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Should Youngsters Farm?

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GALLERY

Should Youngsters Farm?

Category Farming

Should they? Do they want to? If they don't, who will?

In a world growing towards possible food shortages and ill-health, who is looking after the supply of nutritious food and sustainable farming? The youth? Are they being empowered and mentored to do so?

Getting youngsters interested in farming and agri-related industries may be challenging. According to Casidra, project management service for the Western Cape Government, the perception among youngsters is that farming is an old-fashioned industry.

In chats to young people (18 - 35 years), it seems that start-up funds, access to internships and practical experience, safety and labour problems also rank as challenges in accessing the agricultural sector.

Not only farming

Farming as an 'old-fashioned business' is youthful folly, of course. The production of raw materials (crops and livestock) is only one aspect of agriculture. Related (and specialised) industries include mechanisation, digitalising, labour supply and management, value-adding or processing, packaging, product development and training or mentorship.

Training

Agricultural training in South Africa is done at high schools, colleges and universities, in-person and online. Non-government organisations also offer courses registered with the AgriSETA (which provides accreditation to training providers). Colleges have a practical aspect to their courses, but students struggle to gain practical experience to complete their required course assessment farming.

Challenges

The biggest challenge in agricultural training? Joy van Biljon, former head of the Koue Bokkeveld Opleisentrum offers a surprising answer which hints at the influence of the social structure: "the lack of a strong male role model".

Yet, she has seen good things. At the 2022 farm workers competition, she was amazed at the enthusiasm and skill, especially in spray pump operation, orchard monitoring and irrigation.

"Many general farm workers enjoy the feeling of belonging to a group but really start to be interested when they are offered in-service training," she added.

Lona Odendaal is an agri-recruitment specialist from Ceres. She places students on farms and facilitates life skills and mentorship training through the Bright Star Lifestyle program.

"We don't have enough farms that offer practical training. For every six students, we maybe have one farm that will be open to receive a student. We need opportunities, especially in the fields of hortology (gardening), livestock and vegetable production."

Internships

However, farmers are hesitant to offer internships where a well-oiled system can be disrupted by a person 'tagging along'. On-farm accommodation is an issue and remuneration for the farmer's time and effort is another. 'It is hard work to manage an intern,' confirms a grain and sheep farmer of the Overberg.

Farmers that do offer internships feel that it is their 'contribution to agriculture in South Africa.' In addition, to have a practically trained and theoretically qualified staff in a specific or niche area such as a specific crop is an asset to agriculture.

Employers wanting to offer in-service training and internships can apply to AgriSETA for funding. "However we do not have a list of farms looking for students, as the role of recruiting is made directly by employers," says Dr Innocent Sirovha, AgriSETA's CEO. "We are currently working on getting clearance from farmers to share their details with students."

"AgriSETA's role in skills development... and keeping the profession of farming and R&D active could not be more important," he said.

To offer in-service work experience and practical training contact Lona Odendaal of KUTSHA on +27 83 660 6671 or foden@telkomsa.net

Author Marinda Louw Coetzee, Agri journalist
Published 13 Jun 2022 / Views -
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