The Unexpected Revolution: why rural economies hold keys to job creation


The Unexpected Revolution: why rural economies hold keys to job creation


When we think of job creation, we often think of big business or city/town projects that bring about accompanying opportunities for work. However, we tend to overlook the great potential lying in country areas where multi-faceted agricultural and related business opportunities are still untapped. All roads lead to Rome, they may say, but in essence successful initiatives can be found anywhere, not only in the towns and cities.

How can we effect change?

There is much talk about what should be done about poverty and lack of opportunity in rural areas. But suggested strategies seem to present discussion more than the decisive action needed to create real, effective change. The key is to ignite a new kind of thinking to not only the farming community, but also non-farming residents – because the rural areas offer a host of employment opportunities.

  • With an ever-rising global population, there will always be a rising demand for food. So agriculture is not going out of fashion any time soon. There is always room for new development.
  • Rural areas offer multi-choice in things other than agriculture, such as: mining, construction, retail, factory processing, manufacturing for small business, recycling, tourism, and a host of business services waiting to be explored.
  • Everyone wants things to improve – the state, local government, farmers, business owners. So partnering is key, finding where win-win situations can be created and exploited. For instance, there may be farmers who are willing to provide a piece of land where a small manufacturing plant can be established, such as furniture making or dried fruit production, or even setting up a training school.
  • There is a vast amount of fallow land that can be repurposed with the new science of drip irrigation – we are no longer as restricted by water (droughts not withstanding) as we were some years ago.
  • Skills development and entrepreneurial training can provide industry and big business with lucrative partnerships. The state can facilitate progress with the provision of basic infrastructure for training and the provision of effective trainers. Capacity can be built through: learnerships, business incubators, mentoring, apprenticeships, and training in agricultural sciences.
  • Research and development into agriculture, which is still the backbone of the rural economy, is essential for the development of new technologies that may change the current scope of opportunity. The trick is to spot new opportunities and develop strategies to drive these as soon as possible.
  • The potential of our rural economy is enormous. We need to extrapolate that potential and respond to it in every way we can.


Non-farm growth potential

Overwhelming evidence shows that the non-farm sector is becoming increasingly important for jobs and incomes in the wider rural economy. For seasonal farm workers there is a need to subsidise their agricultural work, and alternatively there are people who are not necessarily on farms, very often women, who are without work but need to invest in their own potential due to the pressures of children or absent, migrant family members.

In addition, the growth in technology and changing land trends may actually reduce opportunities for work at labour level within the agricultural sector. Therefore bringing the people caught in this situation closer to opportunities in private enterprise is crucial. But knowing what to do, and getting it done are two different things; lateral thought is needed for ventures to find genuine investment interest; and investment in turn, is dependent on confidence of returns.

Advantages in the rural arena comprise space to move, willing labour in proximity and volume, and growth options that are cheaper, more easily scaled, and with calculable benefit to those bold enough to move their creative vision (and money) from the city and towns. But whatever the businesses envisaged, they will need to be aligned with training, fair labour practice, and sound management control: what will work, where will it work best, and who will it work best for.

Once the research is done, the investment interest peaked, and the training infrastructure provided, there is almost nothing that cannot be done within the rural environment. Synergy between public and private sectors is crucial to teasing out ideas, bringing them to fruition and providing the vital job opportunities – ultimately achieving sustained growth in this valuable but underutilised area.

The global issue

Poverty is not solely a South African issue. Predominantly, worldwide, rural areas provide homes to the majority of the world’s poor people. There are numerous reasons for this:

  • the lack of education and motivation to invent, innovate and produce; the informality of projects may ensure they will not establish well.
  • A lax approach to dealing with criminals and or general compliance with regard to law enforcement.
  • Weak representation of state organs or facilitated community communication and development.
  • Poor infrastructure and limited access to services, including financial support and healthcare.
  • The absence of an enabling environment for business, and the lack of investment by business in motivating fresh avenues of production.
  • Intervention remains complex, requiring in many instances a multi-stakeholder approach, even in context-specific situations.
  • However, many countries are realising that uplifting and driving the agenda of the rural areas, is a key to improving the economy of a country as a whole – important for preventing mass migrations to the cities or other countries, which in itself can simply perpetuate the cycle of poverty.

The value of proficient project management

Nurturing skills and ideas and encouraging endeavour are vital to getting people to engage and share vision. Once partners buy into a project it is vital to monitor progress, adjust and refocus as needed, and keep the end goal in mind at all times. Scope lies in marketing and public relations, financial and HR management, strategic training and most essentially, project management.

To truly achieve the most out of what begins as merely potential, means building sound relationships and defining goals – bringing together compatible participants, investors and environmental factors. When the mix is right – vision, funding and management support – then the future no longer needs to repeat the past.

Managing projects, seeing results

Casidra is the acronym for Cape Agency for Sustainable Integrated Development in Rural Areas. Casidra works to implement and manage projects specifically designed to improve the lives of people and alleviate poverty. With our mandate as Agricultural and Economic Development within a Rural and Land reform context, we see ourselves as a catalyst for growth and sustainability, maximising outcomes by ensuring that we make a difference in people’s lives through effective project management.


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