Deidré van Rooyen


Although the Department of Health has been using community health workers since 1994 (Friedman, 2002), it was not until 2003 that the South African government introduced the Community Development Workers Initiative (Department of Provincial and Local Government [DPLG], 2005). The primary aim of Community Development Workers is to maintain direct contact with people where they live and to assist in developing a community/people-centred drive (DPLG, 2005:13). The introduction of community development workers is an initiative stemming from the Office of the President. The main vision for the community development workers is captured in President Thabo Mbeki’s State of the Nation Address in February 2003, when he stated that “government will create a public service echelon of multi-skilled Community Development Workers who will maintain direct contact with the people where these masses live. We are determined to ensure that government goes to the people so that we sharply improve the quality of the outcomes of public expenditures intended to raise the standards of living of our people” (Baaitjies & Hinstra, 2005:10; DPLG, 2004). The initiative is viewed as contributing to a removal of the “development deadlock”, strengthening the “democratic social contract”, advocating for an organised voice for the poor, improving the government-community network and contributing to “joined up” government. According to this initiative, most electoral wards should have a community development worker. Although the current documentation provides a fairly good overview of what is expected of these community development workers, the question is what one can learn from international experience in this regard. Interestingly, South African academic literature has been over-supplied with contributions focusing on the international experience in respect of community developmental policies during apartheid and the early 1990s (Cruse, 1997; Finger, 1999; Friedman, 2002; Frontiers, 2002; Holloway, Lee & McConkey, 1999; Makan, 1997). However, lately there has been a decrease in papers focusing on this debate. Also, none of the above-mentioned papers has focused on international experience in respect of community-based workers. Considering the government of South Africa’s introduction of community development workers and initiatives such as those involving community-based workers, the question is: what can we learn from international experience that we can apply in South Africa? These lessons from best practices across the world will surely be able to inform implementation, policy and legislation in developing the community development worker approach in South Africa

Full Text:



ADVANCE AFRICA. 2003. Addressing FP/RH within community-based distribution [online]. Available: do/Expandng_Community-based_-Initiatives/CB. [Rev. 11 May 2005].

BAAITJIES, R. & HINSTRA, Z. 2005. Community development workers. At the heart of participatory democracy and developmental government. Local Government Bulletin, 7(5):10-11.

BAHASA. n.d. Community-based animal health services. Indonesia: Deliveri Programme, Indonesia [online]. Available: implementation/ig_4/ig_4_-summary.htm. [Rev. 14 March 2005].

BEST, K. 1999. CARE Project Enlists Community Support. Network, 19(3):1-3 [online]. Available: _programs.htm. [Rev. 11 May 2005].

BHATTACHARYYA, K., LEBAN, K., WINCH, P. & TIEN, M. 2001. Community health worker incentives and disincentives: How they affect motivation, retention, and sus-tainability. Arlington, Virginia: Basics II, United States Agency for International Development.

BLINKHOFF, P., BUKANGA, E., SYAMALEVWE, B. & WILLIAMS, G. 2001. Under the Mupundu Tree. Volunteers in home care for people with HIV and AIDS and TB in Zambia’s Copperbelt. London: ACTIONAID.

COMMUNITY-BASED WORKER PROJECT. 2004. South Africa in-country review report. Community-based worker project. South Africa: African Institute for Community Driven Development (formerly Khanya).

CRUSE, D. 1997. Community health workers in South Africa: Information for provincial policy makers. Durban: Health Systems Trust.

DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE. 1996. Growth, employment and redistribution. A macroeconomic strategy. Pretoria: Department of Finance.

DONAHUE, J. & WILLIAMSON, J. 1999. Community mobilization to mitigate the impacts of HIV/AIDS. United States: Displaced Children and Orphan Fund.

DPLG - DEPARTMENT OF PROVINCIAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT. 2004. A National Policy Framework for Community Development Workers in South Africa. Discussion Document. Pretoria: Community Development.

DPLG - DEPARTMENT OF PROVINCIAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT. 2005. Draft National Policy Framework for Public Participation. Pretoria: Public Participation and Empowerment Chief Directorate.

FINGER, W.R. 1999. Motivating community-based worker. Network, 19(3):1-3.

FRIEDMAN, I. 2002. Community-based health workers. South Africa: SEED Trust Health Programme.

FRONTIERS. 2002. Best practices in CBD Programs in sub-Saharan Africa: Lessons learned from research and evaluation [online]. Available: [Rev. 23 May 2005].

GOVERNMENT COMMUNICATION AND INFORMATION SYSTEMS (GCIS). 2005. Creating work, and growing economy. Vuk’zenzele, 1(2). [online]. Available: [Rev. 22 June 2006].

HOLLOWAY, S., LEE, L. & McCONKEY, R. 1999. Meeting the training needs of community-based service personnel in Africa through video-based training courses. Disability and Rehabilitation, 21(9):448-454.

IPAR - INSTITUTE OF POLICY ANALYSIS AND RESEARCH. 2003. Policy Requirements to Accommodate Community-based Animal Health Workers in Kenya. Policy Brief, 9(2):1-4.

JONES, B.T.B. 1998. Community management of natural resources in Namibia. Scandinavian Seminar College’s Africa Project. Windhoek: IIED.

JONES, B.T.B. 1999. Community-based natural resources in Botswana and Namibia: An inventory and preliminary analysis of progress. Windhoek: IIED.

JONES, B.T.B. 2002. Chobe Enclave, Botswana. Lessons learnt from a CBNRM Project 1993-2002. Botswana: CBNRM Support Programme.

JONES, S. & NELSON, N. (eds) 2005. Practitioners and poverty alleviation. Influencing urban policy from the ground up. Warwickshire: ITDG Publishing.

