The future of a proudly South African initiative to give young farmers international experience, hangs in the balance due to travel restrictions in the wake of the protracted Covid-19 pandemic.
The Future Farmers Foundation, an inspirational non-profit that has given beginner farmers practical experience across the globe, have put their international internships on ice indefinitely over Covid-19.
This follows various countries instituting new international travel bans regarding travel to and from South Africa. Starting this weekend, the US has imposed a ban on most non-American citizens entering their country if they have recently been in South Africa. This is an attempt to contain the spread of a new variant of Covid-19.
South African travelers have already been banned from entering several other countries, including Vietnam, Dubai, the UK, and Israel, since the 501Y.V2 variant was identified in December 2020.
Many countries, including South Africa, have changed their travel warnings to restrict travel during this time.
This severely affected the ongoing operations of the Future Farmers Foundation that sends young farmers with potential overseas for internships. These internships are to give new farmers to global work experience.
According to Judy Stuart, founder of Future Farmers Foundation, there is already a major backlog of applicants waiting to be interviewed. They will not be taking in more applications until this backlog has been reduced substantially.
“We have no way of knowing how long this will take, so please bear with us and we will let you know once we are able to start interviewing again,” says Stuart.
Food for Mzansi sat down with Stuart for a Skype call to see what potential internship candidates should do during this interim in order to prepare for their future.
Dona van Eeden: With the suspension of international internships due to Covid-19, will you be providing more South African training internships?
Judy Stuart: We try to get Future Farmers on farms in South Africa first. They must have at least two years’ experience here before we can help them with internships. But these have also been impacted by Covid-19, as nobody is interested in taking on new staff in these times.
We have still been sending applicants overseas recently, after the worst of the lockdown lifted. We sent our last overseas candidate to a farm in Arizona last week, which is quite remote. But now the USA has closed its borders to us due to the South African Covid-19 variant. This won’t be permanent, though, so we are building and maintaining our connections with farmers overseas.
The internships overseas are well worth waiting for, so don’t give up hope. Covid won’t last forever.
How are you keeping in touch with the current and prospective interns during this time?
Since we cannot place any of our applicants at this moment, we are busy working on developing online workshops for them to do during lockdown. These workshops will be available to any young people, not just future farmers.
They will address the common issues we see that young people struggle with when looking for a job or entering the workplace for the first time.
These workshops will cover the very basics of how to apply to a job when sending an email, how to write a CV and a cover letter, the do’s and don’ts of interviews, as well as conducting yourself in the workplace.
I have seen very strong, passionate candidates with degrees who struggle to get a job because these basics have never been taught to them. So, that’s what we are working on now from home.
If we can help someone to get a job then we are doing something valuable. We are also preparing as much as possible for when we can start sending out interns again.
What tips do you have for future farmers that are not able to apply for the internships at this time?
Be patient, even though it feels like this situation is going on forever. If you have a job, do it to the best of your ability. Ask questions to learn from your employers.
Your main advantage if you want to get an international internship is to have a strong recommendation letter, so make sure you use this time to work hard and impress your employer so that they will write a good recommendation letter for you.
Work towards the future and focus on the career you want. The better you are today, the better you will be in your future career.