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Story by Claire Hawkridge | Fundraising, Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator | Heifer South Africa
Heifer South Africa represented Heifer International at a workshop that introduced new research that will explore how economic networks function in rural communities in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Malawi.
The workshop, hosted by the Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) Institute of the University of the Western Cape, was held February 14, 2013, in Pretoria, South Africa.
The research, funded by the Department for International Development and the European Council for Social and Economic Research, will take place over the next year and will investigate different factors smallholder farmers in these three countries interact with, how these interactions take place, what power relations exist and how funds flow in and out of rural economic networks. There will also be a particular focus on the relationship between farm and non-farm employment and livelihoods.
Such a deep understanding of the broader rural economic context will make it possible to determine how and where interventions like Heifer’s could have the greatest impact.
Heifer South Africa was invited to attend this workshop as one of only a few non-government organizations. Workshop participants were selected because they represent groups the researchers consider the users of their work−those in a position to use research results to create policy, design programs and implement interventions to improve the lives of poor, rural people. The workshop was attended by representatives of universities, researchers and government officials from all three countries, including departments responsible for agriculture, trade, food security and rural development. Workshop participants were encouraged to engage with researchers around the questions they would be asking, the methodology they have chosen and how best results could be presented in order to be useful in policy-making and program design.
Heifer South Africa looks forward to working with the researchers from PLAAS on this project and will share the results, once they are released, with other Heifer countries, as findings may raise questions and identify new options and solutions relevant to Heifer’s work around the world.