Agricultural initiatives focus on attracting the youth

The agricultural sector has held the country together during the unprecedented economic lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Even at Level 5 when movement was highly restricted, citizens could leave home to replenish on essential foodstuff thanks to farmers across the country.
 
Despite being the backbone of the economy, agriculture is one industry that young people still don’t find attractive. While, in some areas this is slowly changing, this remains a huge challenge. 
 
The Giba Community Property Association (CPA) in Hazyview, Mpumalanga may possibly be winning the war against the youth’s apathy through numerous empowering initiatives. Giba CPA is currently one of the land reform beneficiaries working with the government to launch Fortune 40, a three-year programme to mentor and train a cohort of young people to learn the ropes of working and managing a farm.
 
Richard Mathebula, Chairperson of the Giba CPA explains, “We have identified 80ha of land for the programme. On this land, young people will be able to learn how to run and manage different programmes including planting vegetables, growing bananas, and managing a piggery and a chicken run.
 
According to Mathebula, young people will learn everything about farming including the production side of the business, as part of a farm that also produces processed products.
 
The initial phase of the programme will be restricted to a cohort of 10 young people, who are the children of the beneficiaries of the CPA, to effectively manage the programme, and the roll out will be expanded thereafter.
 
Mathebula added that, “negotiations with the government were disrupted by the outbreak of Covid-19. They are still going to send assessors and engineers to assess the identified land and we still have to discuss other related matters such as the budget and security. We hope to pick up on the conversation soon.”
 
The CPA was awarded restitution of 2 700 hectares of land in Hazyview and about 1 540 hectares of the land has been transferred to date. The remaining 1166 hectares is still state-owned and is yet to be transferred. The CPA is made up of 500 households and the average age of members is 50. The CPA’s youngest member is 33 years old.
“When our children understand the operations, we will start to create a succession plan and slowly wean ourselves off investor dependency,” Mathebule said. “We have to compromise a lot when an investor comes in because we don’t want to lose the investment, but bringing in more young people will eventually make us self-reliant.”
Mathebula said the Fortune 40 programme forms a critical part of sustaining the productive use of the land. “We have to change the perception that young people have about the agricultural sector. A lot of them shun it because they believe it is for uneducated people and they think work on the farm is limited to physical labour. There is more to it than that, and there are a number of areas in which young people can contribute to ensure that we sustain farming, especially on restituted land.”
 
Another initiative has been launched is Giba Agri, which is a shareholder within the Giba CPA. Giba Agri has three youth members, one of whom is part of the Executive Committee. The youth are responsible for coordinating youth programmes and developing a database of young people who have an interest in farming; and keeping records of them for opportunities that arise within the CPA.

Mathebula argues that farms also need investors, marketing and legal experts, Human Resources (HR) specialists, accountants, procurement specialists and many other professionals. Processing is a huge part of agriculture and food processing specialists form a critical part of the value chain.
Last year the Giba CPA signed a partnership agreement with private investor W van R Schmidt (Pty) Ltd, facilitated through non-profit organisation Vumelana Advisory Funds’ community private partnership (CPP) model.

Peter Setou, Chief Executive of the Vumelana Advisory Fund says, “CPPs of this nature present a plausible solution to addressing some of the current challenges in land reform, and through such transactions communities can generate an income and acquire the skills they need.”

“These partnerships are designed to empower and enable communities to make their land profitable and improve livelihoods across communities. Therefore, communities and investors have a critical role to play in establishing opportunities for youth within the work that they do through these partnerships. But it is incumbent on the CPA to drive such programmes more rigorously. They have a responsibility to their members and the communities in which they exist to address some of the challenges we are seeing in the country resulting from land related issues, inequality and inefficiencies across the board that have led to unemployment and dire poverty,” said Setou.

Through this partnership, an estimated R51 million is being invested in cultivating crops and improving infrastructure on the land under lease, and an estimated 130 permanent jobs will be created for the community. “We envisage that from this budget we are also going to contribute financially to the Fortune 40 programme once all talks are finalised with the Department of Agriculture. We have currently set aside R120 000 for training towards the Fortune 40 programme,” said Mathebula.

According to the National Development Plan, 1 million jobs will be created in the agricultural sector by 2030. The sector has the potential to reduce the high youth unemployment rate. Delivering the 2020/21 Budget, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said there were 8.2 million young people between the ages of 15 and 34 who are not in education, employment or training. An effective and efficient land reform programme can go a long way towards addressing the plight of these young people.

Date published: 
Thursday, 25 June, 2020

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