Sustainable rural development in the Eastern Cape would need a package of interventions if real local economic opportunities for rural communities were to be created.
This was the combined message from three speakers at a seminar hosted by the European Union and Office of the Premier-funded Sustainable Rural Development in the Eastern Cape (SURUDEC) and its local implementing agent, RuLiv in East London in April 2012.
Entitled ‘Rural Livelihoods and Development Planning: Experiences from the Eastern Cape’, the seminar heard presentations from the Eastern Cape Social and Economic Consultative Council (ECSECC), the Agricultural extension department of the University of Fort Hare and from SURUDEC.
Most of the opportunities probably lay in the agro-processing sector according to ECSECC's CEO, Andrew Murray.
He added that as agriculture contributed a mere 2.6 percent to the provincial gross domestic product (GDP), beneficiation and value chains needed to be explored and would probably be the sector where most jobs could be created.
One possible strategy was aggregating micro-projects with a focus on value chain multipliers, but Murray cautioned that producers had to produce the right product at the right time within a market system.
“It’s important to link micro-projects with manufacturing at scale, this needs to be a costed instrument and we have been too slow in getting it right – this needs to be speeded up”.
“Values have to be shared; it is no good squeezing small producers on one end of the scale while manufacturers take home huge revenues.”
Training and learning incubators were also important as making land more productive was a lengthy process and consisted of more than mere access to land. Capital, knowledge and skills together with labour were also needed.
On training, Murray’s view was echoed by Professor Francois Lategan of the Agricultural Extension department at the University of Fort Hare who added that past training of agricultural extension officers had failed and that today’s students needed training in a multiplicity of skills in order to equip them for the job.
This included entrepreneurial skills, innovation and understanding markets. he most crucial skill was the ability to identify opportunities and act on them.
“We lack a message or a workable model for small scale farmers but the message needs to include instilling an entrepreneurial slant.
“Farmers, big and small, need to be shown how to recognise opportunities to make money,” he concluded.
SURUDEC programme coordinator, Dr Stephen Atkins, outlined SURUDEC’s asset-based approach to development which included recognition that communities employed multiple livelihood strategies and that local conditions determined responses and interventions.
An example was one SURUDEC-funded project in the Indwe area, a large farm obtained through a restitution award in 2001. While the farm co-operative had R70 000 in its bank account and was now valued at R10 million, the enterprise could potentially earn a net profit of R600 000 a year while employing 20 people full time.
However, currently additional enterprise and employment generating options were not being considered and Atkins pointed to potential rental accrued from a cell phone mast which was not being collected by the enterprise.
“The business is in a fragile state and long term plans need to be made by all stakeholders for sustainability of the enterprise,” he added.
The second case study was of an ecotourism development initiative at Cata, near Keiskammahoek in which existing and new birding hiking trails were refurbished and developed, a community institution was set up and given business skills training and marketing material had been produced. In addition, the project dovetailed well with previous community development initiatives.
Atkins concluded with some of the lessons coming out of the SURUDEC programme in the Eastern Cape which included:
- It was vital that robust and accurate data support rural development actions;
- It was important to know the area and know the people concerned;
- Possibilities and the challenges needed to be identified;
- Being realistic of the scale and scope of the intervention was needed from the beginning;
- It was important to identify the resources required to undertake an action and to budget correctly;
- Time frames or horizons needed constant monitoring and management;
- Building capacity over time and planning for support and mentoring was an integral part of any intervention and must be planned and budgeted for;
- The prioritisation of options needed to be managed constantly;
- It was important to network with relevant practitioners.
SURUDEC is a joint programme of the European Union and Republic of South Africa. The Contracting Authority is the Eastern Cape Office of the Premier (OTP) and the Implementing Agent is Promoting Rural and Urban Livelihoods (Ruliv), based in East London.
SURUDEC aims to reduce poverty in the province by providing grant funding to support the design and implementation of integrated community-driven development plans (ICDPs). These are plans of action that indicate ways in which the economic situation of a community will be improved and how its asset base will grow over time. These plans would inform district and local government IDPs, and importantly, over time and as resources become available, elements of each community plan would be implemented, either directly from community resources, or in combination with funds from partners, donors or Government.
- Barbara Manning is the Visibility and Communications Coordinator (SURUDEC) within Ruliv.