KHANYA-AFRICAN INSTITUTE FOR COMMUNITY-DRIVEN DEVELOPMENT. 2006. Peru Study Tour Report on Community Based Worker Systems. Bloemfontein: Khanya. [online]. Available: http://www.Khanya final%20-report 06_07_15.pdf. [Rev. 12 October 2006].

LEKSMONO, C.S. & YOUNG, J. 2002. Community-based animal health workers and institutional change: The DELIVERI Project in Indonesia. Participatory Learning and Action Notes, 45:13-16.

MAKAN, B. 1997. An economic analysis of Community Health Worker Programmes in the Western Cape Province. South Africa: Health Systems Trust.

MARENGA, C. 2001. Home-based care for people living with HIV/AIDS. United Kingdom: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

MARINER, J., ROEDER, P. & ADMASSU, B. 2002. Community participation and global eradication of rinderpest. Participatory Learning and Action Notes, 45:29-33.

MORGAN, R. 2000. Pathfinder’s community-based projects address barriers to reproductive health services. Pathpapers, 1(1):1-10.

MORREIRA, S. (ed) 1999. How can we help? Approaches to community-based care. Zimbabwe: Child Protection Society.

NRSP - NATURAL RESOURCE SYSTEM PROGRAMME. 2004. NRSP Annual Report 2003-2004 Part 1 – Project Success Stories [online]. Available: [Rev. 18 May 2005].

NSUTEBU, E.F., WALLEY, J.D. MATAKA, E. & SIMON, C. 2001. Scaling-up HIV and AIDS and TB home-based care: Lessons form Zambia. Health Policy and Planning, 16(3):240-247.

PLATT, G., KAGWE, P. & MWANPONDA, I. 2004. Beyond home-based care in Kenya. Kenya: Pathfinder International.

PRESIDENTIAL PROGRAMME. 2004. A handbook on community development workers in South Africa. Pretoria: Department of Provincial and Local Government.

REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA. MINISTRY IN THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT. 1994. Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) White Paper. Government Gazette, Vol. 353, No. 16085 (23 November 1994). Pretoria: GOVERNMENT PRINTER. [online]. Available: http://www. gazette/whitepaper/1994/16085.pdf#search=%22Reconstruction%20-and%20development%20programme%20white%20paper%22. [Rev. 25 August 2006].

REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA. 1996. Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act No. 108 of 1996. Pretoria: Government Printers. [online]. Available: [Rev. 5 May 2005].

REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA. DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SERVICE AND ADMINISTRATION. 1997. White Paper on Transforming Public Service Delivery. Government Gazette, Vol. 388, No. 18340 (18 September 1997). Pretoria: Government Printers.

REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA. MINISTRY FOR WELFARE AND POPULATION DEVELOPMENT. 1997. White Paper for Social Welfare. Government Gazette, No. 1108 (8 August 1997). Pretoria: Government Printers.

REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA. DEPARTMENT OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT. 1998. White Paper of Local Government Department of Local Government. Government Gazette, (9 March 1998). Pretoria: Government Printers.

RIVIERE-CINNAMOND, A. & EREGAE, M. 2003. Community-based animal workers (CAHWs) in pastoralist areas of Kenya: A study on selection process, impact and sustainability. Kenya: Public Health and Policy Department.

ROZEMEIJER, N. & VAN DER JAGT, C. 2000. Community-based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) in Botswana. How community-based is CBNRM in Botswana? Gaborone: CBNRM Support Programme.

RUSSEL, M. & SCHNEIDER, H. 2000. A rapid appraisal of community-based HIV AND AIDS Care and Support Programmes in South Africa. Johannesburg: Centre for Health Policy [on line]. Available: [Rev. 26 February 2005].

SHILOWA, M. 2005. Launch of the Community Development Workers Programme in Gauteng. Johannesburg: Gauteng Provincial Government [online]. Available: http://www.gpg. [Rev. 5 May 2006].

SIVARAM, S. & CELENTANO, D.D. 2003. Training outreach workers for AIDS prevention in rural India: Is it sustainable? Health Policy and Planning, 18(4):411-420.

SOUTH AFRICA INFO. 2005a. AsgiSA: Accelerated growth for all. [online]. Available: asgi-sa.htm. [Rev. 26 June 2006].

SOUTH AFRICA INFO. 2005b. South Africa’s Community Workers. Buanews, 28 November 2005.

STEINITZ, L.Y. n.d. When spider webs unite: The work of volunteers in providing home-based care in Namibia. Windhoek: Catholic AIDS Action in Namibia [online]. Available: [Rev. 28 February 2005].

STEKELENBURG, J., KYANAMINA, S.S. & WOLFFERS, I. 2003. Poor performance of community health workers in Kalabo District, Zambia. Health Policy, 65:109-118.

UPHOFF, N. 1998. Community-based natural resources management: Connecting micro and macro processes, and people with their environments. Plenary presentation at the International CBNRM Workshop, Washington DC, 10-14 May 1998.

WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION (WHO). 1996. Guidelines for conducting, monitoring and self-assessment of community-based rehabilitation programmes: Using evaluation information to improve programmes. International Disability Consortium, Geneva. [online]. Available: publications.htm. [Rev. 12 April 2005].



  • There are currently no refbacks.

ISSN 2312-7198  (online) ; ISSN 0037-8054 (print)

Powered by OJS and hosted by Stellenbosch University Library and Information Service since 2014.


This journal is hosted by the SU LIS on request of the journal owner/editor. The SU LIS takes no responsibility for the content published within this journal, and disclaim all liability arising out of the use of or inability to use the information contained herein. We assume no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any breaches of agreement with other publishers/hosts.

SUNJournals Help