HAFL’s Professor Dominique Guenat, Mansour N’Diaye of FAO Chad, Pierre-André Page (Swiss National Council FR), farmer Mariane Ngerassem and the moderator Melanie Pfaendler (left to right).
Photo: © EDA

Rural and urban development – SDC’s annual conference 2018

Developing urban and rural areas sustainably – two of Switzerland’s priorities in Africa – were at the focus of the SDC’s Annual Conference in Berne/Switzerland last June.

More than 1,200 participants – specialists, politicians, representatives of UN agencies, NGOs and civil society – attended the Annual Swiss Development Cooperation Conference SDC/SECO in Berne end of June 2018.

The topic chosen for the conference was the work of SDC and the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) in Africa and their priorities for the continent in terms of the sustainable development of urban and rural areas.

After the official opening, the first panel addressed rural development in Chad’s seed sector, whereas another one focused on urban development in the townships of South Africa.

Furthermore, the partners of the SDC – Helvetas, the International Services of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ IS), the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI), Caritas, Swiss Aid, Swiss Contact and Biovision, amongst others, presented their projects at stands.

Better returns, better opportunities – seed production in Chad

Three quarters of Chad’s area is semi-arid, and one quarter is sub-humid. Water is scarce, and climate change is hitting the local population hard. In rural areas, agriculture is the only source of income. Given a 3.6 per cent population growth rate, Chad is facing new challenges as natural resources are limited but essential to nourish the population.

In four pilot regions, SDC implemented a seed multiplication project together with GIZ International Services. The regions had been carefully selected to avoid tribal conflict e.g. concerning religion.

The seed project focused on seed production, multiplication, quality control, distribution and capacity building in state laboratories. Furthermore, GIZ IS trained rural women in multiplying high-quality seed, such as grain, maize, groundnuts and millet.

In Chad, only two per cent of the seeds are certified. “We must strengthen both the formal and the informal sector, so that farmers can better distribute the seeds and price systems, to make the higher-quality seeds affordable to them,” said Dominique Guenat, a professor at the School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences (HAFL), Zollikofen, Switzerland.

At the same time, climate change was affecting daily life, bringing along droughts and desertification. So it was important to use seeds adapted to the ecosystems and resistant to droughts, Guenat continued.

Farmer Mariane Nguerassem added that floods in combination with seeds taking longer to mature, resulting from climate change as well, were having a direct impact on their livelihoods.

“No doubt sustainable humanitarian aid addressing the needs of the refugees should also integrate the seed sector in the home countries. But seeds are only one answer to migration,” stated Mansour N’Diaye, representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Chad.

“Demonstration of what works and, in a second step, up-scaling of these approaches from pilot areas to higher levels is crucial,” N’Diaye added.

Globalisation dynamics

“The dynamics of globalisation have made a distinction between rural and urban zones obsolete. We already have rural and peri-urban zones which are interdependent,” maintained Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

The small-scale farmers were the first who suffer from hunger, and were also the first victims of climate change, Houngbo explained. To overcome the problem, food varieties, quality food, sustainable food production and nutritive food were highly important.

Especially on domestic markets certification, standardisation as well as standards for packing were still missing, he pointed out.

“Each year, 12 to 16 million young people from Africa’s rural and urban areas enter the labour market. Therefore we need practical solutions. Moreover, IFAD finances an investment fund under which an agribusiness campaign is running to address the youth,” Houngbo said, and explained that an integrated approach was needed to fill the gap between the cities and the rural areas. “A new method is imperative for an added value,” Houngbo concluded.

Innovative approaches to urban challenges in South Africa

In South Africa, the SECO is working together with the World Bank to support the 'Cities Support Program'. The scheme helps eight city councils organise their cities to become more inclusive, sustainable and productive.

“Spatial planning of cities is still stubborn as a result of Apartheid,” said Sithole Mbanga, CEO of the South African Cities Network.

Since economic growth had stagnated, pressure increased on the social system. Thus, it was more important to interlink rural and urban zones. “Strong cities need much stronger rural areas,” Mbanga continued. “For example, the public transport system in Johannesburg has to cope with 16 to 18 million people living in townships and the surroundings.”

Malijeng Ngqaleni, Head of Intergovernmental Relations, National Treasury, South Africa said that in terms of housing, electricity and water, linking and connecting people had already been achieved, but for social integrity a coherent way still had to be found. Human settlement policies needed to integrate land, housing and public transport catalysed by private investments.

As every household was spending 60 per cent of revenues on average for public transportation, South Africa referred to this state of affairs as the “household crisis”. It was a systemic problem that needed integrated approaches and the engagement of social entities such as schools for the children to improve the transport situation, Ngqaleni explained.

To support this, the government had to provide the right framework conditions and incentives. The key to success lay in bringing together private sector, civil society, government and innovative entities to invest, Mbanga maintained.

But South Africa’s municipalities also have to be competitive. Andrea Heinzer, Head of Investments at SIFEM, the development finance institution of the Swiss Confederation, explained that SIFEM was investing in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and fast-growing companies to maintain jobs. In addition, lower cost solutions for housing were needed that were affordable.

A pilot project in the township Alexandria (a suburb of Johannesburg) provides a high- speed Internet service free of charge. This avoids travelling and costly transport as well as linking people and connects households.


Daniela Böhm, editor, Rural 21


More information:

Website of the Annual Swiss Development Cooperation Conference 2018

Project website of Sustainable urban development in South Africa makes for a better economic climate

Project website of Greater food security in Chad thanks to a stable seed sector

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