MEC to the National Council of Provinces on The debate on Rural Development

ADDRESS BY MEC NORMAN SHUSHU TO THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF PROVINCES ON THE OCCASSION OF THE DEBATE ON RURAL DEVELOPMENT UNDER THE THEME
“RURAL WOMEN AS DRIVERS OF AGRICULTURE AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT IN SOUTH AFRICA
20 OCTOBER 2011, CAPE TOWN, PARLIAMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA


Chairperson of the NCOP Honourable Mahlangu
Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP Honourable Memela
Honourable Members of the NCOP
Ladies and Gentlemen
Comrades and Friends


The debate on Rural Development under the theme “Rural women as drivers of agricultural development in South Africa” takes place exactly five days after the World Rural Women’s Day as was proclaimed by the United Nations Conference for Women held in Beijing, china in September 1995 which decided to proclaim 15th October of every year as World Rural Women’s Day. The debate also takes place 4 days after the world celebrated World Food Day on the 16th October. This was in recognition of the role played by women in agriculture for food production for the survival of humanity. It recognised that women, in particular rural women, are the tillers of the land who are always at the forefront of ensuring food security and to a greater extend contribute to social and political stability. However, these women continue to be deprived of the ownership of land as a result of ownership systems that continue to plaque our society today and as a result of patriarchal relations within society.
The United Nations Conference on Women identified this day as a way of focusing on raising the profile of rural women, in order to sensitise both governments and the broader public on the crucial yet largely unrecognised role played by these women and to promote action in support of their initiatives. We owe it to the rural women of our country to recognise them and to better appreciate the role they continue to play within agriculture as an economic activity and for the provision of food security.
Honourable Chairperson, in order to give impetus to rural development and to recognise the role played by these women, government has introduced a plethora of policies and legislation that seeks to entrench women as drivers of rural development. The Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD), Micro Agricultural Finance Institutions of South Africa (MAFISA), the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) and other ancillary policies and legislation. We must however, be frank in our assessment that though they may be some progress with respect to advancing rural women, the majority remain on the p[periphery and continue to live under conditions of abject poverty and squalor. The 2008 World Development Report showed that agriculture is a critical component and source of livelihood for many women, particularly in developing societies. It correctly pointed a situation where rural women are constrained to attain their full potential as a result of constraints with regard to access to agricultural inputs, productive resources and services. this report also notes that rural women lack incentives in order to invest in agriculture given their vulnerability  and proportionally greater exposure to risk that comes about as a result of having fewer assets and the likelihood that once their niche in the agricultural value chain becomes commercially viable and profitable it would be expropriated by men as a result of the unequal power relations within society, particularly on the hinterland.
Honourable Chairperson and Honourable Members of the NCOP, women folk continue to play a critical role in agricultural production in most, if not all, developing countries and as such they are not a sector that can be taken for granted. Agricultural production in most developing countries, including sub-Saharan Africa, is an engine room for food production for subsistence and plays a critical role in economic development. It is therefore critical that the economic empowerment of rural women is enhanced and programs and policies that deal with rural women are made a priority to promote agricultural production. The prioritisation of these policies and legislative programs is necessitated by the acknowledgement that women’s agricultural production is a significant source of economic growth and the promotion of rural livelihoods. The 2008 World Development Report Agriculture for Development notes that agricultural programs and projects accounted for only 4% of the Official Development Assistance and that only 4% of public spending in Sub-Saharan Africa where agricultural economic activity is a major source of economic growth.
The continuing rise in food prices requires of us to place more emphasis on the importance of investing heavily in agriculture, food and nutrition security for domestic consumption. It is therefore important that we better appreciate the role of rural women in the fight against food insecurity in our country and globally, particularly in the developing world. Disparities and the omission of gender variables in our agricultural policies and intervention programmes would more than just represent opportunity costs but it would also harm the broader objectives of the emancipation of women within society. In many rural communities, women are exposed to fulfilling multiple tasks as producers, gatherers of water, gathering of wood and caregivers for children and the sick in the homestead. The demand for agricultural commodities is changing rapidly and the outmigration of men to the cities in search of employment places an increased burden on the already overstretched rural women. The International Fund for Agricultural Development has noted that “Rural poverty is deeply rooted in the imbalance between what women do and what they have”.
