TCOE – Trust for Community Outreach and Education

i. Introduction
TCOE – Trust for Community Outreach and Education was established by the late Steve Biko in 1983. TCOE is a national organisation that operates mainly in the rural areas of South Africa. TCOE has six affiliates and these regional operations have their own governance structures and regional support staff. Fundraising is done both by the national office and at the regional level.
The main work and experience of the organisation in the past ten years has been to stimulate the building of local organisations, local leadership and assist these associations to access land and productive assets to improve their livelihoods.
TCOE has successfully managed to:

(i) Build a national organisation and strong leadership;
(ii) Build well-informed leaders that can lead local initiatives and campaigns;
(iii) Grapple with the question of land, livelihoods and food sovereignty in a number of different ways;
(iv) Develop a campaign to access land for livelihoods;
(v) Make inroads into organizing rural women; and
(vi) Create strategic partnerships and alliances with organizations working with land and agrarian reform issues.

ii. Background
In the early years of its formation, the main focus was to support rural communities to access education that was denied to them by the apartheid government. From the early 1990’s TCOE broadened its scope of work to include combating illiteracy as well as to initiate projects in the community that could assist women to become more self reliant, enterprising and skilled. The main emphasis was on project development for the marginal sectors of our communities especially those in the homelands and coastal villages of the country.
As the political context in the country changed, so too did TCOE. We began to question our approach to development. Thus the organisation, on the basis of self-critique and in an effort to respond to a very different context, decided to refocus and shift its approach from ‘project-delivery’ or ‘welfarism’ to an approach that empowered the community to determine its own development path and plans. By 1994, we had retrained and re-orientated our staff to work in a way that emphasised community empowerment and the rebuilding of local organisations and leadership through participatory development methodologies.
Today, our approach shifted to organise people around issues identified by them as critical, hence our shift to land rights and rural poverty. Over the past five years the organisation has built its capacity to grapple with land issues, both at the level of understanding and engaging with policy, as well as through practice. We have in the process assisted in building and strengthening farmers associations and women’s groups in more than 200 villages in which we work to enable access, utilization and management of land for food security and sustainable livelihoods. In addition we have begun to take on board new questions of food sovereignty, the Green Revolution in Africa, GMOs and the environment.
In this regard we have formulated the following focus during our 2008 strategic planning processes:

  • We seek to contribute to the transformation of the countryside through the building of an independent movement of the rural poor (small farmers, land rights forums, producer co-operatives, small stock-holders, rural women’s groups) that are capable of articulating their own interests;
  • Through undertaking community action research(PAR) develop advocacy strategies for new policies and practice in relation to land and agrarian reform addressed to the relevant level of government;
  • Work with small holders to ensure greater levels of food sovereignty, awareness of the environment and a keen sense of alternatives to the dominant commercial agricultural models; and
  • Build women’s active participation in leadership, in policy articulation and in community mobilisation.

iii. Past achievements
The organisation has gained invaluable experience through the establishment of several membership, community based associations and forums of small farmers, agricultural collectives, rural women’s groups as well as stock-farmers, for example, Mawubuye Land Rights Forum (Western Cape), Makukhanye, Sundays’ River Small Farmers and garden Associations (Eastern Cape) Rural People Movement (Eastern Cape) Ilizwi Lama Fama (Eastern Cape), Mopani District Farmers Union (Limpopo), Coastal Links(Western and Northern Cape) and the Rural Women’s Forums in all the districts where we work. Collectively, these associations have a membership base of over 8000 members.
We have worked with these associations to consolidate local leadership, develop livelihood strategies including access to land, land use and developing of local markets. There has also been some success in relation to increasing production and extending household gardens as a strategy for food security.
Another aspect of our work has been the joint PAR (Participatory Action Research) and policy development with PLAAS of the University of the Western Cape on Area Based Planning (ABP), and rural livelihoods, as well as the recently completed study that we conducted on the border towns of the former Transkei on the Government’s LRAD programme. Here we worked with 15 LRAD projects to establish the success or failure of this flag-ship programme of the South African Government’s land reform.
We are of the view that the concrete research into ABP and the LRAD studies have certainly assisted us to develop alternatives for policy interventions in the coming period. Another important dimension that we have started to work on is that of support for livelihoods through our small holder support program.