• Rich Nations Urged to Do More to Fight Poverty

    Nobel Laureate and chairperson of the Brooks World Poverty Institute, Joseph Stiglitz, says international trade will only help fight global poverty if rich countries turn their rhetoric into action.

    Speaking at the Global Poverty Summit in Johannesburg, Stiglitz pointed out that, “It is time to bring the talks to a close. Successfully doing so requires courage and sacrifice by the rich countries.”

    The summit heard that over a billion people, around a fifth of the world’s population, live in absolute poverty, despite inhabiting a world rich in resources, knowledge and technology.

    To read the article titled, “Global trade critical to reduce poverty,” click here.
    The Citizen
  • NGO Helps Subsistence Farmers

    A Zimbabwean NGO is working with villagers to increase farm production in a bid to improve living conditions for the subsistence farmers who mostly rely on agriculture for sustenance.

    Environment Africa programmes director, Innocent Hongere, says the group that is working in conjunction with other NGOs such as Practical Action is also looking to help link farmers to markets where their products are in demand.

    "As NGOs, we want to build capacity within the small scale farmers and improve production and link farmers to market. We provide monitoring, evaluation and documentation," explains Hongere.

    To read the article titled, “NGO helps Nyanyadzi farmers,” click here.
    The Zimbabwean
  • Zuma Urges South Africans to Fight Poverty

    President Jacob Zuma has urged South Africans to stand up and fight poverty.

    Speaking during celebrations to mark the Day of Goodwill at Mpendle in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands, Zuma urged communities to form themselves into the groups and be part of government's poverty alleviation programmes.

    The president called on people to stand up and cultivate the land, adding that funds are available to help organised groups who want to start projects to uplift themselves.

    To read the article titled, “Zuma urges citizens to stand up and fight poverty,” click here.
    SABC News
  • Zimbabweans In Need Food Aid, Says WFP

    The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) says nearly 1.7 million Zimbabweans will require food assistance in the 2010/11 season despite the recent recovery of the country's troubled agriculture sector.

    In a report released this week, WFP’s Jan Delbaere, points out that, "Despite the improved availability of food, up to 1.68 million people will need food assistance because prices remain comparatively high for families with low incomes and little or no access to United States dollars or South African rand."

    The report states that general poverty and food insecurity have contributed to increased prevalence of chronic malnutrition in young children.

    To read the article titled, “UN: 1.7 million Zimbabweans need food aid,” click here.
  • An Unceasing Restlessness

      “In the presence of a member of the Party, the people are silent […] But when the evening comes, away from the village, in the cafes or by the river, the bitter unceasing anger makes itself heard” - Franz Fanon

    The time has come for us to give power back to the people. The working poor are exhausted by the cycle of poverty that traps them in informal settlements and townships where seething anger against the state often breaks out into violence and mounting xenophobic attacks as people compete for scarce resources.

    One big focus is education. Our children are robbed of quality education because we as parents are not involved. We do not demand that decisive action is taken against teachers who arrive late, are unprepared for their lessons and are sometimes abusive or drunk. Most teachers are dedicated professionals but there is a minority that deny our children the right to quality education. We appear not to be outraged when computer laboratories opened with great fanfare lay unused, or where school libraries, sporting and laboratory facilities are simply nonexistent.

    Today there is a pervasive restlessness as youths contemplate prospects post-school where a matriculation pass does not guarantee employment. Having to face a future of joblessness is debilitating because work gives one human dignity and purpose. In South Africa, over half of our youth between 15 and 24 years are unemployed and are unlikely to ever get a job. Of the 4.3 million unemployed, over 3.2 million are between 15 and 35.

    Add this to the experience of trying to enter the job market with limited skills, with warding off the ever-present lure of drug and alcohol abuse, a threatened sense of belonging and identity and what you have is a toxic mix potentially fueling fatalistic behaviour, which our country can ill afford - especially not with our reality of HIV and AIDS.

