A leading veterinary surgeon urged learners at Food For Mzansi’s AgriCareers roadshow to, one day, co-create workspaces that are free of racial, gender and any other forms of discrimination.
Dr Priscilla Muradas, a researcher and founder of the Douglas Veterinary Clinic and Vetshop, was one of the many agricultural experts addressing learners from across the Northern Cape at the exhibition hosted by Douglas High School today.
The AgriCareers roadshow – now in its third year – is currently underway with exhibitions in the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, North West, Gauteng and Limpopo still to come. Organisers anticipate that by September up to 20 000 learners would have been introduced to the A to Z of study and career opportunities in agriculture.
Learners applauded Muradas after her moving account of how she struggled to be accepted as a women veterinarian. When she just started out more than 20 years ago, many men ridiculed her, and underestimated her abilities and expertise.
“The only way that I could overcome this was by delivering quality work. Today, my research in embryo transfers in anovulatory recipient mares and ovulation in quarter horse mares through the use of deslorelin acetate and human chorionic gonadotrophin is freely available on the internet. Just go and Google it,” she said.
The A to Z of agriculture careers
Besides Muradas, learners also used the opportunity to learn more about the careers of plant scientists Dr Adré Minnaar-Ontong and Diana Mngomezulu, microbial ecologist Dr Chrisna Steyn, journalists Ivor Price and Kobus Louwrens and livestock farmer Zabion de Wee.
Minnaar-Ontong heads up plant breeding at the University of the Free State. “I could never imagine that I’d end up working in agricultural science. My parents didn’t own a farm, but luckily I married someone with one,” she quipped.
Learners listened attentively as she described plant breeding as the science of manipulating heritability in plants for human benefit. Manipulation, she explained, can be done by conventional breeding techniques or on DNA level with genetic engineering.
Meanwhile, De Wee, who is also the new business development manager at John Deere, was also met with applause after he encouraged learners to not only explore tertiary studies, but also to contribute to food security in the country.
The dynamic agriculturist holds a Master’s degree in sustainable agriculture from the University of the Free State and was also a trainer in agriculture management, tractors, harvesters and sprayers at the Peritum Agri Institute in Bloemfontein.
De Wee mentioned that agriculture was a precision science that required top class skills to succeed. This means that budding farmers not only need to be at the forefront of new technological developments but be able to operate these systems and equipment to their utmost capacity. As such, Peritum offers advanced equipment operator training to assist new farmers in operating John Deere’s sophisticated machinery.
The Northern Cape leg of the AgriCareers roadshow was hosted by the Ghoema award-winning hip-hop star and Arendsvlei actor Jerome Rex.
“You shouldn’t be asking what the best place is to study agriculture,” he told learners during a panel discussion with representatives of Peritum, the University of the Free State and AGRICOLLEGES international.
“Instead, you should be asking, ‘What institution is the right place for me?’ The best institution for you might differ from the best institution for me. A number of factors influence this decision.”
From insurance to banking…
Other programme highlights included talks by Liché Strydom, a product developer at King Price Insurance, and Waseela Botha, a hub manager at Standard Bank.
Learners were most inspired by Botha who relayed how she worked herself up from a till packer to managing a number of Standard Bank branches in the region. The bank’s mobile banking vehicle was also popular with learners who wanted to open savings accounts, and also enquire about loans for their future studies.
Meanwhile, Strydom reiterated the importance of insurance in the agriculture sector. Among other interesting career possibilities, he highlighted opportunities in risk management. Farmers, he said, need insurance from the likes of King Price to ensure that they stay in business. Those who assess risk for a living, use management systems to ensure that crops and animals are healthy and productive.
King Price provides specialist agricultural cover for all farmers’ vehicles, implements and property for both personal and business assets under just one policy. It covers everything from stock accumulation to loss of water and spread of fire to power surges and damage because of lightning strikes.
Lights, camera, action!
Schools, companies and other organisations who wish to participate in any of the upcoming AgriCareers exhibitions can email email@example.com. Exhibitions for the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, North West, Gauteng and Limpopo are currently being planned.