Chairperson of the House,
Honourable Minister, Ms Barbara Creecy,
Chairperson of the Portfolio, Mr Xasa,
Honourable Members of Parliament,
The top management of Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment,
All the CEOs of the Department's entities,
Ladies and gentlemen,
As of 1st April 2021, our Department has been officially renamed as the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment. The prominence given to Forestry in this order of title is neither a mistake nor a farce.
It is simply a recognition that, without trees and forests, there would be no healthy clean environment for biodiversity and ecosystem to thrive.
This means, there are environmental and social aspects of forestry, which are equally important to the well-being of our society in general.
And, this has also been highlighted by the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, where it agreed that the forestry function is broader than just a focus on commercial forestry.
For instance, all terrestrial biodiversity lives in forests and each year, many species go extinct as a result of forests being destroyed.
Furthermore, forests play a role in climate change, and deforestation results in 12-18% of the world's carbon emissions and accelerated global warming.
And, as we all know, forests and trees provide food, fibre and even medicines for approximately 1.6billion of the world's population, especially in the rural, remote communities.
In the same vein, we have been advised and encouraged by our President, His Excellency Mr. Ramaphosa, that, we need to simplify this high-level language of International Agreements and Instruments on climate change, by embarking on awareness campaigns and projects to practically exhibit this importance of trees, and to addressing concerns of climate change, and lack of cleaning and greening of our communities.
And, as part of the Government Greening Programme, the President has directed that our Department coordinates and facilitates the planting of two million trees annually, for the next five years.
By this, we refer mainly to the ornamental shade, fruit, and tree species that are used for greening in human settlements and in the rehabilitation of degraded areas. Planting of trees and cleaning of the communities will be intertwined.
We are thus happy to announce to the nation, that our Department will be officially launching the Greening, Cleaning and Planting of Trees Project on 5th June 2021, which is the World Environment Day.
And, we are assuring our people, that this is not a symbolic eventful project, but a project that is a kick-start to a Forestry Master-plan with possibilities and opportunities for skills development in the environment in general; transformation, growth and, creation of our economy; and employment opportunities, especially to our youth and women.
The Forestry Master-plan 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.
And, to prepare for a successful implementation of this Master-plan, the Ministry has begun with inspection visits to all our regional offices across the nine Provinces, to ensure that, our structure and reconfiguration of our Department is in line with the governance structure as adopted in our Departmental Master-Plans.
We want to ensure that our Department has a human capital/work-force that always offer well trained and skills graduates, vocational training in the Forestry, Fisheries and Environment sectors.
If we truly want to achieve the Africa Agenda 2063: a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity; then we need to ensure that our societies, communities and villages in South/Africa, are continuously empowered to manage their own environmental infrastructure and natural resources well, through a biodiversity economy.
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 land-owners.
Just to mention, our Department's Biodiversity Economy Programme: the South Africa's Trans-frontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs), seeks to empower communities so they can manage their own eco-tourism projects within the cross-border environments.
A Budget of R400 000 has been set aside for four projects in this financial year for Qwaqwa in the Free State, Awelani, Mahlati, and Gijana/Bevula in Limpopo Community Structures.
Two Community Conservation Areas (Awelani and Mahlati) will receive boreholes this year for the provision of water in their reserves. The amount allocated to this is R350 000.
The Khomani San and Mier (Botswana and South Africa) community-owned lodge in the Kgalalgadi Transfrontier Park -- !Xaus Lodge -- is to be fitted with solar panels to not only deal with regular power outages, but also to improve the energy efficiency of the lodge. A total of R450 000 has been allocated to this project.
The Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area Integrated Development plan will be concluded this year and it aims to develop a structured plan for developing areas that fall within the Lubombo TFCA encompassing areas in Eswatini, Mozambique and South Africa.
This process will follow a substantive stakeholder consultation processes at ground level in all three partner countries to ensure that the plan is aimed at benefiting all that reside in these areas as well as creating economic opportunities as well as transboundary eco-tourism. R800 000 has been allocated to this project.
In addition to our Eco-Tourism Economy efforts, our Department will also be implementing projects approved through a grant from the Global Environment Fund of R56 million over a five-year period to sustainably manage grazing lands (the Fetakgomo Local Municipality in Limpopo and in the Dawid Kruiper Local Municipality in the Northern Cape.)
This fund will alleviate the effects of desertification, land degradation and the severe drought in our country.
Given the strategic importance of rehabilitating and restoring degraded landscapes, through the presidential stimulus package, a programme to support restoration of degraded land for sustainable livelihoods, through upscaling of sustainable land management practices in different provinces, has been developed.
By these flagship projects within the Biodiversity Economy, we want to focus on re-building an economy that would again be resilient, low carbon and sustainable, after the Covid-19 pandemic ravaged our country's, continent's and world-wide's, economies and livelihoods.
By unlocking the potential that exists with traditional communities, rural poverty will be reduced, and traditional communities will be able to participate fully and effectively in the South Africa's and African continent's economic recovery.
That is why, Chairperson, for the last 6 months starting in November 2020, we continued with the official opening and handing-over of facilities to our Municipalities to ensure that we make the nature-based Green Economy a reality.
Recently, we officially opened and handed over the Awelani Eco-Tourism Lodge and Community Conservation Area in Vhembe District Municipality in Limpopo.
This Lodge employs 23 permanent staff members, all of whom are from beneficiary communities. This year accredited training will be provided to empower these and other community structures that are being supported in their eco-tourism projects within TFCAs.
In March 2021, we handed over the Lekgalameetsi Nature Reserve in the Maruleng District Municipality, Limpopo. And, again, on 30th April 2021, we handed over the Environmental Education Centre to the Maluti A Phofung Municipality in Qwaqwa, Free State.
Our Department is committed to the District Development Model (DDM) to ensure that the municipalities conserve these resources and use them sustainably.
It is critical for municipalities to be able to manage their environmental infrastructure and natural resources well, as they are sources of sustenance and income generation for most households.
Through the DDM's "One Plan", our Department will continue to endeavour that all our infrastructure programmes are always carried out with the required environmental authorizations.
Protecting our environment in a manner that benefit our people for generations to come, is key to the development of environmental initiatives that would create low carbon and climate resilient development in line with both the National Development Plan 2030 and the Africa Agenda 2063.
We want our people to fully participate in the South African's economy recovery. No one must be left behind in our African continent.
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, and thank the entire team in the Department for your support in the past year.
I thank you all.