Agricultural colleges across the country are abuzz as a new crop of students have started their studies. Food For Mzansi caught up with first-year students at Stellenbosch University, Cedara College of Agriculture and the South African Sugar Research Institute.
‘Be passionate and ready to always be dirty’
Fanelesbonge Sithole (20), a student in animal and crop production at Cedara College of Agriculture in KwaZulu-Natal: I matriculated from Mathunjwa High School. I did not study agriculture as a subject, but I did mathematics, physical science, life science and economics.
Both my parents worked in the agriculture field, so I guess the love grew when they talked about it at home.
What are your dreams for the future? My dream is not only to feed my city, but to one day feed South Africa. Very few women are well-known for being powerful in agriculture. I don’t only want to be a woman, but I want to be “the woman”.
Your advice to other young people? Be ready for anything and everything. Agriculture is not as easy as people say, or think it is. A lot of risks are taken in this field. Be passionate about it and be ready to always be dirty. You can never make money if you don’t dirty in this career.
‘I never even knew agriculture existed’
Tumelo Sibiya (21) is studying towards a diploma in agriculture at Cedara College of Agriculture in KwaZulu-Natal: I schooled at the beautiful Vryheid Landbou High School and picked this course for in-depth information about farming.
See, I don’t have a childhood background in it and, to be honest, I never actually knew there was something called agriculture. I only learnt about it when I moved to Vryheid. Throughout high school, we had compulsory agricultural subjects.
What are your dreams for the future? I dream of owning farms: a game farm for family and tourists, and a cattle farm. I love animals so much. I’d like to show people that no matter where you are from or who you are, things can turn out great if you work hard.
Your advice to other young people? The most important thing (in choosing a study field) is love, passion, hard work and dedication. Put your mind to it and set a goal. Do it for you. In this way, you gain knowledge which is key.
‘We didn’t have a farm, but a little veggie patch’
Taboka Ndhlovu (18), a Bsc (Viticulture and Oenology) student at Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape: I went to Pearson High School in Gqeberha. I’ve always loved gardening and have also always been fascinated by agriculture. The fact that I could combine being outdoors with chemistry, agriculture and wine making was a key factor in choosing this degree.
Sadly, I didn’t have a lot of exposure (to agriculture) growing up. We didn’t have agricultural subjects at school. We didn’t have a farm, but we had a little veggie patch and my parents and grandparents taught me how to grow food at home.
What are your dreams for the future? I’d like to gain a better understanding of agri-science whilst exploring my passion for chemistry. One day, I’d like to open a winery that promotes sustainability and encourages the use of renewable energy resources.
I would also like to run a youth community project on the side to combat food insecurity on the continent. I would like to have farms around the country where I can invite poverty-stricken youth to teach them to uplift their communities through agriculture.
Your advice to other young people? If you’re thinking of pursuing a career in agriculture or wanting to study agri-sciences, go for it. It might not sound like a traditional career path, but agriculture is a huge necessity in our country. We have people to feed and communities to uplift. This field provides employment. We are the generation that’s going to have to shake things up if we’re going to tackle poverty and unemployment.
‘Growing up, I helped my grandfather harvest’
Kutlwano Tshidi (19), studying towards a BAgric (Agri-business Management) at Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape: I went to Hudson Park High School in East London. Initially, I didn’t choose a course in agriculture as I did not achieve the mark I needed for physical science and mathematics.
I did not let that stop me from coming and doing an agricultural degree.
My grandfather had a plot next to his house for farming purposes where I would help him harvest and plant crops with my cousins. I have always found the process fascinating and I even once grew my own herbs.
Last year before Covid-19 my school’s environmental club visited a farm where they grew lettuce hydroponically, and spinach and marrow in the ground.
Your advice to other young people? If you have passion and determination to change the agricultural world in order to sustain this fast-paced, growing population then this degree in agri-sciences is definitely for you.
Youth needed to breathe new life in agriculture
Sixteen students just completed a junior certificate course in sugarcane agriculture from the South African Sugar Research Institute in KwaZulu-Natal. Most of the students come from the uMlalazi and King Cetshwayo Municipalities and their training was funded by Tongaat Hulett.
“Farming is often viewed as an old-fashioned industry, full of struggling farmers who are unable to feed themselves and their families. As a result, engaging youth and ordinary community members on issues related to agriculture is a key priority,” said Nkonzo Mhlongo, Tongaat Hulett corporate affairs executive.
Among the students were Siphamandla Mbokazi (27), the son of a farmer in Tongaat. He works with his father on a 94-hectare farm which his family acquired in 1997. In the last financial year, the father and son duo delivered a total of 2 000 tonnes of sugarcane.