    If we look at other countries, especially fragile and post-conflict states where youths have unmet expectations, what we see is a ticking time bomb. In countries and states where violence is endemic these young people constitute the core of militias that rampage through society driving narrow political interests and crime. This is particularly sobering as developing countries present a ‘youth bulge’, a largely youthful population group.

    Many young people I have spoken to over the years through work with an NGO dealing with HIV/AIDS amongst youth, say they feel alienated by the language of an older generation which consistently juxtaposes the waywardness of today’s youth with the commitment and dedication to the freedom struggle of their elders or parents. They feel increasingly marginalised and angered by the wealth they see, but know they will never have. A wealth they associate with a 'connected elite', while they are forced to face the reality of their own lives and the hardships their parents still endure.

    Consequently, they are drawn to demagogues who spew rhetoric that appeals to the base of their unmet expectations, and identify with leadership that promises ‘voice’ and change.

    We all want change. The restlessness that permeates the air is of ordinary people not afraid to ask questions and who are not intimidated by political or commercial pressures. It is the ‘unceasing anger’ of people frustrated by not being assured the potential of employment or decent work and by the lack of dignity in not being able to put food on the table.

    In our quest to improve the lives of our people, and to deepen democracy we are compelled to strengthen civil society. The NGO sector and social movements played a critical role in our fight for freedom; and must be harnessed to face new demands of transparency and accountability.

    The mistake we made was to think that all our socio-economic challenges would disappear once we had our freedom. In developing a comprehensive programme of reconstruction and development, many NGOs and civics felt their raison d’être was achieved and no longer relevant or needed in a new South Africa. NGO projects and leadership were subsumed into the state structures, compromising a power once had. Volunteerism by a broad section of our diverse society - the bedrock of our resistance movement - dissipated and the culture of servant leadership appears somewhat of a figment of a bygone era.

    A new people’s contract demands that those in power and in political office serve with humility; that corruption will not be tolerated; that jobs and decent work will be prioritised; that ‘tenderpreneurs’ and a predatory elite who corrupt state officials, steal licences and buy and sell tenders are exposed; that our civil liberties are protected; and that leaders account for babies dying in our hospitals.
    We need to go back to the lessons of the Eighties. Social mobilisation and powerful and informed grassroots organisations are what won us our political freedom. Today we face a new war against poverty, inequality and corruption. We need to stand united against mediocrity and non performance and the poor will be the centre of our debates, policies, programmes and delivery. We need more voices to challenge power with the TRUTH.

    - Jay Naidoo’s memoir, Fighting for Justice, is available at all leading bookstores. To contact Jay Naidoo or purchase the book, visit The Just Cause.

    SANGONeT and The Just Cause are offering 12 autographed copies of Jay Naidoo’s book to NGO Pulse readers. To win a copy, please visit and submit your entry of a volunteer effort that can be replicated or used as a model of volunteerism.

    Jay Naidoo
  • Abandoned Children on the Increase in SA

    More than 2 000 children are abandoned annually in South Africa because of AIDS, poverty, drug abuse and teenage pregnancies, according to Child Welfare South Africa (CWSA).

    The organisation has also revealed that mothers, particularly economic migrants and asylum seekers from neighbouring countries, are abandoning their children in big numbers at hospitals after birth.

    Acting Gauteng coordinator of CWSA, Megan Briede, has been quoted as saying that between 2000 and 2300 cases of child abandonment and neglect have been recorded over the last three years, an increase of between eight percent and 10 percent year on year.

    To read the article titled, “More than 2 000 kids abandoned annually,” click here.

    Sunday Times
  • ICRC Buys Starving Livestock to Feed the Needy

    The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Mali has bought up thousands of starving animals, slaughters them and distributes the meat to the country’s drought-stricken population.

    With containers in hands, residents await the meat from four cows slaughtered in the village in the north-west of the country, which have lost too much weight from lack of grazing and water.

    The organisation says it seeks to buy 38 000 head of cattle from 10 000 families of farmers and farmers affected by the cumulative effects of insecurity and drought in northern Mali and northern Niger.

