SURPLUS PEOPLE PROJECT

13 October 2006


COMMENT ON THE ANNUAL REPORT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY 2005/2006

Foreword:

Honourable Minister, members of the portfolio committee and the Department water Affairs and Forestry. It is an honour for us to comment on your annual report. In the light of the comprehensiveness of the report, we wish to focus on the context of emerging farmers in rural areas in terms of water and agrarian reform.

Surplus People Project (SPP) is an NGO that facilitates land reform in the Northern and Western Cape. SPP's main objective is to work toward transformation in the rural areas to ensure that poor, black women and men get access to and ownership of natural resources to better their socio-economical circumstances. SPP currently works with 61 emerging farmer groups and farm workers.

BACKGROUND:

Land and water are important natural resources to address the issue of poverty. The right to water is a component that is not always justified in the debate of land reform. The distribution of water across class, race and gender is still a big challenge.

ACCESS TO WATER:

Why land and water reform?

White commercial farmers are still the biggest water users in South Africa (about 70%). This fact is made stronger by the fact that less than 4% of agricultural land is handed over to black people at this stage.

Experience in the Northern and Western Cape showed that emerging farmers and farm workers still do not have access to sufficient water.

1. Nuwehoop - A farm situated between Klawer and Vredendal on the West coast. The owner refused Farmdwellers access to water. The local municipality had to supply drinking water to the dwellers when the irrigation canal was not flowing. In 2004, the Portfolio committee on Water Affairs and Forestry visited the farm. The owner refused them entry to the farm and did not respond to any of their questions. The report of the committee clearly highlighted the issues and was presented to

2. Clanwilliam - Access to water influences the sustainability of projects and emerging farmer development. The shortage of water' and infrastructure will influence the growth of projects and land use options

3. Bergrivier - Projects in the area are unsure of their rights to water despite their aspirations in agricultural development. Initiatives are currently focused on exploring underground water. The town of Porterville used indigenous knowledge systems to find underground water. Projects take initiatives, with the help of supportive individuals to develop water resources.

INSTITUTIONAL:

Public participation in the management of water resources is set out in different acts, e.g. the National Water Act and the Constitution to ensure that the resources are used and managed effectively and in a sustainable manner. Different water management institutions (like the WUA's and CMA's) were established to ensure transformation and democratic processes. In practice, these institutions became a terrain for conflict because it was made up of users with competitive interests. An example would be the fact that while emerging farmers are wanting access to water and productive resources, white commercial farmers who already are water users want to gain access to more water to expand their enterprises.

We would shortly want to highlight a few issues in terms of institutional transformation:

 

         Representation on water and management institutions does not necessarily mean effective participation

 

         Participation of emerging farmers is hampered by limited knowledge and technical skills and the lack of information.

 

Therefore we suggest that the department launch systematic capacity building programmes for emerging farmers and previously disadvantaged people to ensure transformation of water management institutions. In the Olifantsdoorn WMA, the department has already attempted a capacity building process. Although this was a good start, it is not sufficient given the socio-economic and historical context.

Jan Fortuin - Chairperson of the Matzikama Emerging Farmers' Forum
Pieter Esau - Chairperson of the Bergrivier Emerging Farmers' Forum