Government policies that bring rural young people into the economic mainstream are essential for South Africa’s sustainable development, according to a global report by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
The report was presented yesterday in Pretoria by IFAD President, Kanayo F. Nwanze. He emphasized that with almost a quarter of South Africans aged between 15 and 24, and more than half of them unemployed, policies that expand employment – especially in agriculture – are essential.
“Who is going to grow the food for us tomorrow? We need our young people to take their creativity, their energy and their capacity for hard work and apply it to growing and processing food,” said Nwanze. “But it doesn’t just happen, it depends on the choices that are made, firstly by governments, but also by the private sector, by civil society, and by institutions like IFAD.”
The Rural Development Report 2016, IFAD’s flagship publication, is a rallying call to policymakers and development practitioners to win the global war against poverty. It brings together leading thinkers to analyse the experiences of rural development in over 60 developing countries, including South Africa. This extensive research provides a solid foundation on which leaders and institutions can base their policy choices and investments.
Nwanze said this focus on rural development is critical because three quarters of the world’s poor live in rural areas and the incomes of 2.5 billion people worldwide still depend directly on rural small farms.
According to Hans Binswanger-Mkhize, Extraordinary Professor at the University of Pretoria who contributed to the writing of the report, inclusiveness is essential for poverty reduction and this is where South Africa is lacking.
“Inclusiveness is about providing everyone, without exception, with livelihood opportunities and the ability to participate in the economy,” he said. “In South Africa’s rural areas, this has absolutely not happened.”
Tsakani Ngomane, Outcome Facilitator on Rural Development from the South African government’s Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, said that the Rural Development Report resonates well with the objectives of the Government’s National Development Plan 2030. “But what is clear is that even though we have the right policies, it is not happening in an inclusive manner,” she said.
The report is set in the context of a rapidly changing world, with growing demand for food, increased migration to cities and the impact of climate change and environmental degradation. It provides insight into regional and country-specific challenges and historical legacies and how factors like employment, youth populations, land reform, access to finance, gender equality and social protection influence the success of poverty eradication.
The event was co-hosted by the University of Pretoria, who are already using the report as a core resource in their agriculture and rural development studies.