ICYMI: Career boost ahead for KZN agri graduates

KZN’s MEC for agriculture and rural development, Bongiwe Sithole-Moloi, says her department is working hard at turning its agricultural graduate programme into an accelerator of employability and entrepreneurship for the young farmers of the province

MEC Bongiwe Sithole-Moloi visited the Ntathakusa Citrus Farm in eShowe on Friday, 24 June 2022. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

MEC Bongiwe Sithole-Moloi visited the Ntathakusa Citrus Farm in eShowe on Friday, 24 June 2022. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Graduates who have completed their on-farm training through the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government’s graduate programme, might soon have the opportunity to coach others. This was among the announcements by the MEC for agriculture and rural development, Bongiwe Sithole-Moloi, at the official launch of her department’s graduate programme.

Sithole-Moloi said the department is currently planning a new programme which will allow for graduates who have exited its on-farm placement programme to apply for opportunities to become incubators, instructors or coaches on department-funded projects or identified small- to medium-scale enterprises.

The MEC was speaking last week (Friday, 24 June 2022) at the official launch of the already-active Unemployed Agricultural Graduate Programme. The launch took place at the Ntathakusa Citrus Farm in eShowe where the MEC also met graduates completing their on-farm training thanks to the programme.

Sithole-Moloi called on the agricultural sector to spearhead efforts to reduce the unemployment rate among young people with agricultural qualifications.

“We all know how our young people struggle in the South African labour market. The official overall unemployment rate in the 4th quarter of 2021-2022 was 35,3%. This rate was 46,3% among young people aged 15-34 years. This implies that almost one in every two young people in the labour force did not have a job in the last quarter of [the financial year,” she said.

She added that young people carry the biggest burden of unemployment as they account for 59,5% of the total number of unemployed persons in South Africa, and that this number increases even more (to 63%) in under-25s.

The MEC got a tour of the farm while conducting the official launch of the graduate programme. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Graduate portal

The department also launched a graduate portal as part of its intervention efforts and Sithole-Moloi said the department is hard at work changing the portal into a key tool to empower young agriculturalists for entrepreneurship and employability. “We, as a department, want to ensure that this portal becomes a more valuable tool and network for opportunities and information to unemployed graduates, even linking them with sector role players towards employability within the entire agricultural value chain.”

Sibusiso Gumede, the owner of Ntathakusa Citrus Farm, mentors two unemployed graduates and said that the programme has thus far been quite helpful in adding value to the farm.

“It helps a lot because these young graduates are people who are energetic and willing to work. The youth get valuable practical experience and the chance to be employable once they complete the programme.”

“I have noticed that in the first year of mentorship they are usually not clued up about how the farm operates. It is in the second year that they show signs of progress and knowledge. Unfortunately that is the final year of the programme. I wish the programme could be extended to three years,” he said.

Siyabonga Mhlongo, a beneficiary of the programme, said that, when he arrived on the farm, he had no knowledge of how a citrus farm operates. After receiving mentorship, however, he feels that he is ready to work on his own farm.The only thing he still wished to learn was a payroll system.

“I would like to get a farm where I can work on my own after having acquired the experience in the farm. This is a very important programme and it helps us a lot.”

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