During the past two years agricultural support has been provided to land and agrarian reform projects, which contributes towards food security, job creation and poverty alleviation. Since the implementation of CASP in 2004/05, a total amount of R750 million has been allocated to this programme. Because delivery of agricultural support services is dependent on the capacity of provincial departments, we continued to direct the process of empowering the provinces with regard to planning, implementation, information dissemination and reporting.
The Micro-agricultural Financial Institutions of South Africa (Mafisa) provides access to finance for farmers, especially beneficiaries of the land restitution, redistribution and land tenure reform programmes. The Land Bank administers the credit scheme on behalf of the department and provincial departments provide assistance to access the scheme. Four development finance institutions are currently participating in the disbursement of Mafisa funds in the provinces.
Challenges experienced in implementing the scheme mainly included a lack of capacity and a lack of economic and/or financial experience at provincial departments. Intervention measures were instituted and provinces have now assigned Agricultural Economists to assist applicants with their operational plans. The process of training Credit Committees in collaboration with AgriSETA is also continuing.
During 2005/06 and 2006/07 amounts of R144 million and R196 million, respectively, were transferred from the departmentís budget to the Land Bank. To date good progress has been made with providing loans and a total of 900 loans to the value of R24 million were approved by end of September 2006. Loans have been issued since January 2006 and progress is monitored on a continuous basis to fast-track implementation of the scheme.
A total of 84 agricultural farmer co-operatives have been established. These co-operatives are fully registered and linked to financial services and businesses. We facilitated the training and capacity building of all established cooperatives through accredited training institutions and colleges of agriculture.
To ensure the commercial viability of emerging farmers from a household food security level to commercial level, a farmer-to-farmer mentorship policy was approved. This policy will be piloted in four provinces on 36 projects. During 2007 a total of 36 extension officers will be trained in providing mentoring to farmers.
The agricultural marketing environment was reviewed and a report with specific recommendations to revisit the Agricultural Marketing Act will be submitted to the Minister. Good progress was also made with reviewing the agricultural trade strategy and the first draft, incorporating industry inputs, has been developed. The strategy will also incorporate the outcome of the marketing review process.
To develop a comprehensive agro-logistics strategy and an investment plan, a report on the status of agro-logistics in South Africa has been completed. The report is at present being discussed with other government departments such as Transport, Trade and Industry and public entities such as the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC), Spoornet and the industry.
A total of 17 commodity-based agricultural marketing value chain profiles were produced and published. Farmers use these profiles to gain insight into the agricultural marketing structures of the different industries. In July 2006 the EFTA-Southern African Customs Union (SACU) agreements were signed for implementation in 2007. This will, however, also depend on the ratification procedures followed by the SACU partners. The trade negotiating position for free trade agreement between SACU and India has not been finalised yet because of a delay in negotiations as a result of the new government in India.
The department regards skills development as one of the critical areas for the success of ASGISA. About 800 emerging farmers received hands-on training in various fields of farm management at the Grootfontein Agricultural Development Institute (GADI). Commodity-directed mentorship programmes were presented to a total of 10 000 farmers, while 2 251 farmworkers received adult basic education and training in line with the objectives of the draft transformation charter. All the participants in the programme are beneficiaries of the Agrarian and Land Reform Programme.
During 2006 several policies and strategies were developed to promote sustainable agricultural production. These include policies on animal improvement, aquaculture, wildlife ranching, range and forage, grain, vegetables, industrial and indigenous crops, ornamental plants, as well as biosafety.
Livestock farming by black emerging farmers is often characterised by overstocking and poor productivity, leading to overgrazing. The livestock development strategy was developed and is currently being implemented to address this challenge.
Production guidelines aimed at providing information to farmers, extension officers and other clients were also developed. These included guidelines for small-scale egg production, household broiler production, a management programme for a small-farm piggery, rabbit production for household use, animal traction, urban and peri-urban animal agriculture, milch goats, weaning of calves, beef cattle, veld management, fruit production, grain crops, vegetable production, industrial crops, ornamental plants and indigenous crop production.
Early warning climate advisories were issued to the agricultural sector on a monthly basis to assist farmers in managing climatic risks. An awareness campaign on broad risk and disaster management issues was also launched to create awareness on how to manage risks. A total of 62 470 farmers participated in the drought relief scheme. Altogether 52 259 of these were small-scale farmers and 10 211 commercial farmers.