NEPAD’s vision for rural transformation is driven by its Rural Futures Programme, launched in 2010 on the principle that the rural economy is a vital and central component of inclusive development. In this interview, Mrs Estherine Fotabong Lisenge, Head of the NEPAD Agency Programme Implementation and Coordination Directorate (PICD) explains the rationale behind the Programme and how it will lead to the development of Africa’s rural areas.
Rural Futures supports the acceleration and diversification of economic growth in rural areas by expanding employment and livelihood opportunity, thereby reducing inequality between rural and urban areas and strengthening environmental sustainability. While many programmes in NEPAD follow more or less a sectorial approach, what is needed to address African transformation for development is a broad-based inclusive multi-sectorial approach. This is the approach that the Rural Futures Programme takes.
How is the Rural Futures Programme complementing CAADP?
In its multi-sectorial and integrated approach, Rural Futures specifically looks at rural transformation that brings together different actors. It prioritises territorial development through robust participatory planning and addresses complex and interwoven issues which include structural issues, human, economic and political issues, to name but a few. This is done in order to facilitate new thinking and broad agreement on Africa’s development pathways based on indicators for structural transformation.
To boost agricultural growth, farmers for example, need access facilities as well as access to markets. This shows that growth is not only dependent on the agricultural sector within itself, but also on the infrastructure and others sectors such as health and education. Hence, the Rural Futures Programme provides the space within which the interconnectedness of these various sectors can be analysed, and inform policy makers. The Programme enhances the work of the CAADP by identifying the linkages in multi-sectorial integration that agriculture needs in order to realise the goal of social and economic development.
What are the policies and tools needed to transform rural Africa?
Thus far Rural Futures has attained great strides in that other organisations and actors have taken up its ideology of inclusive growth. Moreover, an important tool, the Rural Futures Atlas, has also been developed, which provides an overview and mapping statistics on rural transformation such as demographics and urbanisation, economic dynamics and urbanisation, as well as natural resources across different regions.
A platform for inter-regional learning has also been established through the African Rural Development Forum, whose inaugural meeting took place in May 2013 in Cotonou, Benin. What is then needed is the use of such tools as the Atlas for demonstrating robust planning at country level and the Cotonou Declaration is the policy guideline.
What are the mechanisms that will attract young Africans to agriculture?
Rural Futures is currently putting in place development zones in order to demonstrate how integrated approaches to inclusive development can work. Young Africans will have the opportunity to directly benefit from job opportunities and income generating activities in various sectors, including agriculture and agro-industries. This will be visible in the selected development zones where, for instance, the World Fish Programme is already working on the ground to create aquatic ecosystems that cut across multiple livelihoods including health, education and infrastructure development. Four countries will be identified in the development zones for 2014, and each zone will then be developed according to its potential to bring about tangible socio-economic benefits. The aim is to attract more young Africans to different sectors, including agriculture.
Furthermore a skills and job creation audit in 15 countries that aims to identify the sectors that are creating employment, as well as gaps in training and resource requirements is being undertaken. The outcomes of the audit will be shared in 2014 at a job creation conference that will also look at job opportunities along the whole agriculture value chain for the youth - from production through to processing, marketing and consumption.