The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has released its annual report which reiterates the department's commitments to transparency, accountability, inclusiveness and public participation.

Launched under the theme, "Good Governance", the 2015/16 report provides the public with an update on the department's financial and non-financial performance.

Presenting the report in Pretoria on Tuesday, the department's Director-General Mike Mlengana said the report also seeks to promote transparency in reporting the public revenue to stakeholders, who are mainly the citizens of the country, who in turn can hold government to account for the use of resources.

"This can only happen when they are able to access information, which must be made publicly available. Therefore, public participation, especially public engagement is critical.

"In pursuit of clean and accountable administration, we need to engage and mobilise all stakeholders. This will help to elevate our efforts to fight fraud and corruption. Rampant fraud and corruption have been identified as significant risks threatening the sustainability of public resources," said Mlengana.

The report highlights the department's achievements and challenges, including the current drought which has had devastating effects on the agricultural, forestry and fisheries sectors, as well as the agricultural value chain.

Six provinces -- KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West and Northern Cape -- were declared disaster areas, while the Western Cape and Eastern Cape have only declared certain district municipalities as disaster areas.

The department, collaborating with provincial departments of agriculture allocated an amount of R381 million towards drought relief following the reprioritisation of the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme and Ilima/Letsema programme.

The provincial equitable share funds to a total of R 124 million was allocated to assist with the relief of smallholder producers with animal feed and water reticulation for livestock consumption.

In addition, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) has made available an amount of R500 million to the Land Bank for lending to farmers. The Land Bank has also indicated that it would make an amount of R400 million available for concessional loans to commercial farmers affected by the drought.

The department has prioritised youth development and empowerment through various programmes including partnerships with institutions of higher learning, both domestically and abroad.

Currently, the department has 76 students doing their postgraduate studies at three universities in China. A further 311 students were awarded bursaries to pursue different fields of study in agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

The department has also initiated the compulsory community services for newly qualified veterinarians and the first group of 126 have been strategically placed to service resource-poor farmers in the rural and underserved areas of the country.

Meanwhile, the department has finalised the Fishing Rights Allocation Process (FRAP) 2013 appeals on all the eight fishing sectors. Nine sector-specific policies have been developed and finalised, leading to a call for applications to apply for the FRAP 2016 fishing rights.

The distribution of application forms took place throughout the country with the department received 5 597 applications. The allocations are expected to be finalised early in 2017.

To fast track the growth of the aquacultural sector, an amount of R338 million in private sector investment has been committed to supplement the R106 million government investments.

In the nine farms, which are already in production, 521 jobs have been created, while a further 335 jobs are envisaged.

On 24 February 2016, President Jacob Zuma signed into law the Amended Marine Living Resources Act, which recognises, for the first time in the history of the country, small scale fishing as a fishing sector.

During the launch, stakeholders also signed a Commitment Charter, a demonstration of their commitment to fight fraud and corruption.


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