‘We never thought agriculture could be so cool’

What? Is this really part of agriculture? An excited Beaufort-West learner discovers a new world with the Western Cape Department of Agriculture.

Four provinces, four weeks and nearly 10 000 learners later and we’re still standing! The month-long VKB Food For Mzansi Agri Career Roadshow was an absolute blast and, truth be told, we feel quite honoured to have positively influenced the youth’s perceptions of agriculture.

When we embarked on this journey, we could never have imagined the immense support for our initiative. Without hesitation, many leading agricultural enterprises and educational institutions joined forces with us, whilst nearly 100 different schools went to great lengths to attend our 18 different events.

We can’t believe it’s over. In fact, we’re already gearing up for the 2020 edition of the agri career roadshow.

The Free State leg of the roadshow kicked off in Phuthaditjhaba and then proceeded to Reitz, Frankfort and Kroonstad. A week later we tackled the Eastern Cape towns of Somerset East, Pearston and Graaff-Reinet. Next up was Paarl and Beaufort-West in the Western Cape, with the roadshow concluding in the Limpopo towns of Settlers and Tzaneen. Never in our wildest dreams could we imagine that so many schools would literally travel hundreds of kilometres to attend our roadshow.

Question time was serious business at the VKB Food For Mzansi Agri Career Roadshow. Learners embraced the opportunity to gain expert opinion on possible study and career opportunities.

At the different career days, learners were exposed to the unlimited study and career opportunities available in Mzansi’s vibrant agricultural sector. Many were quite surprised to learn that agriculture is about more than just farming, with everything from drone technology to science and innovation influencing the industry’s future.

“You have opened our eyes and showed us that agriculture is indeed life,” exclaimed 18-year-old Alphios Sikhosana from Falesizwe Secondary School in Frankfort.

Marianne van der Laarse, the MD of Agrijob, inspired learners.

The roadshow was made possible with the generous support of VKB, a leading Free State-based agricultural company, and Bayer, a global enterprise. Throughout the roadshow, learners gained first-hand experience from Bayer’s movers and shakers, including Rodney Ndou, a sales representative for the small-holder market in the Free State, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Lesotho, who freely shared his insights.

Many other project partners went above and beyond to make the roadshow a memorable experience, including MSD Animal Health, NuPro, QPRO, the University of the Free State, the Sernick Group, Stellenbosch University, Boland College, Letaba College, The Answer Educational Publishers and Agrijob.

The roadshow was also backed by the South African Agricultural Teaching Association (AATA), as well as the departments of agriculture and social development of the Western Cape Government, and both Limpopo and the Free State’s Department of Education.

Dr. Princess Moswa-Kato, a veterinarian representing MSD Animal Health, engages with learners in Reitz, Free State..

Jacques Van Rensburg, marketing manager at MSD Animal Health, says, “We had the opportunity to get in touch and interact with our youth to better understand their career needs and future aspirations.”

Van Rensburg adds that this also gave agricultural companies, such as MSD, a chance to discuss potential career opportunities within the industry. Learners also had the unique opportunity to directly engage with Dr Princess Moswakato, a well-known veterinarian representing MSD.

Other visiting guest speakers included Breyton Milford, the Operations Manager of Agri-Expo, who attended the Paarl event. He shared his journey from growing up in Port Nolloth in the Northern Cape to matriculating at the Augsburg Agricultural School in Clanwilliam. Today, he is a world-renowned agricultural leader and one of only two persons from Africa to serve on the international agricultural board.

‘Think global and do local’

Wiam Haddad, an ecologist at ZZ2, motivated learners attending the Tzaneen event. He questioned the learners about the where their food would come from in 2050 when we have to feed 10 billion people across the globe. Haddad’s top four tips to them was to remain open-minded, to get “out there” to gain experience, be team-focused and to “think global and do local”.

Thankga Vynar, an educator from Gwambeni Secondary School in Xihoko in Limpopo, says their learners definitely enjoyed the roadshow because they left with a greater idea of the diversity of careers available within the agricultural space.

Bayer’s Rodney Ndou sharing his insights in the agricultural industry with learners.

Monika Basson from the US’s faculty of agricultural sciences, says it is noteworthy that “the right message” about agriculture is being shared with the learners at the nationwide events. It is important to do so because learners are the leaders of tomorrow and our future depends on them. “Our future, our lives, our economy is dependent on agriculture and we need to ensure that we attract top talent to pursue their studies within the applied sciences. By doing that from an agriculture platform is exciting for us.”

Sydney Louw (16), a gr. 11 pupil from South Peninsula High School in Diep River in the Western Cape, says she has always wanted to go into medicine, but after attending the VKB Food For Mzansi Agri Career Day she now considers agriculture as a viable career choice. “I really have been thinking about a career in agriculture, although it’s not my first choice. I wasn’t aware that you could study such a vast amount of degrees and end up in agriculture. So that was quite interesting to find out.”

Learners from La Rochelle Girls’ High School in Paarl attended the VKB Food For Mzansi Agri Career Day.

We wish to salute all the different agricultural enterprises, educational institutions, government departments, host schools, teachers and learners alike who made the VKB Food For Mzansi Agri Career Roadshow an unforgettable experience. Thank you, without your support this would not have been possible.

Cheers, to the future!

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