Young Farmers Beat Youth Unemployment through Agriculture

youth agriculture farming unemployment empowerment
Friday, 29 June, 2012 - 13:17

South Africa should consider creating a conducive environment for young people to venture into agriculture as one of the possible ways to overcome youth unemployment

Youth unemployment is a serious challenge in South Africa (SA). In 2011, nearly half of 18-35 year olds were unemployed. Many young people have given up hope of ever finding work.

Agriculture is often dismissed as an option for young people. Many in South Africa claim that youth simply are not interested in agriculture. Our experience says different.

Heifer International South Africa (Heifer) partners with rural communities to end hunger and poverty in SA and care for the earth. Heifer helps community groups to use agriculture-based interventions to improve their situation, providing training, seeds, trees, livestock and support. More and more of the farmers we work with are young people.

“I see a bright future for myself because I’m involved in agriculture now,” says Bongile Ngwekazi (26). Ngwekazi is a member of Heifer’s Sukuma Poultry Project in KwaZulu-Natal. Through this project, she now has the skills to make a success of her small-scale egg-production business. “I hope to farm with chickens and have my own small chicken farm,” she says. She currently has 31 chickens.

Sarah Madonsela (31) is a first-year student of crop science at Tompi Selea College of Agriculture in Limpopo, who sees her future as a farmer. She became involved in agriculture after her mother received a dairy cow through Heifer’s Hereford Project in Limpopo. Sarah's family sells butternuts and green beans as well as milk, generating more than R2 000 per month.

When she was a schoolgirl, Ntombencane practiced farming. At school she studied agriculture and learned to love the subject. Now, 32 years old, Ntombencane has begun farming. “I have acquired a lot of knowledge that will help me to be a small farmer as I wish,” she says, “Now I have something to do, because I’m having chickens. I have a lot of work to do in my home and produce eggs for the community.”

Miss Phungo is 24 years old. She lives in Musunda Village, 300 kilometres north-west of Polokwane. Until last year, she had little hope for her future. She joined Heifer’s Khongode Project. Today, she has four goats and a career of her own. “Before Heifer came in,” she says, “I was just an ordinary person; now I am a goat farmer.”

Many young people in SA are interested in agriculture, as a business and a career. Organised groups of small-scale farmers with access markets can build profitable micro-businesses. All they need is a little investment to improve productivity and organisation & support to access markets. To find out more about Heifer’s work and how to support young farmers like Miss Phungo and others, visit our website at

Claire Hawkridge is resource development officer at Heifer International South Africa.

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