Rural project plants hope in ripe little town of Dysselsdorp

HOPE has been given to the small town of Dysselsdorp, a pilot site for the government’s Comprehensive Rural Development Programme (CRDP).

The settlement of 12 000 people near Oudtshoorn is the R10 million beneficiary for initiatives to empower the rural community. These include outreach projects, from planting trees to the redistribution of land to the awarding R1 million construction tenders to local contractors. Others involve training and enterprise development workshops, food security initiatives, the birth of forums for children, gender and disability groups, and the establishment of a council of stakeholders to oversee most of the projects.

All have received technical support and skills development funding from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR).

About 184 beneficiaries were mentored and trained to start and maintain food gardens by the Seriti Institute. Another 41 were trained in agriculture and through the Green Acre Development, which is a service provider appointed to assist in the implementation of agricultural projects.

One of these projects is a 2.5 hectare farm from which 17 young people are able to harvest vegetables and sell them to local supermarkets and spaza shops in the area.

A further 24 youths were given training as “para-professionals” by the Agricultural Research Council towards becoming master gardeners by June.

There are now vegetable gardens at the community clinic, the Swartberg old age home, the Volkskerk and at the primary and secondary schools.

“This way we can make sure that people never go hungry. We can talk about growing entrepreneurship and increasing education, but none of this can happen if people are hungry. That is why food security has been a priority,” said Babalwa Magoda, the chief director for the DRDLR for the Western Cape.

In total, 401 jobs were created through the CRDP’s infrastructure initiative and all its related programmes.

Before the intervention, Dysselsdorp was – and still is – a high unemployment area plagued with teenage pregnancy and alcohol abuse, especially among the youth who had no access to the internet and few positive activities to take part in after school.

“People who had no sense of future and no reason to wake up in the morning… are now looking forward to the rest of their lives,” said Magoda, who had to fight back her tears while describing the plight of young people in rural areas.

“When you go to white schools, the classrooms are clean, they have books… but (black schools) are dirty, windows are broken,” she said.

“My heart bleeds for children, especially because I have my own. I cannot imagine them learning under those conditions.”

DRDLR spokesman Eddie Mohoebi, said the vision behind the CRDP was to make rural communities as vibrant, equitable and sustainable as urban areas.

“When doctors and teachers get jobs in rural communities, they are reluctant to take them because of the lack of amenities and activities that improve one’s quality of life… Services people take for granted in suburbs are luxuries in rural areas… these are the kind of things we want to change,” he said – Sungula Nkabinde.

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