    To read the article titled, “Red Cross buys animals for food,” click here .
    Article link: 
  • SASSA Employees Arrested Over Fraud

    Two women have been arrested for allegedly defrauding the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) of about R4 million in KwaZulu-Natal.

    Lieutenant-Colonel Vincent Mdunge of the South African Police Service, points out that the suspects would assist people who wanted to receive illegal grants from the agency with applications.

    Mdunge says that, “People would apply for grants under false pretences of being ill and the women would allegedly assist them in receiving the grants." He argues that once the application is approved for a grant, the suspects would either split the money with the false applicants or keep the money for themselves.

    To read the article titled, “SASSA employees accused of fraud,” click here .
    Independent Online
    Article link: 
  • Food Gardens: CSI’s Ugly Duckling Soon to Become the Swan?

    South Africa’s government has committed itself to achieving eight Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and arguably the chief determinant among these is food security. That’s because human development is dependent on human health. And good health is dependent on good nutrition.

    Yet, initiatives that seek to support marginalised and poor communities’ food security appear to be left to gather up the crumbs under the corporate social investment (CSI) funding table in South Africa. The lion’s share of CSI funding locally is channelled into education, health and HIV, and social and community development, understandably. However, food security – as a class of development project – falls seventh on the list after Enterprise Development and the Environment.

    It would seem that the powerful dual impact of food security projects is being overlooked, or much misunderstood. This dual nature encompasses both short-term reactive and long-term proactive solutions to social inequity and injustice.

    Firstly, the provision of support for community food security initiatives allows development workers a direct and tangible way to support the basic and immediate welfare needs of a targeted community. A feeding scheme allows poor and malnourished people access to good nutritious food for as close to free as possible. There are different models for getting this right; from collecting surplus (e.g. after sell-by-date) merchandise from the formal economy, to negotiating regular donor support (in cash or in kind) from the private sector to procure food for distribution to the needy. Logistics preclude this sort of public benefit activity to urban areas, however, where concentrations of poor people and their relative proximity to food supply allow for cost effective service delivery.

    Secondly, best practice food security projects have also recognised that building sustainability into their operating model means building self-sufficiency into the package for the beneficiary. Indeed, to coin a phrase, who can argue with the logic of giving someone their own fishing rod and teaching them to fish for themselves – as opposed to feeding them just for the day? Teaching the poor and malnourished how to cultivate their own nutritious food is both the most noble and the most cost effective food security intervention.

    But creating the right environment for those who wish to take up the skills learnt – to establish and care for their own food garden as part of a new lifestyle – also requires the provision of basic farmer support (having a local presence providing information, expertise, and possibly collectively bargained discount inputs and collectively bargained marketing channels – where possible). Yes, there is arguably a role and a place for activation campaigns (getting people to start growing veggies), but more importantly, there is a need for ongoing support.

    Among local CSI funders over the past while, there has been more a failure to recognise that food security projects, be they feeding scheme or home-farmer developing in nature, require sustained ongoing and uninterrupted support. All too often a project is funded just long enough to see the food garden established – without ensuring that the requisite support structures that need to exist to support the micro-farmer are in place and are themselves sustainable.

    All agricultural production worldwide requires sustained public support: be it in the provision of infrastructure to help deliver inputs and produce efficiently, to tax breaks and incentives, through to direct state subsidies, no farmer can succeed without sustained support of his/her community.

    And so it is true for the micro-farmer at the homestead in Port St Johns in rural Eastern Cape through to the community garden initiative in urban Khayelitsha in the Western Cape: all require ongoing, uninterrupted support. And as many sound instances in these areas are demonstrating, long-term funding support is producing real, deep and meaningful change in the lives of beneficiaries:

    A culture of growing one’s own food is re-entrenched, with a small but growing minority of beneficiaries now making a living from their food gardens – earning enough money to send their kids to functional schools and to save for the future;
    They are also providing good, healthy produce to their immediate community at a fair price thus simultaneously increasing that community’s food security directly, and, reducing that community’s carbon footprint (growing vegetable gardens organically sinks carbon, and, growing it locally means much less fossil fuels burnt transporting it to market).

