Windhoek — The Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development has made public its National Rural Development Strategy (NRDS).
The strategy is the operative document for the implementation of the National Rural Development Policy in the period 2013/14 to 2017/18.
According to the line minister, Retired Major-General Charles Namoloh, government has since independence made substantial efforts in supporting rural development, however rural economies continue to lag behind, while rural unemployment is increasing, reaching unsustainable levels. Namoloh attributes this to the absence of an agreed overall policy and strategy for rural development.
"My ministry has therefore for the past few years been working with stakeholders on the formulation of the National Rural Development Policy, which was approved last year," he said in a statement read on his behalf. With the strategy, government envisages to reduce the present rural unemployment level of 50 percent by half within the coming five years.
The whole exercise involved consultations and formulation discussions with a big number of stakeholders.
The outcome of these consultations were summarised in a comprehensive Situation Analysis, which led to the formulation of the strategy itself. The Situation Analysis has been carried out with a focus on Local Economic Development, Social and Labour Market, Environment and Climate Change and Coordination and Institutional Capacities.
According to the minister, very often line ministries and stakeholders in the rural sector have carried out their work independently from other ministries and regional authorities, using the silo approach.
He said a key element of the strategy proposes that government service delivery in rural areas is more coherent and efficient, using an integrated approach.
The strategy focuses on cross-cutting issues such as a strong gender element, environmental and climate change concerns, as well as a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation system.
Another important feature in the process is increased financial resources being channeled through regional councils.
However, the strategy goes wider than focusing on public service delivery only. "It includes an increasing use of non-state actors such as NGO's and private sector representative organisations as vehicles for providing more relevant and effective services to the rural poor and rural businesses," he said.
He explained that the strategy focuses on rural economic development and empowerment of the population so that they become employable or able to create their own income-generating activities or businesses.
"They will thereby be able to secure the livelihood of their families in a sustainable manner," the minister said.
Government's ambition, according to Namoloh, is to reduce, over a 10-15 year period, the poverty rate in rural areas far below the present 31 percent.
A representative of the European Union, which is the main partner in the whole exercise, Jean Paul Heerschap, expressed confidence that the strategy will have a catalytic effect on rural development.
"Having a policy or strategy is not all - but a strong political leadership is needed to make a success. Rural development cannot be built, it has to grow," he said.