There are a number of reasons why deagrarianisation (the move away from agricultural activities) is happening in the rural Eastern Cape. One is the flight of human capital to the urban centres leaving the old aged and the sick in rural areas. This flight of human capital is due to the lack of employment opportunities and income generation-related activities in rural areas.
In addition, farming has not been ingrained in the way of life of the youth of today and has been viewed as a job for elders and the uneducated. Numerous grants given to rural households have also slowed down agricultural activity in communal areas. It is hoped that setting up non-agrarian industries can help retain people in the rural areas and uplift the economies of these areas.
Cooperatives and other group-related activities might salvage the situation if properly planned and managed. Agricultural development is important in the Eastern Cape since there are fertile soils and in the past it has contributed to the economy of the country through the export of wool and other livestock related products.
In conclusion, the bare grounds of many communal areas are a strong indicator that the majority of rural dwellers have abandoned agriculture as a means of livelihood. This is due to the migration of the able-bodied people to urban centres, failure of the new dispensation to provide sound policies on agricultural development, and discouragement in the form of social grants. In addition, agriculture has been marginalised in policy frameworks where there is no clear emphasis on job creation based on agriculture.
The National Development Plan: Vision for 2030 does not clearly outline how jobs can be created in the agricultural sector except that it will put money into irrigation. The issue of tenure security is critical, as failure of the state to grant people secure tenure results in a low interest in agriculture. If the new green paper on land reform is translated into action, there is a possibility that rural dwellers could engage in meaningful agricultural development. It is important for the state to revitalise extension services in rural areas and to educate the youth that employment can be generated from farming, much like it is in other industries. Industries alone cannot absorb all the out-of-school youth and hence the need to rethink agriculture as a vehicle of job creation in the Eastern Cape. (For more information refer to the presentations uploaded on Afesis-corplan website: www.afesis.org.za) Notes: Artwell Chivhinge’s and Dr Clifford Mabhena’s presentations are also detailed as separate articles in this edition of The Transformer. See Mulugheta Ghebreslassie Araia presentation www.afesis.org.za
- Cliford Mabhena PhD, University of Fort Hare.
Bonti Ankomah, S, 2001. Addressing Food Security in South Africa. Pretoria: The National Institute for Economic Policy Department of Agriculture. 2002. The Integrated Food Strategy for South Africa. Pretoria: Department of Agriculture.