300 W. Cape learners inspired at AgriCareers exhibition

A world of possibilities opened for more than 300 Western Cape learners who attended Food For Mzansi’s AgriCareers roadshow in Ceres. They met a host of experts who hold diverse jobs in the agriculture sector – from a farmer and social media expert to a biotechnologist, insurance guru and accountant

Noluthando Ngcakani, a journalist and head of news at Health For Mzansi, interacts with a learner from Wolsely in the Western Cape at Food For Mzansi’s AgriCareers roadshow. Photo: Ivor Price/Food For Mzansi

Noluthando Ngcakani, a journalist and head of news at Health For Mzansi, interacts with a learner from Wolsely in the Western Cape at Food For Mzansi’s AgriCareers roadshow. Photo: Ivor Price/Food For Mzansi

Not even Eskom’s unexpected level-four power cuts could dampen the spirits of more than 300 learners attending the Western Cape leg of Food For Mzansi’s AgriCareers roadshow in Ceres today.

Load shedding kicked in just as actor and hip-hop star Jerome Rex was about to start the formal proceedings at Charlie Hofmeyr High School. Learners then had to wait two and a half hours more before the multi-media programme could begin at 10:30.

“The wait was worth every moment,” said Natasha van Wyk, a grade 11 learner. “To be honest, we did not know what to expect. My teacher kind of forced us to be here, and I honestly did not think I was going to learn about so many different careers.”

At the AgriCareers roadshow, presented nationwide, high school learners are introduced to the A to Z of study and career opportunities in the agriculture sector. The Ceres event was powered by Standard Bank, King Price Insurance, the South African National Seed Organisation (Sansor) and Naturesmart.

In a moving speech, the Western Cape poultry farmer Joandra Cloete Greegory encouraged learners to make clever career moves that could lead to wealth. Photo: Ivor Price/Food For Mzansi

Learners also had a rare opportunity to have all their awkward study questions answered by Monika Basson from Stellenbosch University’s renowned faculty of agrisciences and Pieter de Villiers from AGRICOLLEGES international.

“My nerves were shot,” said Food For Mzansi co-founder and editor-in-chief Ivor Price. “Can you imagine Eskom announcing load shedding just as more than 300 grade 11 and 12 learners were about to enter the venue? We planned everything to a T, but I guess there is never a dull moment in South Africa. In the end, it was a hit!”

Liché Strydom from King Price, Lucinda Dordley from FoodForAfrika.com and Pieter-Niel Muller from Naturesmart listening attentively to export expert Nic Smit. Photo: Ivor Price/Food For Mzansi

Planting seeds on fertile ground

Soekie Strauss-Loff, a teacher at Wolseley Secondary School, said her learners were captivated by the high-energy programme and opportunity to learn from diverse experts. “I believe that precious seeds have fallen on fertile ground somewhere. [As an educator] I will try to tend to and water them.”

In the wake of a critical shortage of veterinarians in South Africa, Dr Nel-mari Wium from the Ceres Veterinary Hospital encouraged learners to excel academically to be accepted for the sought-after academic programme at the University of Pretoria. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Learners were inspired by Joandra Cloete Greegory, a chicken farmer and owner of Our Poultry Place in Kraaifontein, as well as Dr Nel-mari Wium, a veterinarian and partner at the Ceres Veterinary Hospital, and Nico van der Merwe, director at Naturesmart.

Furthermore, they were gob smacked when Dr Magdeleen Cilliers, policy and research manager at Sansor, enlightened them not only of careers in the seed industry, but also some of the recent plant breeding innovations.

“I honestly didn’t understand the power of a seed until Dr Magdeleen Cilliers explained it so powerfully,” exclaimed Nomisa Samaai, a grade 12 learner. Cilliers is the policy and research manager at the South African National Seed Organisation. Photo: Ivor Price/Food For Mzansi

Other highlights included Liché Strydom from King Price who, according to a recent release, is on track to grow its book past the R350-million mark by mid-2022 – less than three years after entering the South African agri-insurance sector.

“I’m exhausted, but really glad that I came,” said Jaco Steenhuysen, a grader 12 learner. “My head is spinning about my future. I feel so fortunate to have agricultural management science as well as agricultural technology at school. My parents are still a bit unsure about my subject choice, and I can’t wait to go home and share my new insights with them.”

Danelene Ruiters, a market compliance officer from Growers by Nature, inspired attendees to be brave about choosing a future in agriculture. “I grew up on a farm and could never imagine that one day I will have a degree in the sector [specialising in pomology and viticulture.] If I can do it, so you can you.”

Jerome Rex, a Ghoema award-winning rapper and Arendsvlei actor, hosted the Western Cape leg of the AgriCareers roadshow. He was interacting with Margerita Joubert (second from the left) and Nico van der Merwe (on the right), both from Naturesmart, as well as Danelene Ruiters from Growers by Nature. Photo: Ivor Price/Food For Mzansi

A world of opportunities

Meanwhile, Noluthando Ngcakani and Lucinda Dordley, respectively the heads of news at Health For Mzansi and FoodForAfrika.com, were peppered with questions. “I chose journalism because I’m a big fan of fairness and ethics,” said Dordley while stressing the importance of honest and courageous reporting.

Ricardo Silva, a brand communications officer at YehBaby Digital, relayed how he is fortunate to “help create the kind of content that people, like you, end up seeing on Facebook and TikTok. My job is so exciting – from doing a photoshoot for a wine brand to writing tweets, I did not think this is where I would end up after studying languages.”

Monika Basson from Stellenbosch University and Pieter de Villiers from AGRICOLLEGES international introduced learners to the many study opportunities in agriculture for different kinds of learners. Photo: Ivor Price/Food For Mzansi

Other programme highlights include Naturesmart representatives Margerita Joubert, Nic Smit and Pieter-Niel Muller. They introduced learners to the great diversity of careers in finance, logistics and exports.

Albert van Zyl, a senior education specialist for agricultural sciences at the Western Cape department of education, congratulated Food For Mzansi on arrangements for the AgriCareers project, which is now in its third year. This is also the third year that his department is supporting the initiative.

Last-minute registrations are still accepted for the next AgriCareers exhibition on Thursday, 21 April from 08:00 to 12:00 at Douglas High School in Douglas, Northern Cape. WhatsApp 071 147 0388 or email info@foodformzansi.co.za to reserve your seat.

Learners from Ceres Secondary School in Ceres in the Western Cape attended the AgriCareers roadshow powered by, among other partners, Standard Bank. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

More photos of AgriCareers in Ceres