25 May 2021
South Africa has one of the most magnificent environments in the world. Because of our rich variety of plants and animals, our country is ranked in the top three most biodiverse on Earth.
This places on us, as lawmakers, business, civil society and citizens, an enormous responsibility to ensure that all of us work together to ensure our natural environment is protected, and that we are all able to live in harmony with nature.
This means that the sustainable use of our natural resources in the development of our economy, and the upliftment of the lives of our people, should not be such that it destroys the environment we live in.
Land is the foundation of all life on Earth and an engine of economic growth.
We can feed more people if we treat our soils with care and prevent land degradation.
We recognise the role played by our trees in our environment and their contribution to the greening of our country.
As part of the Government Greening Programme, the President has directed our Department to coordinate and facilitate the planting of two million trees annually, for the next five years.
This makes our five-year target to be ten million trees.
The trees to be planted over this period will include those that provide shade and fruit, and those that will green human settlements and assist in rehabilitating degraded areas. Planting trees and cleaning of the communities will be intertwined.
The sourcing of trees from Community-Based Nurseries and Small and Medium Enterprises will stimulate Local Economic Development.
We believe that the planting of these two million trees annually, would need us to look at this initiative in a broader context of greening that is aimed at also addressing issues of climate change, beautification of our surroundings and rehabilitation of degraded areas, amongst others.
To ensure that two million trees are planted annually, commencing in the 2021/22 financial year, the Department will explore partnerships with Non-Government Organisations, Corporates, Municipalities, Sector Departments, and other public entities involved in the function of greening.
It is envisaged that the planting of the two million trees is planted as part of greening low-cost income housing settlements.
This will not only bring beauty into the households but also promote the importance of trees and benefits for the environment.
The Department of Human Settlement and the Municipalities are at the centre of the plan as they will have plans in terms of which areas will be getting new housing settlements.
The Department will be refurbishing four (4) of its own nurseries this financial year to meet the demand of the Greening programme. The nurseries are:
The refurbishment of the nurseries will increase production and employment for the local communities.
The Forestry Masterplan is a formal implementation plan that has been endorsed by Labour, Industry and Government, to ensure for creation and sustainability of decent employment, long-term investment, and the transfer of skills and expertise to the next generation.
The Masterplan document has identified six (6) focus areas:
Focus Area 1: Expansion of the primary resources, Maintenance and Protection
Focus Area 2: Transformation of the sector
Focus Area 3: Processing and value addition
Focus Area 4: Illegal timber and related criminal activities
Focus Area 5: Research Development and Innovation, Human Resource and Skills Development
Focus Area 6: Key inhibitors
With the Forestry Industry onboard, the Masterplan will ensure that Forestry becomes a transformed industry and represents all sectors of society.
The Department has identified three (3) plantations, namely Ramputas in Limpopo, Lehanna and Makoba in the Eastern Cape, to be transferred to the local communities in this financial year.
This is towards achieving Focus area 2: Transformation of the sector. This is but one example of how the Masterplan will be implemented.
The reforestation of South Africa will also contribute significantly to a decline in greenhouse gas emissions, and see us meet part of our international climate change obligations.
As we adapt to, and mitigate, the effects of climate change, we will be working closely with entities such as the SA Weather Service, to ensure infrastructure meets the needs of communities and that the increase in extreme weather events does not cause loss of life.
To secure our food, avoid flood and drought damage and the health of present and future generations, we need to make sure that we meet the Constitutional Right of all South Africans to an environment that is not harmful to their health and well-being.
The one area we need to scale up is the levels of public awareness about climate change and how various communities could ready themselves to deal with it.
We need to make sure that early warning information reaches affected communities timeously, in spite of the limited resources, we have ensured that repairs and maintenance of SAWS equipment is not compromised so that we can continue to provide the requisite services.
In order to constantly improve this service to the general public, the SAWS has recently introduced a new early warning service, called an Impact-Based Severe Weather Warning Service to provide early warning information to affected communities timeously.
SAWS is also working on reaching the most vulnerable through community outreach workshops, using the District Delivery Model approach.
To address climate change, the Department and partners have implemented a number of interventions at municipal level.
I will mention some examples:
Honourable Members, the Department, in partnership with the Government of Flanders is implementing adaptation projects associated with 3 different climate risks and typologies in the Amathole, Garden Route and uMzinyathi District Municipalities in the Eastern and Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal over the next three years.
This address water security and drought issues affecting the communities, the risk of fires and flooding and lightning.
It is of no use to always boast that Africa has a wealth in biodiversity and wildlife, when in the reality, the majority of Black Africans continue to be deprived from being game farmers and landowners.
Our Department’s Biodiversity Economy Programme and South Africa’s Transfrontier Conservation Areas – or TFCAs – seek to empower communities so they can manage their own eco-tourism projects within the cross-border environments.
