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The future of agriculture: a new generation

  • 20 May 2022
  • 1848
  •  press-release

The panel consisted of Jeremia Mathebula (Grain SA), Karidas Tshintsholo (Khula), Sinelizwe Fakade (Rocky Park Farming Group and Ukhanyo Farmer Development), Dr Johnny van der Merwe (AMT) and Dr Tracy Davids (BFAP).

The session started with a message from former Grain SA Chairperson, Jannie de Villiers. By using the analogy of migrating wildebeest, De Villiers said it was time for the younger generation to step up and be counted within the agricultural sphere. He explained that it is important to make the first move from the proverbial dry parts (referring to challenges – past and present), that young leaders must step to the fore and lead the way through troubled waters, that cognisance should be taken that it is not an easy journey but that the rewards are big, and that the future is greener than the past for all of us. In closing he said that it is important for the youth to champion the opportunities within the agricultural sector among their generational peers.

Paving the way for the youth

According to Dr Davids the recently launched Agricultural Master Plan and before then the National Development Plan clearly jots the way forward for the sector, but the focus should now be on the implementation of the plans. It is within this space that the youth can contribute a new and fresh perspective.

Tshintsholo agrees and adds that the youth can play a vital role redefining the image of the agricultural sector, but in order for them to champion the sector it is necessary to build a solid business case for new entrants into the sector. In illustrating this point, he refers to successful technology examples such as Uber and Airbnb who turned dull concepts such as the cab industry or unutilised backrooms into very interesting and lucrative concepts.

In turn, Fakade is of the opinion that for youngsters to successfully enter the sector, they have to position themselves to be supported. This means that they should strike a balance between theoretical knowledge and practical experience. Dr Van der Merwe seconds this notion and said that education is a good starting point, but from there prospective new entrants need to gain practical experience.

“The time is now to make the future great” said Mathebula and explained that the current agricultural centre is strong and therefore it can withstand challenges while at the same time welcome new entrants into the sector. He is however of the opinion that the government has an important role to help facilitate this process.

Practical advice 

Asked what youngsters can do to ease their entrance into the sector, the panel had the following advice:

·       Invest time in finding a mentor who can teach you the ropes of the industry.

·       Develop supporting networks and partnerships that add value to your endeavour.

·       Start engaging vested industry role players.

·       Gain practical experience.

·       Seek relevant and up to date information.

·       Don’t be afraid to fail, as failure is a stepping stone to success.

But how does an agricultural champion look like? The panel identified the following characteristics:

·       Somebody who is adaptable.

·       Somebody who is passionate about the industry in all its forms.

·       Somebody who has come to the realisation that agriculture is not a short term investment.

·       Someone who understands the value of an integrated and inclusive approach.

·       Someone who is well-informed.

·       Somebody who is a specialist in multiple disciplines and who believes in the ethos of lifelong learning.

Sihlobo ended the session by stating that the youth can bring a new perspective, energy and innovative thinking to the agricultural sector in a time of high unemployment, inequality and slow economic growth.  In short: revitalise the sector and contribute towards sustainable profitability.


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