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Minister Edna Molewa’s speech during the Inter-Ministerial site visit and public awareness event on DLDD

Eastern Cape Province, 29 April 2016


Program Director;
Honourable Ministers (Nxesi – Public Works, Zokwana Agriculture Forestry & Fisheries),
Deputy Minister Skhwatsha Land and Rural Development;
Honourable MEC for the Eastern Cape Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism: Mr Sakhumzi Somyo;
Honourable Executive Mayor : CllrJoe Gqabi District Municipality;
Honourable Executive Mayor: Cllr Senqu Local Municipality;
All Councilors present here today;
Traditional Leaders;
Officials from various Departments;
Members of the Community, Youth and School Children;
Members of media;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen


I am sure I can speak on behalf of my colleagues when I say just how honoured and encouraged we are by the warm reception we have received by the people of Sterkspruit.

That you have come out in your numbers shows that you, like us, are acutely aware of the challenge we face with land degradation and desertification, not just in this province but in many other places around the country.

You will also be aware that this problem is being worsened by most severe drought we have seen in 50 years, which is the result of the El Nino phenomenon, and has been exacerbated by rising global temperatures.

Many of you will have had first-hand experience of the devastating effects of this drought: on your land, on your water, on your livestock and on your communities at large.

We South Africans are a people of the land, we rely on the land for the most basic of our needs, to feed ourselves and our families.

When productive land is lost due to desertification and degradation everybody suffers.

We are here as a collective to show just how seriously government is taking this issue. An Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) has been convened to manage the implications of the drought at the very highest level of government.

Our visit here today is but one of the multiple interventions we are rolling out to ensure that this country's food and water security is not threatened by the changing weather.

The people of the Eastern Cape, together with our citizens around the country, have spoken, and we are here today to show you that we have heard you, and we have responded.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Despite the beautiful and abundant natural resources we have in South Africa, ours is a relatively dry country, and extremely prone to desertification. This is a common problem on the African continent.

The annual State of the Environment report produced by the Department of Environmental Affairs notes that globally, desertification affects 70% of all drylands, and that 73% of Africa’s agricultural drylands are degraded.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Global Environment Outlook further notes that large parts of South Africa are susceptible to desertification. By some estimates, this is as much as 91% of our land.

The causes of land degradation vary, and include socio-economic, biophysical, climatic and land-use factors. Alien invasive plants also suck up scare water resources, adding to the challenge.

Although the causes may vary from region to region, the effects are equally devastating. Both degradation and desertification are the most criticial environmental issues of our time. They are linked to food security, poverty, urbanization, climate change and biodiversity loss.

According to research done by the Agricultural Research Council Institute for Soil, Climate and Water, and the Council for Geosciences, the Eastern Cape has a high provincial veld degradation index and has one of the highest provincial indices of soil degradation.

The studies found for instance that 151 759 hectares of the Eastern Cape is severely affected by gully erosion, one of the highest rates in the country.

With approximately 64% of land in the Eastern Cape currently used for stock farming, including beef cattle, sheep, goats and game, it is clear that something needs to be urgently done to address the problem of degradation and desertification caused by among other things, unsustainable land-use patterns.


Despite the dire situation described above, we have immense cause for optimism, because of the work being done by the people of this province to halt and turn back the tide of desertification and land degradation.

On our way here, we visited some of the areas in this beautiful province where these challenges are being experienced. We were most heartened to see that people are hard at work restoring the land back to productivity.

Here, in Sterkspruit, our people, and our young people are really Moving South Africa Forward, as they rehabilitate, regenerate and restore productive land.

Here in Sterkspruit and its surrounds groups of dedicated youth, men and women are working hard to rehabilitate, regenerate and restore of the productivity of land.

In 2004 our government introduced the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) as a vehicle through which economic opportunities could be created for our people that at the same time drive social and developmental programmes.

The EPWP, which is led by Minster Nxesi in the Department of Public Works, invests around R2 billion per year creating the equivalent of between 21 000 and 25 000 full time jobs.

Aided by the massive investment from the EPWP, with integrated participation by DEA, DRLRD, DAFF, LABOUR and DSW, the Department of Environmental Affairs is leading the way in the rollout of land remediation programmes not just here in the Eastern Cape but nationally.

Through our Working for Land programme we are clearing away alien invasive plants, rehabilitating land, and cleaning, maintaining and refurbishing our towns, townships and rural areas.

At the same time, we are creating jobs and thereby enabling our people, young people, women and people with disabilities in particular, to escape the poverty trap.

Working for Land is supplemented by other land-rehabilitation programmes, notably the Working for Water, Working for Wetlands, Working on Fire and Working for Ecosystems programmes.

