AgriSETA scales up sector skills through R147 m investment

AgriSETA‘s funding is towards capacity building of farmers, confirms chief executive Zenzele Myeza

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The National Development Plan (NDP) targets the creation of one million jobs by 2033 and AgriSETA intends to be a cog in the wheel of progress, says Zenzele Myeza, chief executive of the agricultural sector’s training authority.

As unemployment numbers continue to rise due to the covid-19 pandemic, AgriSETA believes its partnerships to the sum of R147 million will, in fact, “serve to protect jobs in the rural economy for years to come.”

Myeza says the finalisation of the partnerships also follows government’s jobs and investment summits, which identified outcomes that include agriculture and land reform projects as key economic drivers.

Zenzele Myeza, the chief executive of AgriSETA. Photo: Supplied

“It reads like an oasis in a desert,” believes Myeza, adding that its investment is in line with AgriSETA’s plans for sector interventions through strategic public and private partnerships.

This includes, among others, R11.7 million to be used by the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) for post-graduate critical research areas, and R20 million for the AgriBusiness Development Agency in KwaZulu-Natal.

“AgriSETA embarked on an organisational strategic planning session in 2019, which led to the innovative approach of working through strategic partnerships with both public and private sector entities to advance skills development”, says Myeza, who joined the organisation early last year.

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Myeza’s appointment was widely welcomed by the agricultural sector, with many believing that his understanding of the power of public private partnerships could lead to break-through strategies for AgriSETA. Myeza explains, “The plan was shared with AgriSETA’s former board, also referred to as the accounting authority, who gave the management team their blessing to pursue and amend the discretionary grant policy and to align it with the strategy.”

“Partnerships are more important now than it has ever been to revive the economy and to provide the necessary skills for the work that awaits us.” – Zenzele Myeza

Confirmed strategic partners

Sandy la Marque is the CEO of the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Land Union (Kwanalu). Photo: Supplied

AgriSETA also considered the outcomes of the National Skills Development Plan and other government-driven programmes in its partnership decisions. Food For Mzansi can confirm that besides the ARC and the AgriBusiness Development Agency, other strategic partners include:

  • R7 million to KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Land Union (Kwanalu) for unemployed graduates to be placed in commercial farms in the province. This programme will run for three years, with an intake of 100 graduates per year;
  • R12 million to the University of Pretoria’s department of veterinary services and capacity-building through collaboration with other higher institutions of learning, including the University of Venda, the Madzivhandila College of Agriculture and Vhembe TVET College.

This also includes collaboration with the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development to strengthen local capacity to respond to the development of a new generation of vaccines and the implementation of early detection measures (infectious and parasitic diseases), such as foot-and-mouth disease in the so-called red-line area of Vhembe district.

Earlier, the disease also spread out in other districts of Limpopo and Mpumalanga. This outbreak has had a devastating impact on the economy of the country with severe effects felt by the red meat industry.

Myeza stresses, however, that the agreements “are not one-sided”. It also includes incoming funds from the department of public works and the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), as follows:

  • R66 million from the department of public works for the training of 400 artisans nationally over a period of three years. This project is being rolled out-nationally; and
  • R21 million from the national UIF to train 3 000 learners in agriculture related skills in all nine provinces.

Through AgriSETA’s partnership with the OVK Group, the National Wool Growers’ Association will also benefit. They will train sheep shearers and wool classers to assist with the skills shortage in the Eastern Cape and Free State: Photo: Supplied

AgriSETA’s other ‘strategic collaborations’

  • The agricultural sector’s training authority also confirms R4 million to the OVK Group (in the Eastern Cape and Free-State), of which funding will also allocated to the National Wool Growers’ Association. They will train sheep shearers and wool classers to assist with the skills shortage in these provinces.

The short-term aim of this project is to empower these farmers to optimise their income and to address the skills shortage in the wool sector, which, according to AgriSETA, will inevitably address the unemployment of youth and women in the nation’s largest wool-producing provinces.

Also, the long-term objective of the project is to adequately equip the current facilities in the tribal lands, thereby creating shearing hubs where producers can collectively shear their wool and, because of the higher volumes, they can have greater bargaining power with the agricultural businesses to which they deliver their wool.

Zenzele Ndlela is the CEO of the AgriBusiness Development Agency in KwaZulu-Natal. Photo: Supplied

The R20 million in partnership with the AgriBusiness Development Agency in KwaZulu-Natal will support emerging farmers with infrastructure and inputs to the value of R100 million over three years.

Myeza explains, “AgriSETA‘s funding is towards capacity building of farmers, with the intent of improving the commercial operations of these farmers.”

Furthermore, the AgriSETA boss adds that, “Partnerships are more important now than it has ever been to revive the economy and to provide the necessary skills for the work that awaits us.

Expanding access to skills programmes that address the labour market’s need for intermediate skills that include practical components is one of the department’s key mandates.”

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