By Charndré Emma Kippie

Empowering the youth 

The National Rural Youth Service Corps (NARYSEC) is South Africa’s youth skills development and employment programme, which acts as a youth flagship programme of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform – which also forms part of the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme (CRDP).


NARYSEC is dedicated to facilitating character building programmes, and encouraging soft and hard skills training in rural communities. The goal is to empower the youth in rural areas to upskill and garner the capacity to undertake various rural infrastructure and development projects. 


At present, NARYSEC is transforming youth from rural areas, growing ‘job seekers’ into active job creators in their own right. These admirable efforts are breaking the generational cycle of dependency on social grants from the South African government. 



The impact of the NARYSEC

To date, more than 25 244 young people have been trained as a result of the programme. The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) has also previously partnered with the Agricultural Research Council to train around 900 agri-paraprofessionals in smallholder livestock and dairy production. 


Many candidates in the programme have also received training in vegetable gardening and soil sampling, in order to start their own farms and provide for their families. 


Speaking on creating self-sustainable youths in rural areas, Thoko Didiza, Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, said: 


“South Africa will never change if young people just wait for government to provide. Let us go to the farm and start farming. Once you are done with the programme, we want to see you being able to farm. The programme is meant to kick-start your life so that you can change your lives.” 


It is expected that once training is received, participants should become change agents who contribute towards the vision of  “building vibrant; equitable and sustainable rural communities”, said Minister Didiza. 


She went on to say that there are still underlying issues that need to be addressed in order to truly uplift South Africa’s youth:


“In any country the youth are important. The youth have the potential to drive the development of the country”, she encouraged. “There is a need for districts to have economic development. If there is no economic development, we will never deal with poverty in our communities.” 


Hundreds of youths have also received valuable practical training in construction by Engineering company, Murray and Roberts. This has been part of a partnership with South Africa’s private sector. Youth participation in construction projects include housing construction) in Worcester, the construction of a youth hub in Beaufort-West, and brick making and paving in the Limpopo Province. 


“As pioneers, you [programme participants] have a lot of responsibilities to contribute toward the economy of the country”, said Minister Didiza when addressing the youth in rural regions. She went on to add that the programme is geared towards empowering the youth to transform their own lives and change the lives of their families, whilst contributing towards enhancing the conditions of rural communities.


Some programme successes includes:


  • A stipend was received during the Programme which contributed towards improving the livelihoods of the youth and their families. 
  • Some of the programme attendees reported that household income increased for them during and after the NARYSEC Programme due to some of the youth being employed and having started their own businesses. 
  • Opportunities were provided for youth to acquire a skill they did not have before joining the programme – large numbers of youth have been certified through the Programme. 
  • A culture of community service has been instilled in the youth. 


Recruiting change agents 


All recruitment for the NARYSEC Programme is conducted via various forms of digital and traditional advertisements. The selection process is overseen by community cohorts.  Successful NARYSEC participants are required to stay in the programme for a period of 48 months, following their recruitment from rural communities. The first two years of the programme zoom in on skills development, while the two years thereafter focus on incubation of enterprises.


Recruitment is done for two main streams, namely National Defence Force training and Rural Development and Land Reform training. 

National Defence Force training

The Department of Defence successfully instituted the National Youth Service (NYS) training programme back in January 2011. This was done in collaboration with participating state departments.


The curriculum of this programme provides subjects such as drill, physical training, leadership, civic education, life skills, youth regeneration, diversity management, environmental management, public service induction, communication and social responsibility. It is important to note that this involves non-military training, as no combat training is provided. 


Rural Development and Land Reform training

The skills developed by DRDLR’s National Youth Service Corps (NARYSEC) are construction, agriculture, disaster mitigation, office management, basic administrative skills, project administration and enterprise development. 


The skills-development phase is followed by the community-service phase, in which the youth apply their newly acquired skills in rural communities under mentorship of the responsible department.


The exit strategy of the NARYSEC is connected to the maintenance and operational activities of local and district municipalities. 


Strategic outcomes of the programme include: 


  • Decreasing the level of youth unemployment in rural areas
  • Enhancing literacy and skills
  • Increasing the disposable income of youth in rural areas as a result of employment and entrepreneurial opportunities
  • Lowering dependence on transfers from family members working in urban areas


At the end of the four year NARYSEC programme, participants are ready for employment, or are able to contribute to the economies of their respective communities through building enterprises of their own. 

Main objectives of NARYSEC

  • The programme has been specifically designed as part of the National Youth Service and focuses on aspects of discipline, patriotism and service delivery in rural communities.
  • Train youth through specifically developed programmes linked to community needs in rural areas.
  • Develop youth with multidisciplinary skills through civic education.
  • Capacitate youth in retaining knowledge and technical skills acquired during training. 
  • Increase the number of rural communities receiving support in their self-development through the CRDP.



    *Check out the latest edition of the Public Sector Leaders publication here.

    For enquiries, regarding being profiled or showcased in the next edition of the Public Sector Leaders publication, please contact National Project Manager, Emlyn Dunn: 

    Telephone: 086 000 9590 |  Mobile: 072 126 3962 |  e-Mail: