Just under 20% of the South Africa’s households are directly involved in and dependent on the agriculture sector according to Statistics South Africa (Stats SA). (Images: Lima)A slowing economy coupled with rising unemployment figures means many people have little choice but to grow some of their own food to ensure food security for their families. Thousands of vulnerable households across the country have benefitted from food security projects through Lima Rural Development Foundation.The foundation, a non-government organisation (NGO) established in 1989, is one of the organisations leading the charge to use agriculture to empower South Africa’s rural communities.The development of the communities the organisation worked with was “central to Lima’s focus”, explained Duncan Stewart, its managing director. He was speaking at the organisation’s 25th anniversary celebration in 2014. “Our donors and clients have been relentless in their support of our initiatives. Lima presently has 78 active projects that are being funded by our generous supporters.”It has implemented and is running rural development projects in all nine of South Africa’s provinces to ensure its services reach as many rural and urban communities as possible. It works through partnerships with several private and government entities such as the Department of Human Settlements and Mondi, the packaging and paper company.LIMA’S IMPACT ON RURAL COMMUNITIESAs part of Lima’s efforts over the years to alleviate poverty in South Africa’s rural communities, the NGO has established numerous training and economic development programmes in areas where it has identified the need.A large portion of its efforts has gone to aiding the transformation of the agricultural sector and raising the level of black economic empowerment, with marked efforts to empower women in particular.Among Lima’s many projects are its food security programmes, which help combat poverty and malnutrition in rural areas where food insecurity levels are highest. Given rising levels of HIV and Aids coupled with increasing unemployment, people are given little choice but to grow their own food as prices escalate and opportunities to earn an income dwindle.The foundation helps in this regard to increase food production in selected households by providing nutrition education, technical support and infrastructural development.Its projects cover a wide variety of subjects, such as developing community and school gardens for fresh produce, proper fencing and best practices to reduce costs such as irrigation systems that involve harvesting rain water, pest control and effective composting.Services go on to include disease control, establishing Aids support groups, clubs for the elderly, community-based care givers, homes for orphaned children as well as supporting and developing schools.RURAL LIVELIHOODSUSTAINABLE RURAL COMMUNITIESAccording to the foundation’s website, more than 5 000 vulnerable households across the country have benefited from Lima’s food security projects alone, with thousands more benefitting from other projects such as its engineering or housing projects.“The warmth and love that we receive from rural communities every day is what keeps us sane and motivated,” Stewart said in concluding the foundation’s 25th anniversary celebration. “The dreams and visions of the communities define our future agenda and from them we take our lead.”For more information about the activities of the Lima Rural Development Foundation, visit its website or get in touch via its contact us page.