Deputy Minister Makhotso Sotyu: Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Dept Budget Vote 2022/23 NCOP

Address by Deputy Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, hon. Ms Makhotso Sotyu, during the 2022/23 policy debate in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP)

Chairperson of the House,

Honourable Minister, Mme Barbara Creecy,

Chairperson of the Select Committee, Ms. Tebogo Modise,

Honourable Members of Parliament,

Ladies and gentlemen,

As we have just seen, witnessed and experienced the recent catastrophic and fatal floods in KwaZulu-Natal, climate change is already introducing itself in our country. And, already, and rightfully so, calls for enhancing early warning systems, have been made.

We wish to assure our Nation that our Government and relevant National, Provincial and Local Governments are working tirelessly on all these systems, to ensure that the disaster risk management strategies are in place and effectively implemented, in the process enabling our communities to have response capabilities as means of first aid in the midst of severe weather such as storms and floods.

For instance, Honourable House Chair, after some of the ambient monitoring systems fell into disrepair a few years ago, our Department intervened to repair some of these, which include the Pelonomi Station in Mangaung Metro Municipality in the Free State.

Our Ministry undertook an inspection visit at this Station in October 2021, and we are very pleased to say that the Pelonomi ambient air quality monitoring station is now operational and reporting to the South African Air Quality Information Systems (SAAQIS).

Due to its functionality, it is this Pelonomi station that is now alerting the Mangaung Municipality that, air pollution is of concern in this metro. Transport-related emissions are most intense in Mangaung and along the major road networks linking the city to surrounding provinces.

This alert will now in-turn ensure that the Mangaung Municipality is provided with valuable information that inform the development of several tools and strategies to improve the quality of air and thus contribute to the health and well-being of our people.

Honourable House Chair,

It is a fact that carbon emissions are causing climate change, and we must address this efficiently and effectively. Notwithstanding, we are well advised as the country to continue to find a holistic approach in addressing climate change.

For instance, protecting and restoring our nature must also be the co-biggest step to take towards stabilizing the climate change emergency, as nearly every ecosystem, tree, and animal help produce the Earth’s climate.

This means that, the loss of biodiversity is also exacerbating climate change, and shifting global weather patterns.

Through the National Protected Area Expansion Strategy, strategic expansion interventions are being undertaken to identify geographic priorities for expanding the protected area estate in South Africa.

Honourable Members,

An urgent priority for us is to ensure effective management of our existing protected area estate that has continued to provide direct jobs and further facilitate economic activities through associated value chains particularly in rural areas.

Through the South African National Biodiversity Institute, South Africa is also continuing in establishing itself as a leader in promoting nature-based responses, such as ecosystem-based adaptation and ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction, as part of our National Climate Change response.

This includes its efforts to mobilise international climate finance for ecosystem-based adaptation through a range of collaborations and multisectoral approaches.

House Chair,

South Africa is also an active signatory to a Treaty signed in 2002, by South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Through this Treaty, we have seen the restoration of this important cross-border conservation landscape, where it has now been possible to return this year, the rhino to Zinave national park in Mozambique, after becoming locally extinct more than 40 years ago.

To commemorate the 20th Anniversary of this Treaty (GLTFCA), on a date to be schedule, the Ministerial Committee has endorsed the release of the rhinos as fundamental process and progress, in the Commemoration of the GLTFCA 20th Anniversary.

Honourable Members,

Our Government has also approved and adopted the implementation plan of the Commercial Forestry Masterplan, and the Greening Plan of planting 10million trees over the period of 5 years, starting in the Financial Year 2019/2020.

This means our Government is not only focusing on sustaining the wood, it is also focusing on production and transformation in the Forestry Sector.

Currently, our Department and the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure are in active engagements with the affected Municipalities, to facilitate, that all lease-expired state land, should be recommission back for forestry commercial plantations, with the aim to enter into a Community Forestry Agreement with the communities that are now currently occupying the land.

In this instance, the Department will be transferring four plantations, three in Eastern Cape and one in Limpopo. The transfer will be done through Community Forestry Agreements to communities in line with the National Forests Act.

This will be accompanied by the development of a Post-settlement Support Plan that will give guidance on how the communities will be supported once the plantations have been transferred to them.

This will maximise the ability of the communities in ensuring that the plantations transferred are managed sustainably.

The Department has approved and signed the transfer of two plantations in the Eastern Cape and a formal handover will be concluded within the first quarter of the 2022/23 financial year.

Honourable House Chair,

The XV World Forestry Congress that our Department attended earlier this month in Seoul, South Korea, has also shown that South Africa is in fact one of the key role global players in the Forestry Sector. The Congress was hosted under the theme “Building a Green, Healthy and Resilient Future with Forests”.

Members adopted the Seoul Forest Declaration, which conveyed the urgent need for action to achieve a green, healthy and resilient future with forests. It also endorsed the Youth Call for Action and the Ministerial Call on Sustainable Wood.

This will assist the country towards our initiative of using sustainable wood whilst ensuring that youth and women enter and fully participate in the forestry sector.

