BRC is a progressive non-governmental organisation working in the central and eastern parts of the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. BRC seeks to defend human rights and democracy in rural areas, promote land reform (with a focus on betterment restitution), support community environmental initiatives and promote sustainable livelihoods in rural areas.
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Describe in detail what your Organisation does:
BRC’s strategic plan for 2016 to 2021 has three themes:
Land Rights and Democracy
LAND RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY
The South African government’s land reform record to date is unimpressive. It has fallen way short of its targets with respect to the finalisation of restitution claims, as well as the transfer of land in terms of its land redistribution programme. It has had fundamental ideological changes with respect to the target grouping of land redistribution (first the poor, then emerging commercial farmers). It has failed to ensure that the provisions of the Constitution are met with respect to legislation securing the tenure rights of those living in communal areas. Its attempt at securing the tenure of farm-workers has backfired.
The result of this failure, falling short and blundering is that the rural poor of South Africa continue to live in dire circumstances. The potential of land reform lies not only in its ability to redress historical injustices, but also in the fact that it promises development and economic growth.
Instead of taking stock of its errors and making an honest assessment of the last twenty years, the government chooses to play populists cards. It panders to traditional leadership, it re-opens restitution without providing the necessary budget to process and settle new claims and it indulges in rhetoric about doing away with ‘willing buyer, willing seller’, while doing no such thing.
BRC’s view is that there is only so much that can be achieved through statements at conferences and submissions to Parliament. The rural people of South Africa need to mobilise and make their voices heard – on the streets and through the ballot box.
BRC will, in the 2016 to 2021 period, continue to focus on rural social mobilisation. In this way, it will seek to defend the gains of South Africa’s democracy. Attempts, by the government, to bolster of the powers of traditional leaders at the expense of democratic structures in the former homelands will be opposed.
BRC will continue to advocate for legislation that will provide security of tenure for people in communal areas.
BRC will maintain its close relationship with Vulamasango Singene, and assist VS to ensure that the betterment restitution victory translates into resources flowing to the former homelands.
A snapshot of the Eastern Cape
A situation analysis of South Africa, and the Eastern Cape Province in particular, was presented at BRC’s internal strategic planning conference in 2014. The following points were noted:
- Sixty-five percent of people in the Eastern Cape live in rural areas.
- In the rural areas, there is a high dependency ratio (ie the number of people dependent on each working person). For example, the ratio is 88.9 in Alfred Nzo, compared to 47.9 in Buffalo City.
- Outwards migration, although still prevalent, has slowed. This is attributed to the rising cost of migration and the declining availability of opportunities making it more difficult for people to leave. The declining rate of migrancy has led to a decline in the remittances and cash inflows sent to rural households.
- There has been a net out migration of people from the province since 2001.
- The average household size is larger in rural districts, particularly in the former homelands.
- More than 50% of households are female-headed in rural areas.
- Education levels in the Eastern Cape remain extremely low, and worse in the rural areas, where only 22% of the population have completed grade 12. The low levels of employment and sub-standard quality of education for the majority of black pupils are key points.
- The two are interrelated as potential employment opportunities are limited without a grade 12 and further education.
- Although here has been decline in the number of households living in abject poverty, (owing mainly to the introduction of child support grants), the number of rural households living below the poverty line remains shockingly high at 58%.
- Youth unemployment is a particular problem. Forty-nine percent of black people between the ages of 20 and 29 are unemployed.
- The Eastern Cape has remains on the periphery of the national economy and, with the exception of Coega, there has been little investment in economic infrastructure since 1994. As a result, the current levels of infrastructure and logistics limit the competiveness of the province. The former apartheid structure of the province has also not changed with the province still acting as a surplus labour reservoir.
- In terms of employment, the province is dominated by public services, trade and finance. A key concern is that the two pillars of the productive economy – manufacturing and agriculture – have been stagnant or in decline. The lack of economic growth has not enabled the province to address the pressing need for employment creation and poverty reduction.
BRC IN THE PERIOD 2016 TO 2021
The facts listed above point to the need for continued intervention, by BRC, with respect to local economic development in rural areas. Work at a policy level is important, but this must be supported by experience in implementation.
BRC has considerable experience in the management of LED projects, ranging from tourism to agriculture and forestry. Our monitoring statistics show that, although by no means perfect, our work in these fields has resulted in increased employments levels, increased incomes and increased food security. During the 2016 to 2021 strategic period, BRC will use this experience to improve the livelihoods of rural people, and to use this implementation experience to inform its lobbying and advocacy work.
BRC recognises that the state’s Community Work Programme (CWP) is an important safety net for rural people. Through eight days of predictable work per person, it provides regular income without disrupting other revenue-generating strategies. Not only is the wage component of CWP important: the programme also provides inputs to support work of a communal or civic nature. The resources that flow into an area as a result of CWP are a boost to the local economy. If used in a progressive way, they can make a positive difference in the lives of local people. Furthermore, the substantial training budget affords participants to develop skills that will better enable them to find employment in the formal and informal sectors. In other words, progressive implementation of CWP results in real, meaningful, capacity building towards sustainable livelihoods. For these reasons, BRC will seek to continue to its work as an implementing agent for CWP.
The Keiskammahoek area is extremely important from an environmental point of view. It is the water “factory” of the Eastern Cape, feeding rivers and dams across the province. Furthermore, it is a critical biodiversity area.
BRC recognises that climate change is a threat to our planet. Moreover, stewardship of the environment is essential to the quality of life of people. The immediate needs of communities are sometimes at odds with environmental concerns, but it is possible to drive a development agenda that does not compromise the environment. In the 2016 to 2021 period, BRC will seek to promote and implement such a development agenda.
