"Winds of change sweep across country"

Thursday, November 20, 2014

By Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti

There are winds of change sweeping across the length and breadth of rural South Africa that are transforming these outlying areas into hives of economic activity and sustainable communities.  

This has not happened by chance but is a result of a deliberate development strategy to revitalise the country’s rural areas into vibrant and sustainable communities.

Our investment in irrigation schemes, marketplaces for livestock trade, bridges to connect communities and the provision of basic services such as clinics, water and sanitation is spurring the change.

“Our people in rural areas deserve a better quality of life and through the implementation of the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme, we are beginning to see a transformation of the rural landscape of our country and an improvement in the livelihoods of rural communities,” said President Jacob Zuma.  

Moreover, our investment in these communities is reversing the stranglehold that apartheid’s policies had inflicted on the country’s rural poor. South Africa’s rural communities were most disenfranchised by apartheid’s spatial planning which consigned the majority of black people to remote  areas.

The neglected infrastructure and poor basic services meant that millions of people languished in poverty and were deprived of suitable housing, education, access to safe water and sanitation or sustainable energy sources.

It was also difficult for rural communities to access the benefits extended to society or participate in the economy.

Today the development of rural areas is one of our five key priorities. We have invested more than R2 billion in the past five years to improve basic needs, develop rural enterprises and provide socio-economic infrastructure.

Government’s rollout of rural infrastructure projects at uMsinga in KwaZulu-Natal, launched earlier this month by President Jacob Zuma, is a prime example of how we are revitalising our rural areas.

The project aimed to develop the community around the Tugela Ferry area through the refurbishment of an irrigation scheme that waters 726 hectares of land along the Tugela River. This scheme will ensure that more than 1 000 small scale farmers are economically viable through the production of vegetables.

The restoration included the repairs to the weirs and concrete canals, lining of the existing earth dams, upgrading of the irrigation system, upgrading of three pump stations and the construction of a new pump station.

Highlighting the importance of the project during its launch, President Zuma said: “I am certain that these projects will change the lives of many and further catalyse development, job creation and investment in uMsinga.”

The initiative improves food security for the local community and boosts economic activity through the sale of their surplus produce. When the scheme is operating at full capacity it will create 2 000 seasonal jobs.

Government is investing R39 million in the project which will be completed early next year when two additional pump stations are upgraded.

We are also building a bridge over the Tugela River that will link the Mashunka community on one side of the river with government services and medical facilities on the opposite side of the river at Ngubo.

To access the clinic Mashunka community members currently have to cross the Tugela River or when the river is in flood travel 30 kilometres by road. It posed a huge challenge for those in poor health, or those unable to afford transport.

In addition, the new bridge will allow farmers to have easy access to markets at the Tugela Ferry Central Business District. 

Economic activity in the area is also be boosted through the R1.9 million construction of a permanent animal sale yard in partnership with the local livestock association in uMsinga.

Our work in uMsinga mirrors what government is doing throughout the country. It has begun a snowball effect that is creating jobs, uplifting families in these areas, breaking the cycle of poverty and supporting our national development.

Government determination for vibrant and sustainable rural communities is strengthened by the Vision 2030 of the National Development Plan (NDP). It commits the country to develop rural communities that can fully participate in the economic, social and political life of the country. 

The NDP calls for the better integration of rural areas through successful land reform, infrastructure development, job creation and poverty alleviation. 

It compels us to expand irrigated agriculture to 2 million hectares and establish more than 300 000 small scale farmers.

Vision 2030 identifies agriculture as the main economic activity in rural areas which can significantly reduce our overall unemployment by creating a million jobs by 2030.

Our path towards these long-term objectives is hastened by our Medium Term Strategic Framework goals of increasing the percentage of productive land owned by previously disadvantaged people from 11.5 per cent in 2013 to 20 per cent in 2019.

Government is confident that the change sweeping though our rural areas will have a lasting change. It will ensure food security, agricultural competitiveness and lift marginalised households out of poverty.

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