    This is not pie in the sky idealism. This is real, and the results are demonstrable. However, the incidence of success is far too small in the face of the need in our country. We require a countrywide movement in support of home and community food gardening, and the movement needs patrons who are in it for the long term. Every community deserves and should have an opportunity to engage with the possibilities that food gardening provides – from the Nelson Mandela Metro to the Winnie Mandela informal settlement. This reach requires much greater levels of investment and commitment from the South African corporate social investment community.

    Designed expertly, managed efficiently and funded earnestly, food security projects in South Africa will lay the foundation of a prosperous nation for all. The seemingly out of place ugly duckling will, in time and with support, grow to be the swan.

    - Graeme Wilkinson is a senior CSI Practitioner at Tshikululu Social Investments specialising in sustainable livelihoods and community development. It is republished here with the permission of Tshikululu Social Investment .

    Graeme Wilkinson
  • Let Economic Recovery Count for the Poor

    Since the global economic slump set in almost two years ago, there has been a flurry of activities aimed at returning economies back on track and, mercifully, signs are starting to emerge that the worst has possibly been shoved behind us, at least for now. Indeed, according to the latest quarterly bulletin of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB), recovery in global economic activity gained momentum in early 2010. This is thanks to the large-scale monetary and fiscal stimulus that continued in many parts of the World.

    A bit of wind was, however, taken out of the sails by doubts over creditworthiness of certain large businesses as well as the highly indebted countries, most of which are in the less developed regions of the world not to mention the Greek woes that received a belated relief from the European Union in late March. Moreover, policy adjustments aimed at checking an upsurge in the general price level in the United States of America and China tended to result in a less than welcome credit squeeze while jittery investors, quite rightly, had it at the back of their minds that state stimulus packages were merely transitory initiatives that would disappear sooner than later.

    In South Africa, the global economic mess caused an economic contraction in early 2009 resulting in a real gross domestic product (GDP) decline by 1.8 percent - a concomitant of which was a sharp decline in employment and a huge dent on household incomes, especially the poor ones. In his budget speech, the Eastern Cape MEC for Finance, Mcebisi Jonas, noted that according to South Africa’s labour force survey, about 95 000 jobs were lost across the province between the final quarter of 2008 and the final quarter of 2009 - a significant seven percent of all the jobs in the province. This in part implies that certain sectors continued shedding jobs well into the period when the recovery was underway. As a result, the Eastern Cape is said to have lost more jobs than South Africa as a whole in proportionate terms. These massive job losses, unfortunately, set the province back five years in terms of job creation - returning to employment levels registered in 2004. The worst culprit in the job-shedding frenzy was the motor industry which laid off up to 52 000 workers.

    Alongside the rest of the global economy, as noted above, the South African economy has crawled back slowly into a recovery path. In general terms, the post-election period in 2009 coincided with a gradual positive growth of the economy, but certainly not sufficient to provide much tangible relief to the battered economy. That is why you probably dismissed me as being crazy for suggesting, way too early, that the benefits of the recovery be brought to bear on the poor. In any case our trickle down economics do not allow for such ‘reckless’ policy options that have the potential to upset the markets and jeopardise the very growth that we yearn for.

    But the model deems it perfectly in order to bail out ailing big businesses — supposedly to save jobs and keep corporate ‘fat-cats’ in a productive mood. Well, the model is deeply flawed and seemingly, we are clueless when it comes to making the markets work for the poor. But do we try hard enough to whip the market into working for all and therefore contribute to equitable beneficiation? Or are state operatives too tightly enmeshed to the big business interests to notice the travails of the less fortunate in the society?

    Although huge losses were undoubtedly suffered by the big businesses, the collective losses to thousands of families whose breadwinners lost jobs by far outweigh the losses by the former. The multiplier effect of their meagre wages has an enormous impact on the local economy and once they are out of a job, there is a negative knock-on effect on numerous sectors of the economy not to mention the direct adversity to their families’ social-economic wellbeing. To its partial credit, the national government deemed it fit to adjust upwardly, social transfers and even broaden the reach to cover more children. One has to hasten to say that this should not constitute a long-term strategy of fighting poverty, because it is certainly not sustainable.