Where conservation requires an economic or social compromise on the part of local people, BRC will assist communities to broker stewardship agreements with the state so that they are compensated for the loss (for example, of access to natural resources).
There are instances where environmental conservation is of a direct economic benefit to local communities. Tourism is a case in point. Where possible, BRC will seek to assist communities to harness the tourism potential of conservation in their areas.
Given BRC’s close relationship with communities in Keiskammahoek, and the area’s environmental importance, it is an obvious site for such work. BRC’s environmental work will not, however, be geographically limited. The organisation will seek to ensure that all its development work is “green”. BRC will also actively seek to rehabilitate degraded landscapes through community projects, encouraging improved land use practices.
METHODOLOGIES / APPROACHES / PRINCIPLES
An understanding of the way BRC approaches its work is almost as important as understanding its content. Over three decades, BRC has developed a practice that is progressive and effective. An overview of its key elements is presented below.
BRC does not speak on behalf of rural communities. Instead, BRC engages with communities around critical issues, and supports them as they organise themselves to articulate their own positions. Information dissemination (see “capacity building”, below) is an important part of mobilisation, as is the creation of spaces where discussion can take place. Where appropriate, BRC assists communities to embark on mass action (marches and pickets), or to litigate.
BRC understands that human resources are its greatest asset: its own staff, as well as the people with whom it works. In the period 2016 to 2021, BRC will continue to invest in people, building skills at community level, and of BRC staff. There will be a particular focus on young people. BRC’s capacity building methods include information dissemination, training (both formal and informal) and experiential exchanges. Case studies from around the world, where communities have successfully addressed similar challenges to those experienced here, will be a key feature of BRC’s capacity building programme.
BRC will ensure that it is fully informed regarding issues affecting rural people in the Eastern Cape. Not only does this mean keeping abreast of policy and legislative development, it is important to capture the lessons from our own work. Effective monitoring and evaluation systems will inform our policy work and allow us to share information with similar organisations. BRC will implement an “action research” model where appropriate.
Through its work, BRC promotes community ownership and control of resources. Drawing first on an understanding of assets currently held by a community (whether they be human resource capacity, natural resources or infrastructure), BRC seeks to ensure that, through the effective implementation of local economic development projects, these (and other) assets are secured and augmented. Decision-making regarding the employment of community assets should be democratic and devolved to the lowest possible level. BRC’s work, where possible, should see investment in local communities. The assets that are built at community level will be available to enable further development.
BRC works in partnership with other organisations in order to maximise its impact. During the 2016 to 2021 period, BRC will consolidate existing, and seek to build new, partnerships with organisations that share BRC’s values. This will be done both within the province and nationally, to ensure that rural civil society’s voice is clear and that it is heard. Co-operation is not, however, limited to the political sphere. BRC will forge partnerships with organisations and institutions (such as universities) to improve its implementation. Where work requires particular technical skills, it is often more efficient to broker those in, through a partnership, rather than develop them in-house.
BRC has a proud history of effective project management. It has decades of experience in planning, executing and monitoring the implementation of development projects. It does so occasionally, on a professional basis, for government in order to build its revenue reserve. The organisation does not, however, aim simply to comply with a conventional project management model. BRC’s approach to project management ensures that BRC’s values are respected, and progressive outcomes are achieved. The relies on participatory decision-making and accountability at all levels.
VISION AND MISSION
By 2021, the former Transkei and Ciskei communities will have access to services, education and economic opportunities, leading to an improvement in local livelihoods. Communities are knowledgeable and exercise their rights, driving their own development.
In order for BRC to realise its vision, BRC will work to:
- defend human rights and democracy in rural areas
- promote land reform (with a focus on betterment restitution)
- support community environmental initiatives.
- promote sustainable livelihoods in rural areas.
- In carrying out its work, BRC will enter into strategic partnerships with organisations that share similar progressive values, as well as with those who can assist in the implementation of its work.
- BRC will work to build its own internal capacity as well as that of the people with who it works at community level. Social mobilisation is a key methodology that BRC will employ, ensuring that people’s voices are heard.
Sound research and M&E practices will inform BRC’s work. BRC will engage in project management in such a way that BRC’s values are respected, and progressive outcomes are achieved.
How long has your Organisation been operational?
- Since 1982
In your opinion, what has been the most challenging aspect of running your Organisation?
- Trying to retain an activist, responsive, people-focused methodology while having to fit into the strictures of inflexible project-specific funding.
Describe your Nonprofit Journey in three words:
Do you collaborate with other Causes? If yes, would you like to mention them?
- Yes, we are part of the Tshintsha Amakhaya initiative – a partnership of similar rural development / land reform organisations.
If you had one Organisation wish, what would it be?
- The flexibility of core funding as it was in the late 80s / early 90s.
In your opinion, which skills do Nonprofits in your Country lack?
- Planning skills
Financial management skills
Looking back at your Cause Journey, what advice would you give a newbie Organisation?
- Ensure that you have committed and skilled volunteers on your governance structure.
If you could change one thing about the Nonprofit Landscape, what would it be?
- A return to the flexibility of core funding as it was in the late 80s / early 90s.
Which Cause achievement are you most proud of? Feel free to elaborate on why and include any links
- The successful settlement of the Cata community’s land restitution claim: BRC was central to ensuring that this precedent-setting “betterment” claim was settled in the community’s favour. BRC then managed a large integrated development programme that has had an enormous positive impact on the lives of the people of Cata. For more information, see http://vs.org.za/background-and-history#What is the Cata Story?
Last question, if your friends had to describe your Organisation in three words, which would they use?