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A Focus on October as International Month for the Eradication of Poverty: Implications of Poverty for Young South Africans

Khulumani Voices, a blog by Khulumani Interactors, has featured a story, How will young men and women get respect if they have no "paper cattle"? about the intractable challenges facing young people in their struggle to access the right to establish and live together as a family.

Most young men today struggle to put together sufficient money to be able plan for marriage, to pay lobola and to provide adequate shelter for a 'new family'. The reality of unemployment amongst young people thwarts their possibilities of setting up independent households. 

This is an important reminder of the seeming intractability of the poverty, unemployment and inequality triad, that the country's National Development Plan seeks to address.

It is also a major challenge in the Eastern Cape where, according to Dr Ashley Westaway, Gadra's Education Manager, there has been a progressive rural deagrarianisation with only 1% of rural households presently deriving an income from crop production and only 4% from livestock production. This is compounded, he points out, by the fact that two thirds of Eastern Cape rural households do not have water in or around their homesteads with 34% of homes having no toilet facilities at all and 52% having unventilated pit latrines. 

One of the reasons cited by Westaway for this situation is that post-1994 economic planning has made certain geographic areas of the country more worthy of investment than others. This explanation underpins the continuing reality that people from the Eastern Cape are in the majority amongst mine-workers. In the platinum belt around Marikana, a pastor-mineworker recently pointed out to a small Khulumani delegation how people from different areas of the former Transkei had set up small shack villages according to the area from which they had come - the Engcobo 'shack village' or the Lady Frere 'shack village' and others.

October is International Month for the Eradication of Poverty. Poverty denies people the dignity inherent in being human and the situation especially in the country's rural areas is worsening. Basic income statistics from the Eastern Cape show that 73% of rural people are living on less than R300 per month. This is a crisis in a constitutional democracy that seeks to advance social and economic rights for all people living in South Africa

During this month, World Food Day is commemorated on October 16 and reminds us that the vast majority of people suffering hunger, 852-million, live in developing countries, where the prevalence of undernourishment is estimated at 14.9%. Hunger is defined in the State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012 report (SOFI) as "food intake that is insufficient to meet dietary energy requirements continuously". While the incidence of hunger has fallen by nearly 30% in Asia and the Pacific over the past 20 years, due to socio-economic progress, in Africa the number of hungry grew over the period, to 239 million in 2010-12 from 175 million in 1990-92. The World Food Program (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have all identified that "agricultural growth involving smallholders, especially women, will be most effective in reducing extreme poverty and hunger when it generates employment for the poor". In many rural areas, there are immense obstacles to rural householders being able to make a living from agriculture.

Khulumani's Voices latest blog seeks to give voice and visibility to these immense challenges facing young people in particular from rural areas of the country. Khulumani's programme in promoting small-scale productive enterprises is an important effort committed to changing this reality but access to finances still continues to thwart most initiatives. A shift towards investment in community local enterprises is critical to restoring possibilities of well-being and dignity to the millions of people living in rural areas.

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