The nation’s finest farmers and agricultural media practitioners were celebrated at the 2023 Agricultural Writers SA Awards held on Friday evening. Among the winners count Food For Mzansi for its Farming with nature television series.
Organisers say the AWSA Awards stand as a tribute to individuals and entities dedicated to fostering sustainable agricultural practices, fortifying food security, bolstering rural economies, and cultivating a positive image of agriculture in South Africa.
Championing excellence in agriculture
The ceremony, held at the Landtscap venue in the Stellenbosch Winelands, unveiled provincial winners across three distinct categories, culminating in the prestigious announcement of national victors in each sector.
- Dewald te Water from Bethal, Mpumalanga emerged as the 2023 AWSA National Farmer of the Year. In a heartfelt acceptance speech, he attributed his success to the grace of agriculture, extending gratitude to his family, team, and faith.
- Sophy Musabeni was crowned the 2023 New Entrant to Agriculture, a testament to her journey from nursing to realising her childhood dream of farming.
- Dr Dirk Troskie claimed the title of 2023 Agriculturist of the Year, reflecting his profound dedication to the agricultural landscape.
Liza Bohlmann, outgoing chairperson of Agricultural Writers SA, reflected on the event’s legacy since its inception in 1977, emphasising its role in highlighting agricultural luminaries, services, and the significance of new entries into commercial farming.
Sponsors’ commitment to excellence
The event’s success was bolstered by platinum sponsor Santam Agriculture and diamond sponsor FNB, with the notable support of bronze sponsors Syngenta and CropLife South Africa.
Daniel Stevens, head of agriculture: crop insurance at Santam, stressed the pivotal role of insurance in agriculture, underscoring its collaborative nature and risk management.
Dawie Maree, head of information and marketing at FNB Agriculture, emphasised the awards’ role in driving industry growth through shared knowledge and highlighted the importance of journalists in disseminating valuable agricultural insights.
Celebrating agricultural journalism
AWSA furthermore stressed journalistic excellence through various competitions, with sponsors recognising and rewarding quality journalism across multiple media platforms.
- FNB Communicator of the Year honoured Magda du Toit for print journalism, Mbali Nwako for digital, and Ronelle Louwrens for broadcast journalism. Louwrens, a senior executive at the Food For Mzansi Group, is the executive producer of Farming with nature, a conversation farming series presented in partnership with SSK.
- CropLife South Africa recognised responsible reporting in crop protection and biotechnology, awarding Magda du Toit and Engela Duvenhage respectively.
- The BKB Photo Competition acknowledged Dewald Kirsten as the Agricultural Photographer of the Year, and his captivating image as the Agricultural Photo of the Year.
A glimpse into nominees’ journeys
The event also shed light on some remarkable nominees, showcasing their profound contributions to the agricultural tapestry:
- Sophy Musabeni transformed her childhood dream into reality by establishing Vhegies, a company dedicated to supplying fresh produce and promoting health.
- Paul Siguqa and his wife Makhosazana realised their dream of owning Klein Goederust, becoming Franschhoek’s first 100% black-owned wine farm.
- Lesego Holzapfel pioneered Bee Loved Honey, empowering rural communities in Northern Cape through beekeeping.
The awardees and nominees stood as beacons in a thriving industry, echoing Western Cape premier Alan Winde’s sentiments about their resilience in mitigating industry-specific challenges.
The 2023 AWSA Awards stood as a testament to the unwavering commitment, innovation, and passion exhibited by agricultural stalwarts, underscoring the crucial role of agricultural journalism in shaping a brighter future for the sector.