By Wandile Sihlobo and Mpumelelo Mkhabela
On 18 May 2017, we participated in a panel discussion hosted by Nation in Conversation at NAMPO in Bothaville. The discussion focused on the involvement of youth in the agricultural industry.
The panel included of Andile Khumalo, the moderator of the panel, agricultural economists Hamlet Hlomendlini and academic Dirk Strydom, as well as farmers Nono Sekotho and Anthony Goble.
Here are some of the points that emerged:
- There is a general consensus that farmers are ageing – the average age of a South African farmer estimated at 62.
- Young people are interested in agriculture, but not enough of them make the leap.
- Not enough vocational training institutions are efficiently producing skills needed for agriculture today –part of the reason is the disjoint between the agricultural industry and training institution.
- There is a need for platforms where youth aspiring to get into the industry can get information and guidelines on how to participate in the industry.
- For South Africa to realise its full potential, we should take advantage of the youthfulness of our population. Young people must be integrated into the productive side of the agricultural value chain instead of seeing them only as a consumer market.
- There are a plenty of opportunities in agriculture beyond actual primary production. More opportunities are in the entire value chain.
- Organised agriculture should get involved in the running of training institution so that graduates obtain relevant qualifications and direct access to the industry. This will help end the painful phenomenon of unemployable graduates.
- Young people with a passion for farming must not wait for land – they must find avenues to access training in the meantime so that they are better equipped for when the land becomes available. This must include approaching farmers directly for experience on farming.
- There is a need for increased funding for research and development – especially with the changing nature of the industry.
- The image of agriculture must change so that young people don’t regard it as backwards.
You can watch the full discussion here.