The Eastern Cape’s R120 million European Union-funded rural development pilot programme has successfully tested a new developmental approach and measurably changed the lives of grantee communities over the past three years says the province’s Sustainable Rural Development in the Eastern Cape (SURUDEC) Programme.
The Eastern Cape Office of the Premier is the contracting authority and the SURUDEC programme is being implemented by RuLIV, an East London based non-profit organisation. The programme was established to reduce poverty in the rural areas of the Eastern Cape.
SURUDEC assisted communities by ensuring that grants were awarded to legal entity partners, largely non-governmental organisations (NGO) which partnered with communities. Community development facilitators (CDFs), who oversaw up to five sites each, provided on-the-ground support from the SURUDEC office in East London together with the rest of the SURUDEC team.
“The programme has also successfully helped community representatives lobby for resources for their integrated community development plans in areas that are poverty stricken,” says SURUDEC’s Programme Manager Nik Hugow.
An indicator of programme success is that, by the end of 2012, 50% of the integrated community development plans (ICDPs) would have been incorporated into municipal integrated development plans (IDPs).
A key objective of the programme was to test a new approach to development by looking at community’s “assets” as the foundation of their future development. Simply put, this asset based approach meant communities would begin their planning by looking at what they have and building on what they know.
“The approach, which assesses communities’ skills, knowledge, associations, networks and resources which add value and quality to community life, appears to be one-of-a-kind,” says Hugow.
“It also helps communities unlock unrealised assets and create a common vision and importantly, makes the community themselves, agents of change.”
The project areas include Mqanduli, Baziya, Lesseyton, Keiskammahoek, Cata, Baviaans, Indwe and in the Makana district. Further projects are in or near Nelson Mandela Bay, Steytlerville and Klipplaat in the small Karoo.
In one example, more than 2,500 fruit and deciduous trees have been planted in and around Nqabara homesteads, representing a major milestone in their project. In addition the community has finally obtained a five-year lease from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, which gives them secure tenure to push ahead with the development of the tourist lodge. Nqabara is situated in the Mbashe Municipality near the scenic Wild Coast and Nqabara River. Nqabara is blessed with the assets of a beautiful coastal setting, with good rainfallmaking homestead gardening to boost food security feasible and an organised community trust, all assets the community could build on.
“Notwithstanding these results, it’s already encouraging to see how, grantees and beneficiary communities are sharing experiences and lessons learnt with SURUDEC,” says Hugow.
“Furthermore, beneficiaries were enormously open and frank which contributed to rich discussions that highlighted many issues facing development in South Africa during our Stakeholder Dialogue with beneficiaries held in July this year,” he adds.
The issues that have been highlighted as challenges include accountability of community structures and grantees, the extent of communities’ benefit from implementing a grant, the management of grant funds and the associated financial management skills as well as communities’ ability to manage future development plans and actions.
The objective of the programme was to “contribute towards sustainable livelihoods in rural communities in the Eastern Cape, by reducing the number of households in the project areas living below the poverty line by 60% in 2012 and 80% by 2014”.
SURUDEC says that by end 2012, when the programme draws to close, the grant funding approach would have been tested and the approach would have been shared with its various partners. It will then become clear how far the programme has gone in achieving these goals once projects have completed their audits.
More concretely, by the end of 2013, the year the programme winds up, effective and functioning community institutions, set up under SURUDEC, are implementing communities’ integrated community development plans, taking ownership of their future development.