Job creation initiatives in rural areas have seen positive strides in creating work opportunities during the past financial year especially for the youth.
"While the vulnerable groups, particularly women, have been linked to income generating activities, it is the youth that has benefited the most in terms of skills development programmes and jobs created", said Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti.
He said a total of 7 398 youth had been enrolled in the National Rural Youth Service Corps (NARYSEC) programme in 2010 and further 5 000 are being recruited.
NARYSEC is a two-year programme aimed at empowering rural youth from each of the 3 300 rural wards throughout the country. Participants are unemployed young people from rural areas, aged between 18 and 35.
Community works programme
The Minister noted that the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) was another programme that made an impact on employment through creating 540 423 work opportunities and 137 525 permanent jobs. Of these, 66 355 were under the Community Works Programme.
The agricultural sector, including the Comprehensive Agriculture Support Programme, contributed 7 092 jobs of which 1 105 were permanent.
The housing and infrastructure sector also contributed significantly to job creation and skills development through the use of local labour, Minister Nkwinti said. The environment and culture sector of the EPWP had created a total of 307 731 work opportunities by the end of last year.
Nkwinti said initiatives to improve employment opportunities and economic livelihoods included an aquaculture (farming of organisms harvested from the sea such as fish, shellfish and plants) programme and an inland fisheries programme to be launched this year.
The Department of Trade and Industry was expanding its efforts to support the processing of materials derived from agricultural products (agro-processing) such as local maize milling in rural areas. These efforts are supported by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.