A number of initiatives are under way in the Eastern Cape to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and upskill communities.
Sixty unemployed young people have been drafted into a crop production pilot programme billed to boost food security for an estimated 300 households and impact hundreds more people.
As part of the programme, in which the Eastern Cape Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform (DRDAR) has invested nearly R2 million, young people are to be trained in a one-year crop production course at the University of Fort Hare.
DRDAR appointed the university to train youth from the poverty-stricken Dyamala, Tyali, Lower Ncera, Upper Ncera and Krwakrwa villages near Alice, equipping them with food garden production techniques.
Government intends to roll out the programme to other poverty-stricken areas.
Hope to change lives
Sinethemba Mangqangqa, 24, said he has been looking for a job since matriculating in 2012. He joined the programme to supplement his aunt’s vegetable-hawking business.
“My mom and aunt are unemployed. They buy vegetables from King Williams Town, which they sell to locals here in Alice. We now want to produce our own vegetables and sell to local people.
“I tried looking for a job to no avail. Through this programme, I will make sure that I focus on my garden to produce vegetables to sell to local buyers,” said Mangqangqa.
Passion for agriculture
Nondwe Galela, 18, who is passionate about agriculture, said being part of this food security programme will empower her with crop production skills to revive her home food garden and create a job for her unemployed father.
“I was attracted to the programme by my passion for agriculture. I want to learn more about food security. No one looks after our home food garden and I will make sure that I look after it,” said Galela.
The University of Fort Hare’s dean of agriculture, Dr Nomakhaya Monde, said the university wants to transform the agriculture landscape in the province by impacting positively on the socioeconomic status of the communities surrounding the university.
“We are happy to be involved in this community initiative so that our students can learn and have that experience,” said Dr Monde. She added that students are also taken into the community to do field work. “It’s a formal kind of community engagement.”
A safety net for communities
Eastern Cape Rural Development MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane said the programme was a response to the province’s high youth unemployment numbers. According to a Statistics SA report, the provincial youth unemployment rate is 41 per cent; 55 per cent of these do not have matric.
The department has invested about R1.9 million into the programme for registration and tuition fees, and payment of stipends to all participating youth for the duration of the programme.
Qoboshiyane said the department wanted to empower young people to be active in eradicating poverty in their rural communities.
“We realise that the scourge of poverty is a problem in the Eastern Cape. We are going to ensure that we help young people with production inputs,” he said. The training would result in a recognised qualification at NQF 4 level.
Partnering with UFH students
Qoboshiyane said young people will partner with University of Fort Hare students and each group would be linked to five households, a school and a clinic or community garden. It is estimated that about 300 local households will benefit from the programme before it is rolled out to other areas.
The MEC said that other learnerships are in place to train young people in both crop and animal production.
In addition, the department is establishing a rural wealth-creation centre to benefit unemployed agriculture graduates at Fort Cox College. It will help empower young people to be self-reliant.