SANDF contributing to rural development


The first tangible evidence of the SA National Defence Force’s (SANDF’s) move into rural development comes this month when 60 Military Skills Development System (MSDS) volunteers from the North West start basic training.

Their recruitment, on a province specific basis, was approved by SA Army Chief, Lieutenant General Vusi Masondo, as part of the North West pilot project involving the SANDF in rural development following an instruction by former Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu. It comes on the heels of consultations and extensive preparation work led by Brigadier General Gerhard Kamffer, Director: Army Reserves.

They will be trained and utilised to be benefit of both the SA Army and rural communities on returning home after completion of their initial military service.

According to Kamffer, the SANDF contribution to rural development must not be “restricted to the agricultural interface only but be broadened to include the industrial and services sectors and human resources”.

Overall, the involvement of the South African military in rural development is guided by it not adversely affecting the core business of the SANDF. At the same time it meets government aspirations as set down in the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme (CRDP). This focuses on enabling people in rural areas to take control of their own lives with support from government.

The North West pilot, launched last year during a briefing by Kamffer to provincial premier Thandi Modise and senior provincial representatives, will have Potchefstroom as its central point. In the short term the first aim is the involvement of agricultural co-operatives and local farming communities, commercial and emerging, in the provision of food to military bases as part of the defence procurement chain.

Kamffer sees the project decentralising procurement to unit level with units obtaining goods and services from local communities as far as possible with food rations first.

The supply of rations is expected to be extended to include what Kamffer terms “military agri-villages” where former military personnel are co-located to military units to provide additional services. A village will be coupled to a commercial hub where local government disciplines will provide structured services to the larger local community including its military component. The concept is seen as an integrated military co-operative system with social responsibility, economic sustainability and education, training and development at its core.

Apart from providing the SANDF with goods and services there are other potential areas where the military can contribute to national, particularly rural, development in this programme.

These include youth development, dispersion of defence infrastructure, utilisation of Reserve Force soldiers from rural communities to improve income streams, supplying community services where local government cannot and improvement of defence infrastructure.
“The implementation of this concept will make a significant contribution to the developmental agenda of government without distracting the SANDF from its core business. The SA Army as a critical instrument of national power will remain relevant and ready to support the State and the people of South Africa,” Kamffer said.