New project helps South Africa build capacity in development assistance
Development workers to gain skills in aid delivery as donor role expands
16 April 2007, Rome - South African development professionals at various levels of seniority will gain experience in aid delivery and management and in organizing and assisting small-scale farmers, under an agreement signed today between the Government of South Africa and FAO.
The new five-year US$10 million project, financed by the South African Government, will focus on building capacity to manage the country’s fast-growing development cooperation programme. It will also develop and implement a capacity-building programme for assisting disadvantaged farmers to improve incomes and to become more competitive and productive.
In recent years, the Government of South Africa has become a donor for FAO emergency relief and rehabilitation activities in southern Africa, mainly dealing with livelihood crises and to prevent the spread of transboundary animal diseases.
As the dominant economic sector in southern Africa, and a potential engine of economic growth, agriculture is expected to continue to attract the government’s attention as it moves beyond crisis response to agricultural rehabilitation as a bridge to supporting longer-term development activities.
Under the new agreement, South Africa will be able to seize opportunities offered by the FAO programme that it currently supports in the region to expose its own nationals to project operations outside its borders. Attaching senior, mid-level and relatively junior experts to such projects will enable them to gain hands-on experience in field delivery, creating a cadre of professionals with the skills and capacities to meet Africa’s development needs from within.
“This project represents a breakthrough in thinking for an African government,” says George K. Mburathi, FAO Representative in South Africa. “Offering aid requires that the donor country has the capacity not only to plan and target assistance, but also to know enough about aid implementation to be able to properly guide it, whether implemented directly or through agents like the United Nations.”
FAO will ensure that the South African staff are adequately mentored and that they are exposed to key technical and managerial tasks essential to their professional development.
Helping small farmers at home
South Africa also faces challenges in a number of areas crucial for development success within its own borders.
“In the past, agriculture in South Africa was dominated by large-scale commercial farming,” says Mburathi. “Many small-scale farmers just getting started have insufficient farming know-how and face severe disadvantages competing with much larger producers in the same markets. These emerging farmers need support.”
Small producers face productivity problems on the farm and in processing, but also difficulties in meeting quality and biosafety standards which can limit access to markets at home and abroad.
To succeed in making small-scale agriculture and agro-industry viable, South African government staff will need to develop a whole new set of approaches for planning and implementation that were not necessary when support was aimed only at large-scale commercial farmers, Mburathi says.
The new project will target staff in the Department of Agriculture, provincial agricultural administrations and selected farmers’ organizations.
“FAO offers a long history of experience in small-farmer development, organization and support worldwide,” says Mburathi. “Exposing South African experts to approaches being used, not just in Africa but around the world, will enable them to determine which practices they can adapt to meet their own country’s needs.”
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