    The state’s other initiative around Expanded Public Works though a noble one is fraught with numerous challenges and politicisation that may render it just as good as other initiatives that were supposedly meant to help or empower the vulnerable but ended up being new avenues for rent-seeking behaviour and political patronage. Already the bad manners exhibited by senior ruling party operatives appear to be rubbing off on the increasingly roguish African National Congress Youth League . Recently it was reported that in the Nkonkobe municipality (Amathole DM) ANCYL members were denying fellow youths participation in a non-party initiative, allegedly because the opportunities were only meant for ‘cadres’. In other words, one had to become a paid-up member of the party in order to enjoy the conventional rights of an ordinary citizen! Unfortunately, this is becoming a standard experience for many job-seekers who are not ‘connected’.

    In spite of the good intentions (in some cases), our responses to the challenges of the moment are unlikely to yield the desired results. For instance, the Eastern Cape’s current budget was totally unable to come up with credible strategies for creating jobs. It even had no response to the most recent job losses. The references to the on-going recovery in the motor industry as a positive sign of better things to come offers no immediate relief to the newly jobless. In fact, the rather sluggish pull out of the recession just adds to the despair of the thousands that were already waiting on the wings prior to the economic slump. Hopefully, the Reserve Bank’s recent decrease in the interest rates to 6.5 percent will spur a bit of growth as businesses take advantage of cheaper funds.

    Even so, there is still a lot more that the state can do to shore up market-driven growth while at the same time addressing equity concerns in a manner that produces a win-win outcome for all. But it has to start by re-examining its approaches and the actual implementation of its initiatives. For instance, budgets should reflect an explicit appreciation of the need to grow the economy and create meaningful jobs. Although the recent Eastern Cape budget attempted to align its estimates with priorities around improvement of the quality of education and health services, rural development and even the fight against corruption, only about eight percent was set aside as the capital component of the budget. Our recurrent expenditure is astronomically too disproportionate to our development budget. It is not clear how this is supposed to reflect a genuine desire to address our numerous developmental challenges.

    All the spheres of the state need to re-look at just how they implement some of the rosy policies and sound programmes that have been put on paper. The provincial state has to show willingness to curb wastage of public revenue within its ranks and look into ways of strengthening its oversight role over the municipalities. As things stand, the COGTA-driven Turn-around Strategy (TAS) that was hailed as a real roadmap to deliver municipalities out of the quagmire of dismally poor service delivery performance appears to be in limbo. Targets and deadlines are starting to be breached and stakeholders have conveniently been shunted by the wayside.

    On its part, the national state must stamp out the shameless pilferage and rent-seeking behaviour which are quickly becoming the past-time for politicians and top bureaucrats alike. Also, government in general has to depart from the idea that you only need to throw money at challenges for them to dissipate. While our increased budgetary allocation to the social sector is commendable, supervision of how services are rendered is even more important. Not all poor health services are related to lack of drugs and equipment — over 50 percent have to do with an indifferent attitude among healthcare givers, just like much of the dismal performance in our schools is attributable to indiscipline among learners as well as ineptitude among a section of our teachers.

    All these things happen because no one is held to account for their acts of omission or commission - needless to say that it’s the poor that invariably bear the brunt of the resultant mess. The state has to move away from hollow rhetoric to the active pursuit of its stated developmental objectives. This endeavour must reflect a practical desire to broaden access to the benefits of growth and even to the means by which to attain economic growth and development. Much as the various so-called empowerment schemes are important, they have failed to rope-in the majority. They only seem to benefit politicians and their cronies. Crucially, we should be alive to the fact that the perpetual marginalisation of the majority is not sustainable. The growing inequality is a ticking time-bomb. Remedial measures are required sooner than later for chickens will, inevitably, come home to roost.

    - Peter Kimemia manages all programme activities including project staff and resources at
    Afesis-corplan. His current research focus is on promoting good local governance practice.
    Peter Kimemia
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