Together these Natural Resource Management Programmes created jobs for 68,373 previously unemployed people in the last financial year.  Of these, 52% were women, 66% were youth and 2.9% were people with disabilities.

These participants cleared 874,813 hectares of land of invasive alien plants, as well as waterweeds on 20 water bodies.  They repaired 66,024 hectares of land, as well as 124 wetlands across the country, planted 5,180,560 trees and other plants, suppressed 2,295 wild fires (and additionally used fire to manage 123,158 hectares of land), among other achievements.

Here in Sterkspruit Working for Land has been implemented in two phases. In the first phase that ran from July 2011 to July 2013 in the Sterkspruit area we employed 158 people, of whom 93 were women, 72 were youth, and 4 were people with disabilities.

In the second phase that is currently under implementation between now and August 2016 a total of 110 people are employed, of which 87 are women, 73 are youth, and 5 are people with disabilities.

Skills development is an essential facet of our programme, and we are providing both accredited and non-accredited training. Included in the non-accredited training are courses in First Aid, Occupational Health and Safety, HIV/Aids management, Life Skills and Environmental Education and Awareness.  The accredited training has been in the construction of gabions, which are rock or concrete filled cages used in civil engineering and road building, as well as in Hospitality Management and Environmental Practice.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As government we have maintained that the programmes that have been enabled through support of the EPWP serve as a gateway into the labour force for our people. By equipping them with the necessary skills and experience, many go on to full time employment, or even to start enterprises of their own.

We have invested massively in these projects of which there are 10 countrywide. In Working for Land alone we have invested R 108 million. These programmes have sustained and continue to sustain a large number of households who would have otherwise been suffering due to poverty and unemployment.

These uniquely South African programmes have been acknowledged globally and continue to receive accolades.

At a time when there is a lot of noise about government's service delivery track record, and on the radical socio-economic transformation programme of the African National Congress (ANC) who leads this country, we say: Look! Jonga!

Look at these programmes that continue to create decent work opportunities for our people.

Look at these programmes that are employing and training our people, capacitating communities, protecting livelihoods and most importantly, conserving the environment.

We are Moving South Africa Forward and anyone who has his or her doubts must come here, to Sterkspruit!

On a global level, as a member of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) South Africa is working with other countries of the world to address these challenges.

The objective of this Convention is to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought in countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa, through effective actions at all levels, with a view to contributing to the achievement of sustainable development in affected areas.

In September 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) target that should be attained by 2030.

A Land Degradation Neutral World is simply a world where we must all work hard to prevent or avoid the degradation of healthy and productive lands and where feasible, regenerate land that is already degraded.

Achieving Land Degradation Neutrality will require a broad commitment by all of us to a land stewardship or Land-Care approach. This approach calls for us to move away from what we call “degrade-abandon-migrate” to new ways of doing things which are based on the principle of “protect-sustain-restore”. This “protect-sustain-restore”. approach will require us to translate the vision of a Land Degradation Neutrality world into a lifestyle of “sustainable land use for all and by all”.

Land Degradation Neutrality adopts an integrated landscape approach that addresses food security and hunger, poverty, resilience to drought and water stress, reduction of carbon emissions, preventing environmental induced migration, creation of opportunities to invest for the people living in the degraded lands, and reducing biodiversity loss through improvement of land ecosystems conditions.Furthermore, Land Degradation Neutrality can help deliver these multiple benefits now, and set future generations on the path to real sustainability.

Our rise to this challenge of Land degradation Neutrality is part of our commitment to climate change adaptation and mitigation, biodiversity conservation, land care, job creation, eradication of rural poverty and hunger,  food security and the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's).

As Government, we therefore call for everyone to take action and join efforts to promote preparedness and resilience to desertification and drought.

Ladies and gentlemen, the noble work that government is doing to combat the effects of  drought, does contribute to achieving land degradation neutrality.

Whilst the scale of the problems of land-degradation facing the country are indeed massive, these figures show the exceptional commitment of the Government to secure a prosperous future for all its peoples.

There is annual demand for more investments  and more jobs that need to be created and therefore our collective efforts with the Departments of Public works, Water and Sanitation, AgricultureFisheries and Forestryand Rural Development and Land reform, working with our Provinces, will ensure that we succeed.

We call on the private sector to join us in this programme of preventing land degradation, rehabilitation and restoration the productivity of the land through innovative approaches that create jobs and economic opportunities in rural areas. We have to continue to use all our available resources including indigenous knowledge systems to combat land degradation and the effects of drought.

In conclusion Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to emphasize that we are all responsible for land conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources. Working together we can do more, success in this regard is in our hands.

Thank you!