Cape Town - Small businesses in rural areas in sectors such as tourism and manufacturing as well as farmers, are expected to get an added boost with government's comprehensive rural development programme.
Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Joe Phaahla said the department had finalised the framework for the programme and had begun developing the Green Paper on Rural Development and Land Reform which should be ready by the end of the year. The ultimate goal of the programme is the "creation of vibrant communities", he said.
"We are looking at opportunities beyond just agriculture. We are looking at tourism, at small manufacturing (concerns) and we are saying if you improve the infrastructure, if you improve the skills in the rural areas, the opportunities will be there for a vibrant community in those rural areas," said Phaahla on Tuesday.
He said the department together with the Departments of Housing and Public Works would look at developing infrastructure in the rural areas. The department would also work with the Presidency to tackle the problem of poverty.
The direction of the Green Paper would be strongly informed by the pilots that the department had established in various provinces.
Following the national launch of the programme by President Jacob Zuma in August at Muyexe, Limpopo, the department had identified further pilot sites in six other provinces, namely: Riemvasmaak in the Northern Cape, Mhonhlo in the Eastern Cape, Mkhondo in Mpumalanga, Diatalawa in the Free State and Msinga in the Free State.
In Muyexe the department had identified over 21 projects covering a wide range of interventions, said Phaahla.
The department's Strategic Plan 2009-2012 outlines the three pillars of the comprehensive rural development programme, namely: agrarian transformation, rural development and land reform.
Agrarian transformation includes among other things the sustainable use of natural resources and the use of appropriate technology and indigenous knowledge systems.
Under the programme a rural development agency would be set up to plan, co-ordinate, monitor and evaluate rural development, while regional rural development plans will be drawn up covering a five-year period.
Phaahla said while some believed that the country should rather focus on industrialisation to achieve economic growth, rural development remained a key area.
"We are indeed convinced that we are on the right track in terms of making sure that when we talk of economic growth we are talking about the entire South Africa and not only concentrating on the small portions in the urban areas," he said.