance.
  • More funds are needed and the department must tighten up financial controls, whilst tightening up control within the environmental compliance division.

The full speech can be obtained here

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DA welcomes farm murder sentencing

By SP Motswenyane (MP), DA North West Community Safety Spokesperson:

The Democratic Alliance in the North West welcomes the sentencing of Joseph Papi Hala who was found guilty of murdering farmer Johan Van Rensburg in Leeudoringstad in 2014.

Hala was sentenced to 15years imprisonment; the DA applauds the police in their investigation to see that justice was served.

The DA is however concerned with the growing number of farm attacks, it has been reported that in 2015 there have been 116 farm attacks and 27 farm murders.

The Agricultural sector plays an important role in South Africa’s economic growth and job creation especially in the development of rural areas.

North West is a predominantly rural farming area, the DA is concerned with the lack of urgency shown by government to properly combat these attacks.

The high level of farm attacks and murders further emphasizes the need to re-establish specialised units to tackle specific crimes. The DA calls on the MEC for Community Safety Mr Gaoage Molapisi to establish a specialised unit to deal with the unacceptable level of crime and violence in rural areas.

For the agricultural sector to flourish and attract investors government needs to create a safe conducive environment for farmers to work in.

The DA’s vision is to keep rural communities and their property safe.

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Premier must fire Agri MEC for losing R52 million in disaster funds

By Ismail Obaray, DA Northern Cape Provincial Spokesperson of Agriculture:

The DA is furious that the Northern Cape Department of Agriculture’s failure to spend disaster relief funds in the midst of an ongoing drought in the province, has caused the department to lose millions of rands which could have been used to lessen the plight of countless farmers who are currently struggling against waterless conditions.

Provincial Treasury’s introduction and presentation on the adjustment allocations this week have highlighted the fact that no additional funds have been allocated to the provincial agriculture department for the remainder of 2015/2016. Instead, a significant portion of their funds have been suspended from the department as a direct result of delays in supply chain management processes, particularly the awarding of contracts for disaster relief.

Given the drought conditions in the Northern Cape and the rest of the country, this is both shocking and unforgiveable.

The adjustment appropriation bill is intended to facilitate changes to the budget to provide for, amongst other things, emergencies. The fact that the Agriculture Department has not only failed to secure additional disaster funding for the drought but, according to Acting MEC of Finance, Mac Jack, has also lost an amount of R64 million that could have gone towards disaster relief, is testament to the poor management of the provincial agriculture department.

During the department’s first quarter performance presentation to the legislature in August this year, the DA raised our concerns that the department had not spent a cent of the R131,862 million intended for Disaster Risk Management. The department shrugged off our concerns, indicating that the matter was under control. Clearly this was not the case.

The DA is of the firm view that the Agriculture Department needs to be held accountable for its failure to spend allocated funds and in turn its failure to promote and facilitate food security for all.

The DA has written a letter to Premier Sylvia Lucas, requesting her to call MEC Norman Shushu and his management team to report truthfully on the department’s poor performance and then to take the necessary disciplinary action against them. The DA believes that MEC Shushu must be fired.

The failure by the Northern Cape Agriculture Department to effectively mitigate drought conditions in the province is a national issue, as it affects the food security of the entire country, and must be dealt with in all earnestness as a matter of urgency.

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What has the Provincial Disaster Management done to assist farmers in light of drought?

By James Masango MPL, DA Spokesperson on Cogta:

The following member statement was delivered today by the DA Spokesperson on Cogta, James Masango MPL, during a sitting at the Ehlanzeni District Council Chambers.

Honourable Speaker.

I rise to deliver a member statement on behalf of the Democratic Alliance.

On Friday last week Mpumalanga was declared a drought disaster province, joining Kwa-Zulu Natal, Free State, North West and Limpopo as disaster provinces.

Our farmers, both emerging and commercial, have felt the brunt of this drought. Livestock farmers have had to drastically reduce their herds in order to cater for few. Crop farmers yield has also drastically being compromised.

Without a doubt, the country will have to import agricultural produce like maize in order to cover the shortfall.

However, the water crisis in Mpumalanga cannot only be blamed on the drought, it has been coming for a long time because of government’s failure or inability to maintain, and where necessary to upgrade the water infrastructure in our province. Water leaks and sewer spillages that are not attended to immediately, contribute immensely to the water crisis in this province.

These are just some of the water challenges we found ourselves in today.

The DA calls upon the MEC for COGTA to compile and release a detailed report on the drought assessment. The report must amongst other things include, details on which areas in Mpumalanga have been affected, the extent of the said effected areas and what the provincial disaster management has done so far to assist our communities.

The MEC must also inform us of what assistance the province seeks to receive from National Government through the drought disaster declaration.

I thank you.

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Agriculture Department’s performance: a blow to emerging farmers

By Bosman Grobler MPL, Spokesperson on Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs:

Emerging farmers in Mpumalanga don’t only have to battle against elements such as drought, hail and an un-inclusive economy; they also have to bear the brunt of the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs’ (DARDLEA) shortcomings.

In its annual report for the 2014/15 financial year, DARDLEA has shown once again that it is not committed to uplifting emerging farmers. The department spent almost its entire budget of over R1 billion to only meet 63.8% of its set targets.

Year after year, emerging farmers under the Masibuyele Emasimini programme are made to wait long periods for tractors to plough their land. Sometimes these tractors don’t even arrive, forcing the farmers to plough small and unprofitable plots. According to the annual report, over 10 000ha of land belonging to land and agricultural reform beneficiaries was left unploughed. As a result, DARDLEA could only create 381 jobs out of a targeted 566.

The Department claims to have achieved 14 out of 20 of its targets in the farmer support and development programme but when giving his opinion on the performance of DARDLEA, the Auditor General was unable to validate these statistics.

What is surprising is that DARDLEA was able to supply numerous heads of cattle from the Masibuyele Esibayeni project to traditional leaders this past weekend, yet the matter concerning farmers in Thembisile Hani municipality who lost their cattle in a natural disaster was closed without adequately compensating all the farmers.

The DA has been calling on DARDLEA MEC, Andries Gamede, to support emerging farmers as, given the opportunity, they will form the backbone of our economy. These calls have evidently fallen on deaf ears as it is clear that MEC Gamede has no plan to see emerging farmers prosper.

With Mpumalanga being added to the list of provinces affected by the drought, it has become even more crucial for MEC Gamede to reign himself in and focus on helping emerging farmers survive this tough period.

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