The skewed interpretation that transformation is about the ‘blackness’ of a company does not address economic and gender inequality and disability issues. More importantly, the emphasis on ‘blackness’ trivialises the challenge of transformation by over-simplifying the judgment of whether an action or sector is achieving its potential in terms of addressing poverty and marginalisation.
This is one of the assessments made in the just-published Integrated Growth and Development Plan (IGDP) for the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector by the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries (DAFF). Targeted at the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) for the period 2011/12 to 2014/15, the IGDP aims to “provide a long-term strategy for the growth and development of South Africa’s agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors, so as to enable them to address key national priorities and outcomes.”
The 81-page document takes a comprehensive and critical look at especially the agricultural sector and the impact, in some instances the lack thereof, of a number of plans and programmes introduced during the last decade or more. There is a particular focus on transformation in that sector.
It is stated that an example of how the emphasis on 'blackness', trivialises the challenges of transformation “is the manner in which ‘transformation’ in agriculture, forestry and fisheries has tended to only benefit a small, token number of black entrepreneurs".
“Another dimension of the trivialisation of ‘transformation’ is that it often hides an underlying assumption that the objective of an intervention is to assist a previously disadvantaged farmer or forester or fisher, to more closely resemble their large-scale advantaged counterparts. Transformation is not merely raising everyone to the same ‘level’, but in many cases redefining what is normal or worthwhile, indeed transforming the structure of the sector or how it functions.”
It also takes the view that equity and transformation are interrelated topics, where equity refers to fairness and equal outcomes in terms of gender, race and class.
“Transformation is a process of profound change that should result in a new direction to a different level of effectiveness and where everyone contributes to shared outcomes. In the absence of a visible process of transformation, equity cannot be reached.”
One of the programmes aimed at transformation in the agricultural sector, which is set for some tightening up, is black economic empowerment (BEE).
“While the rationale for AgriBEE is clear enough, to date it appears to have had little impact because it is not enforceable, i.e. the charter is not legally binding, and only indicative scorecards are in place. DAFF is therefore in the process of consulting DTI in order to have Sector Codes published in terms of Section 9 of the Act, which will allow DAFF to apply binding Sector Codes,” the document states.
The document is, however, also critical about the unco-ordinated way in which various programmes aimed at transformation have been implemented to date, stating that “... unco-ordinated implementation and planning by government has frustrated the effective implementation of government strategy, with each programme designing its own implementation plan, leaving a fragmented scattering of projects across South Africa’s landscape.
“Without an integrated approach and effective management of actions, roles and responsibilities, most strategies devised by DAFF will result in ineffective implementation.”
The focus in agriculture in particular has been skewed towards new entrants, especially linked to the land reform programme, while inadequate support has been given to existing marginalised participants in the sector.
“There is, therefore, a need to correct this imbalance, for example by effecting changes that will facilitate existing smallholders’ gainful access to markets, by focusing less on primary co-operatives and more on secondary (e.g. marketing) co-operatives; and to improve the quality and accessibility of support systems and infrastructure in order that larger numbers of producers may benefit,” the document states.
It is also stated that various support programmes have been initiated over the past few years, namely the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme, Mafisa and the Land and Agrarian Reform Programme, but “unfortunately these programmes did not result in improved participation of smallholders and black farmers.”
“The main factors that contributed towards the ineffectiveness of the support programmes included fragmented implementation (lack of coordination of programmes), lack of access to information, capacity constraints to effectively implement programmes, lack of extension services and inadequate planning in terms of provision of support.”
The document also foresees how the consistent rising population of city dwellers access nutritionally adequate food is bound to become a major concern.
Investigating the potential of urban farming to address food insecurity around the cities must be on the food policy agenda of South Africa. Education, resources, skills and support are furthermore crucial for ensuring household food security. The development and improvement of support services such as research and development, finance, extension, market access and infrastructure, is also needed.
“There are further indications of growing food insecurity in South Africa, where we feature as one of the top 20 countries with the highest burden of under-nutrition. Worsening the situation are indications that few people would be able to afford a food basket that is diverse and high in essential macro and micronutrients, implying that those currently undernourished, may be pushed into hunger,” it is stated.
There is a real need for targeted investment to lower the overall cost of production and to enhance the competitiveness of the sector by broadening participation within the commercial sector, the document asserts.
The lack of integrated spatial planning is hampering the growth of the agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries sector as well as the effectiveness and success of support programmes and other interventions made by government.
Non-alignment between the three spheres of government and between government and state-owned entities, as well as non-alignment of programmes, has had a negative impact on the sector.
The document sets out a wide range of proposed interventions, ranging from fast-tracking a AgriBEE Charter to developing market strategies that address specific requirements of small-scale producers, to achieve “the transformation and restructuring of the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors, which are currently dominated by a small number of large companies, and to ensure that constraints experienced in the areas of input supply, production and marketing are addressed cost-effectively and in a timely manner.”