The fourth Annual AFASA Young Farmers Summit started moments ago with the president of the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa, Dr Vuyo Mahlati, saying it’s high time more young people get into agriculture.
Mahlati, who recently led Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa’s advisory panel on land reform and agriculture, says, “Because of the perception of what a farmer looks like, it hasn’t been cool for young people. Through (amongst others) AFASA’s endeavours, we are seeing more and more young people showing interest in the sector.”
Speaking at the event held at Leriba Lodge in Centurion, Gauteng, Mahlati also asked agriculturists to embrace technological developments to grow the industry.
The communal farmer also urged the 50 young farmers who are attending the two-day summit to do their best to help ensure the country’s food security.
“We are working in an environment where in order for you as a farmer to be competitive, you have to embrace technology.” – dr. vuyo mahlati, afasa president
Whilst this year’s summit is largely focused on technology in agriculture, many other speakers will inspire and engage delegates about both the challenges and opportunities available in the industry.
AFASA Youth Chairperson, Nono Sekhoto-Iga, says she is pleased to not only present a jam-packed summit programme, but also to witness the high levels of excitement at the conference. “We have been planning since early April and my team and I are very excited for what will be unfolding today and tomorrow.”
Mahlati says the summit will also expose young farmers to many new innovations whilst offering much-needed support. Furthermore, Mahlati would like to challenge the notion that especially black farmers are not managing – a narrative she describes as problematic. “This may be true (in some instances), but we believe that when farmers are given the right support, irrespective of race, they can succeed.”
Mahlati goes on to say that the organisation is actively working with government to grow more subsistence and emerging farmers into commercial farmers.
She says, “We are breeding an African farmer and the African farmer is not just black. It’s very important to see the diversity. It’s an important signal that we are nurturing a different calibre of a farmer, be it black or white. We are getting a farmer who appreciates the historical issues that continue to drag us down as a country, but at the same time we appreciate the importance of ethics in the sector. We want to change the face of agriculture as a racist and oppressive sector.”
#AAYFS2019 kicked off with media personality and Food For Mzansi co-founder Ivor Price hosting the much anticipated agri-event. Food For Mzansi is the official media partner of the event, and Price’s fellow co-founder, Kobus Louwrens, and editor, Dawn Noemdoe, will also lead some of the upcoming panel discussions.
Experts confirmed for panel discussions
Sekhoto-Iga, who has made great strides in the last seven years as a commercial farmer, says she is most excited about the fact that so many leading farmers and agriculturists have agreed to participate in the discussions. This includes Matthew Callcott-Stevens, the founder of Gordios Farms, Matthew Piper, the founder of Khula, Nolwazi Mkize, product stewardship manager for Africa Middle East (AME) at Corteva Agriscience, and Olebogeng Mabe, who runs Le Roux Spann farm.
“It is always great to connect with new farmers and building long-lasting relationships. The farmers will get an opportunity to share their experiences with industry stakeholders and learn from them,” Sekhoto-Iga adds.
The two-day summit is proudly sponsored by Corteva Agriscience, who is committed to working with others – through collaborating with NGOs, governments, academia, youth and others in the industry to address the issue of food security.
According to Barbra Muzato, communications leader for Corteva Africa Middle East (AME), many young people do not view agriculture as a viable career and feel they must pursue careers in other fields. “By partnering with AFASA Youth on this important initiative, Corteva Agriscience would like to give the youth an opportunity to grow the skills to pursue their passions and navigate challenges, especially those facing today’s agriculture sector.”
Dr. Nolwazi Mkize, Product Stewardship Manager for Africa Middle East at Corteva Agriscience opened the event with an exciting message and shared with young farmers, the various products they offer farmers. Throughout the two-day event, Corteva will deliver presentations that are designed to provide young farming business owners crucial knowledge and skills. “And to prepare them for future workforce for the digital economy that will be necessary for today’s youth to drive the future of sustainable agriculture,” Muzato adds.
Other event partners include Standard Bank, Land Bank, SAB Foundation and Food For Mzansi.
The Annual AFASA Young Farmers Summit has for the last four years been a platform for farmers and relevant stakeholders to engage, share and connect, but later this morning some of the delegates will also be rewarded for their continuous efforts in empowering fellow young farmers.
Mahlati says the upcoming awards ceremony will recognize the young farmers who have volunteered their services and time to uplifting the work of AFASA Youth. “It is an honour to be awarding the young leaders who are making a difference in the organisation.”