Corporates looking to uplift rural areas

Twenty-one out of the 37 countries that are hardest hit by the global food crisis are in Africa. Four of these, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Somalia have exceptional shortages, said Andile Ncontsa,
Issue date : 01 August 2008

- Advertisement -

Twenty-one out of the 37 countries that are hardest hit by the global food crisis are in Africa. Four of these, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Somalia have exceptional shortages, said Andile Ncontsa, the head of the Old Mutual Foundation, at the recent Corporate Social Investment (CSI) Congress at Sibaya Casino in Durban. S peaking about a New Agrarian Revolution, she said, “The war on poverty does not require spears, but spades.

It is through agriculture that dignity can be restored to our people.” The Old Mutual Foundation has donated R10 million (R1,5 million a year) to the Organic Farms Group (OFG) to train and establish commercial organic farms in rural areas and townships. “The OFG is one of the ways to address poverty through food production,” Ncontsa explained. “It’s not a silver bullet but when we do things together, we can achieve greater and more effective outcomes.

” Maureen Dosoudil, who works with CSI projects in communities, said that without the basic need of food fulfilled, no projects would work. “Each home should have a food garden,” she said. C hairing the congress, TV personality Dr Felicia Mabuza-Suttle frequently used the words of Bob Marley to remind government officials present that “a hungry man is an angry man”.

- Advertisement -

“The government was elected by the people and if they are not happy, there will be a revolution. And the people are angry,” she said. But Social Development deputy minister Dr Jean Swanson-Jacobs responded that some perceptions need to be taken with a pinch of salt. “For example, some xenophobic attacks occurred in towns with, in fact, government delivery. Perhaps government isn’t good enough at marketing its successes and should learn from the corporate sector how to do so.”

Dr Swanson-Jacobs referred to a successful initiative involving a community co-op in KZN, where the focus was on growing vegetables for food and income generation. Members pooled a portion of their social grants as capital. “In a short time, people who had nothing have accumulated R150 000 in capital,” she said. “Co-ops allow the poorest of the poor to do something, even without capital.” The topic of co-ops drew much interest and debate from delegates. Nomvula Xaba, a Canegrowers representative, said that in their experience co-ops did not work because of community dynamics.

“We are hoping conflict in co-ops can be resolved,” she said. Kagiso Trust executive director Kgotso Schoeman said they no longer invest in co-ops, only individual entrepreneurs. “are struggling to understand the effectiveness of co-ops. We find them breeding areas for conflict.”    

Some delegates from the business world expressed frustration at having budgets to spend on social upliftment but not knowing where to turn. Noluthando Vavi, senior manager of African Rainbow Minerals’s corporate social investment unit, said she needed practical information on which agricultural projects needed funding. “We want to know how we can tap into the land. How do I assist, with my budget, to empower people in rural areas? What programmes are there?” O ther delegates said that while they might not have the huge budgets of companies like Telkom, there should be a means for smaller companies to combine funds and make a meaningful impact. – Robyn Joubert For more on the Old Mutual Fund’s partnership with OFG, see By Invitation on pg 6.

Not enough rural social investment

AT the recent Corporate Social Investment (CSI) congress in Durban, Development deputy minister Dr Jean Swanson-Jacobs said SA has one of the highest increases in reported social-responsibility spending in the world. “JSE-listed corporates spent R2,4 billion on CSI. It suggests that everyone received R100 a year from CSI,” she said. H owever, most of these activities are urban-based.

“In 2003, two-thirds of spending was injected into urban or peri-urban areas, while 34% was in rural communities. Given high levels of poverty in rural areas, this funding pattern is almost the inverse of what’s needed. While we applaud CSI, it isn’t reaching those who are the most marginalised.” Dr Swanson-Jacobs said SA has a large social assistance programme, which is a lifeline to many poor people.

 “The value of grants has increased from R3,4 million in 1999 to R12 million today. About 7,9 million children benefit from the child grant and over 98 000 from the care dependency grant. Over 2 million people get the old age grant.” he confirmed that expenditure on social security will increase from R36,9 billion in 2003/04 (2,9% of GDP) to a projected R73 billion in 2009/10 (3,1% of GPD). But Dr Jacobs acknowledged that providing grants alone was inadequate. “Most beneficiaries prefer to be linked to economic opportunities so they can become self-reliant,” she said. – Robyn Joubert

KZN conservation levy boosts partnerships

Community upliftment projects are boosting provincial conservation organisation Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife’s ongoing attempts to strengthen relationships with the communities neighbouring its formally protected natural areas. The projects were financed by Ezemvelo’s Community Conservation Levy Fund (CCLF), which allocated R130 000 to the Thendele community near the Kamberg Nature Reserve to develop the KwaMaluleko Indigenous Nursery Project.

Another R1,3 million was donated to the amaHlubi community near Giant’s Castle Game Reserve to build and operate the Langalibalele Art and Craft Centre and laundry. Some 120 jobs have been created in the region, half of which are permanent. E zemvelo spokesperson Maureen Zimu said the projects promote the value of conservation to the communities by allowing them to benefit both directly and indirectly from Ezemvelo’s biodiversity conservation mandate.

 “The art and craft centre will generate income for the community by providing it with a formal outlet to sell community-made products to tourists,” Zimu said. “And the laundry will be contracted to the Ezemvelo resorts of Giant’s Castle and Kamberg and the privately-owned White Mountain Resort, generating even more income.” – Lloyd Phillips