Honourable Members, it is therefore important that we actively work towards the development of gender responsive action in order to improve rural women’s access to and control over resources which can lead to increased household productivity and the concomitant result, which is the sustained benefit to the rural economy. We need to acknowledge that a “one size fits all” approach will not assist in the development of rural women as drivers of economic development. We need to be able to design programs that specifically target women in order to improve their overall productivity. We need to ensure that we desist from a technocratic top down approach to the development of rural women as drivers of economic development and involve them in programs that are designed to assist them. We must give proper expression to our commitment of working together with our rural women in order to improve their conditions. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) noted that “the full and equal participation of women and men in, and their full enjoyment of the benefit from agricultural and rural development are essential for eradicating food insecurity and rural poverty and enhancing agricultural and rural development”. Addressing the 2010 Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Substantive Session in June 2010 the Honourable Minister of Agriculture in Liberia Florence Chenoweth noted that in Liberia rural women grow more than half of the food in that country and agriculture serves as the main livelihood source for over 80% of women living in rural areas. Some of the proactive steps in order to enhance the role of rural women as drivers for economic development is through the provision of farm inputs and implements, training and capacity building for rural women. At the same session, a grassroots leader and woman farmer from Brazil, Ms. Nereide Segala Coelho noted that women perceive agriculture differently from men as they see it as a dynamic and regenerating source of life and sustainability. This confirms therefore, our assertion that women are the foundation upon which humanity stands and our womenfolk give life.
Honourable Chairperson, when addressing the First All Russia Congress of Working Women, Vladimir Lenin made the following observation “but the present revolution relies on the countryside, and therein lie its significance and strength, the experience of all liberation movements has shown that the success of a revolution depends on how much the women take part in it...”. Therefore, our ability to turn around the situation in order to ensure that we are able to, as a country, produce food for domestic consumption and ensure that the country is able to become more food secure for the benefit of the working class and poor of our country. The Agriculture for development World Report aptly elucidates the point we are making above as possible “Where women are the majority of smallholder farmers, failure to release their full potential in agriculture is a contributing factor to low growth and food insecurity”. We must therefore redouble our efforts to ensure that we support all initiatives geared towards assisting women in our rural communities for agricultural development and as drivers for development.
Our Comprehensive Rural Development Programme (CRDP) should be seen as a tool that seeks to compliment the efforts of our democratically elected government to ensure that we buttress our programs of women’s emancipation with practical programs. It is our fervent believe that, as the Northern Cape, we must redouble our efforts in a conscious effort to address the scourge of triple oppression under which women had been subjected to. These are the race, class and gender contradictions within society. In our efforts to resuscitate rural economies it is important that we do that with a conscious focus on uplifting women. Writing about Marxism and the emancipation of women Ana Munoz and Allan Woods wrote “women are potentially far more revolutionary than mean because they are fresh and untainted by years of conservative routine that so often characterises “normal” trade union existence”. 
Honourable Chairperson, the rising food prices and the global economic crisis has not in any way assisted in ameliorating the conditions of rural women in our countryside. The threat of a double dip recession fuelled by the euro zone crisis again calls upon the law makers in our country to take extra caution and measures that will assist in the improvement of the conditions under which rural women live in our country. We need to be able to realise the potential that lies in the hands of rural women and enhance that in order to achieve what Lenin called the collectivisation of agriculture and the communal ownership of the means of production.
In conclusion Honourable Chairperson, the Gender in Agriculture Sourcebook, to which more than 100 authors contributed, has in more ways than one indicated that we cannot only rely on the goodwill of the markets to improve the status of women and capitalise on their potential as producers. We need to dispel any notion that markets alone would ordinarily generate social changes that benefit rural women or that the risks and opportunities present within the markets are in any way gender neutral. Agricultural growth and increased income among women are two areas of economic development that have demonstrated exceptionally high impacts on poverty. Wathint’ Abafazi Wathint’ Imbokodo
I thank you!