South Africa’s protected areas are not only important for biodiversity conservation, but also for eco-tourism and the development of the rural economy.
The reviewed National Protected Areas Expansion Strategy aims to achieve cost effective protected areas expansion for improved ecosystem representation, ecological sustainability and resilience to climate change, while safeguarding more than 418 000 biodiversity-based jobs.
As we recover from the severe impacts of this pandemic, we must not only address the short-term economic pain it has caused on our economy, but we must take the opportunity to ensure a more sustainable, just, and equitable society.
Our recovery must improve the environment upon which our livelihood and well-being depend and must also tackle climate change and ensure social equity.
The big investments in infrastructure must be measured against these values.
While all of the measures are meant to ensure that we rebuild and restore the organisation and place it firmly on a green recovery trajectory, there are other important priorities that will be implemented over the MTEF period.
This includes the implementation of a transformation programme while working on an organisation-wide culture change programme, which will entrench the need to work closely with communities.
Jobs will continue to be created through the EPWP and Environmental Protection and Infrastructure Programme Extended Public Infrastructure Programme (EPIP) programmes.
These jobs, albeit temporary, contribute to not only income generation, but also benefit the environment in areas of alien and invasive plant clearing and bush and veld fire management.
Environment benefits arise from cleaning of coastal ecosystems, rehabilitation of wetlands and degraded landscapes, as well as waste management.
Some of these programmes result in the creation of new industries, for example furniture making and provision of recycling business opportunities.
Through the EPWP programmes, SANParks will create over 23 000 FTE opportunities, 29 000 jobs for youth, 24 000 for women and 1 000 for people with disabilities. More than 2 000 SMMEs will be contracted to perform a variety of services. These would include, with 400 of those contracted to exempted and qualifying micro enterprises.
With regard to Park Expansion, SANParks, in partnership with WWF-SA, is undertaking a process to establish a new national park in the North East Grasslands of the Eastern Cape.
It is important to stress that, partnerships will ensure ownership remains with communities. Meaningful economic development will be prioritised for these communities.
This will allow SANParks to establish the basis of the national park and enable placement of staff and other resources in the region to be able to expand and support the national park without incurring the potentially prohibitive costs associated with the operational management of a larger area.
The protection of our environment is of the utmost importance. This is an area that holds enormous wealth in terms of jobs and economic development with millions of people relying on nature for their livelihoods.
The Department is supporting municipalities to include environmental priorities in Local Economic Development Plans, Disaster Management Plans and Integrated Development Plans
Project specific interventions will include assistance with the upgrading and refurbishment of landfill sites and issuing of landfill site licenses, applications by municipalities to MIG for waste fleet funding, as well as assisting with funding and resources for waste cooperatives and waste pickers.
Additional aid will be given in relation to the monitoring of atmospheric emissions and air quality, the management of municipal open spaces, and designation of wetlands of significance.
Support will also be given to develop capacity and environmental education strategies to improve the competency of municipal personnel and improve environmental performance.
The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment annually participates in the IDP analysis sessions to assess the environmental sector governance in all 278 municipal IDPs across the country.
South Africa is a water-stressed country, but is also a country that boast almost 300 estuaries.
Provinces will soon become the Responsible Management Authorities for these important water bodies, which means you will have the responsibility of developing and implementing Estuarine Management Plans for the estuaries within your jurisdictions.
While the Department has a legal mandate to manage 6 estuaries, the rest fall within the mandate of the provinces. You are, therefore, urged to enter into Agreements with willing municipalities to take over the functions of the many estuaries.
At local level you are best placed to effectively manage the estuaries. Among the plans that have already been developed, a number of challenges stand out and will require commitment and dedication and strong co-ordination of all activities to be successfully addressed.
These include poor infrastructure in waste water treatment works which affect the effective management of estuaries.
This infrastructure, which is managed by municipalities, is poorly maintained overloaded, causing overflows and spills.
We do not need to be reminded that climate change is intricately linked to almost all facets of our society, particularly socio-economic progression as resources such as water, feedstock in form of food, fibre, and biodiversity.
These areas are at the base of many sectors of the economy, which in turn affect human development aspirations of the country. Coastal settlements directly exposed to extreme weather events, such as storm surges are at risk as well.
We would do well to work together to address all the challenges that face us as we adapt to, and mitigate, climate change as we create a nature-based economy from which all our people can benefit, without harming the environment.
In conclusion, I would like to thank the Honourable Minister for her leadership in the forestry, fisheries and environment sectors, especially during the past year; and to again welcome, the Department’s Director-General, Ms Nomfundo Tshabalala.
I thank the entire team in the Department for your support in the past year.
I thank you all.