By Adelene van Zyl
The photo is take by Adelene van Zyl. Setšong works with community elders to create a range of tea blends, using indigenous plant material. For more information please visit their website at https://setsong.co.za/.
The importance of rural development in South Africa has increased significantly due to the increasing need for job creation to support the populations living under the poverty line. Currently 80% of South Africa comprises of rural areas, providing housing for over 20 million citizens.
Rural development is defined by the World Bank (1975) as: “A strategy designed to improve the economic and social life of a specific group of people – the rural poor. It involves extending the benefits of development to the poorest among those who seek a livelihood in the rural areas.”
This definition can be broken down into two main factors considering the implementation of rural development. The first factor is to improve the economic life of a rural community members by implementing sustainable job creation, which will improve their disposable income. By increasing the disposable income of the community, each member is given the opportunity to become more food secure and to improve their living standards. The second factor, namely improving the community member’s social life, means that the member will gain dignity through increased opportunities created by education. By educating rural communities, members are equipped with skills that create opportunities for them to follow other career paths other than small scale farming.
One can also see from the definition that rural development does not guarantee economic growth. Instead of economic growth, the focus is rather on the improvement of the human condition through the eradication of poverty, the reduction of inequality and the implementation of long-term social development. According to the Rural Development Report (2016), it also consists of agricultural development, which is the process of improving the lives and economic wellbeing of farmers, the value chain and agricultural workers.
There have been several approaches to rural development in the past namely, community development, intensive agriculture, integrated rural development, livelihood approaches, participatory paradigm, and agricultural growth through smallholder farming. However, the success rate of these approaches has shown to be insignificant since agriculture is seen as a declining sector, causing a lack of funding and an urban bias approach.
South Africa cannot afford another ten years of unsuccessful rural development programmes. With the increasing demand for food due to the increasing global population, the agricultural sector provides opportunities for job creation. It is important that the government and key role players in the agricultural sector should rethink and redevelop new rural development strategies.
I would like to suggest that economic growth, in other words, profitability, must become a key factor in rural development. The reason for this suggestion is that rural development already implies a Pareto improvement, in other words, to improve the welfare of one individual without decreasing the welfare of another individual. If we consider this definition compared to the meaning of rural development, one can see the gap of resource provision. Even though the country is dependent on government involvement, we cannot assume that they are in the position to keep on providing funds for rural development. To ensure the success of rural development, rural communities should be educated and provided with skills so that they can become self-efficient.
During the next few weeks, I will explain why economic growth must be included in rural development. In the meantime, I would like to introduce the following mindset:
sustainable development can only succeed when each South African stop demanding what they need from the country but start giving the country what it needs.