Either as large-scale or as small-scale forest growers, our Youth and Women sectors must be embraced as partners and co-investing partners in the Green Economy to ensure that there is equitable wood supply, poverty reduction, climate change mitigation, the restoration of degraded forest-landscapes, and the creation of employment.

Honourable Members,

Through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), our Department is thus continuing to strive for job creation for women and the youth.

A total of 16 872 participants in different Programmes are expected to benefit from accredited training programmes, which are key to secure alternative pathways to sustainable livelihoods and to realise the goals of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, amidst COVID-19.

Through the Environmental Programmes, the Department is also funding the implementation of infrastructure projects through the People & Parks and Biodiversity Economy sub-programmes.

The projects focus on the Wildlife and Bioprospecting economies in rural areas. In the past year, 2 678 work opportunities were created through People & Parks (732 jobs) and the Biodiversity Economy (1 946 jobs).

Through People & Parks, the Department provides funding for construction conservation management infrastructure and tourism facilities, including administration buildings, conference facilities, overnight visitor and staff accommodation, roads and fences within protected areas, bulk water & sewer reticulation.

Small-scale and developing game farmers are supported through the allocation of seed funding for infrastructure development and processing facilities. These include ranching and breeding facilities, hunting outfitters, venison processing, biotrade and bioprospecting processing facilities.

Honourable House Chair,

With a degraded land, there could be no possibilities of equity, equality, employment, and economic growth, as envisioned by all the above great programmes.

This was emphasised at the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) COP 15 in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire that South Africa also attended last week.

In this instance, the Drought Resilience Strategy for the next decade (2022-2032) that was developed by the Southern African Development Community was also launched at the COP, and South Africa is signatory to.

This strategy aims to enhance resilience to drought events and emphasises a shift from reactive to proactive approaches. It will also help to achieve the long-term objective of the SADC region to come up with technical and institutional capacity to manage droughts and other natural hazards in an efficient and sustainable manner.

South Africa is thus one of the countries that will implement projects and programmes in response to SADC Drought Resilience Strategy.

Drought threatens lives and food security and is already having significant negative socio-economic and environmental challenges. It is therefore imperative that appropriate global attention and action is focussed on addressing drought.

House Chair,

The Abidjan Declaration was adopted on achieving gender equality for successful land restoration.

At this UNCCD COP.15, Africa, as a Region, submitted that a clearly articulated and binding global policy instrument which is gender responsive, is needed to provide solid, synergised, and coordinated guidance in the implementation of the Convention and parties at all levels.

Hopefully, this will re-inforce the Africa Union’s Agenda 2063, which has been calling for the allocation of at least 25 per cent of public procurement to be for women-owned businesses; and yes, we are still lagging on this, as women are still given less than 1% of procurement.

This call of the Africa Union’s Agenda 2063, is in line with the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women 66th Session’s priority theme 2022: “Achieving Gender Equality and the Empowerment of all Women and Girls in the Context of Climate Change, Environmental and Disaster Risk Reduction Policies and Programmes”.

All these International Instruments and Declarations are emphasizing the importance of identifying gender-sensitized strategies to respond to the environmental and humanitarian crises caused by climate change.

Honourable Members,

It is a fact that, in many cases, women are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change, primarily as they constitute the majority, dependant on natural resources that are threatened by climate change, and who continue to face social and economic barriers that limit their coping capabilities.

In this instance, we are grateful for the invitation received from the Speaker of the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature, Hon. Ms Helen Sauls-August, for our Department to participate in a Webinar to celebrate Africa Day, under the theme: “Tackling Climate Change and its effect to the Environment and Humankind: How do Forests Combat Climate Change”.

Honourable House Chair,

Waste management, and the contribution of this sector to the growth of Circular Economy, continues to receive attention. The waste sector which has an annual resource value of R25.2 billion, contributes to the rapid growth of Circular Economy, just under one percent to the National Gross Domestic Output, and employs more than 170 000 individuals.

The National Waste Management Strategy 2020, is helping with the waste diversion of 21% (22,6 million tonnes) from the landfill sites across the country.

As government continues to scale-up cleaning campaigns across the country, we had also visited the Matjhabeng Local Municipality in the Free State recently, as part of the many clean-up campaigns our Department has undertaken.

Honourable House Chair,

It is through a number of interventions by the Department that we hope the waste challenges will be addressed. This includes the provision of the equipment necessary to compact waste at landfill sites, deliver waste to these sites and to dispose of waste in the correct way.

A waste free environment is important. To create a country free of litter and other waste in which we all recycle, up-cycle, reuse or repurpose materials requires a commitment by all citizens.

In Conclusion House Chair,

I would like to thank our Minister, Ms Barbara Creecy, for her leadership in our Department. My gratitude is also conveyed to our Director General Ms Nomfundo Tshabalala and team environment, including the Chairpersons of Boards and CEOs of our entities, for all their support and hard work during the past year.

I would also like to say a special thank you to you our Members of the Select Committee.

I thank you.

Source: Government of South Africa