South African agricultural is undergoing a facelift, and it’s all thanks to the young farmers of Mzansi who are ready to get their hands dirty and to grow the sector.
This message was clear during a special edition of Food For Mzansi’s #GatherToGrow Twitter space. The online event, hosted on the eve of Youth Day (16 June), saw young role players in the sector gather to celebrate the future of farming in Mzansi.
One of the speakers, Kulani Siweya, an agricultural economist with Agri SA, told the floor that South Africa’s farming sector was bearing witness to a shift which is attracting the youth of SA.
According to Siweya, the days of agriculture being viewed as the ugly duckling of sectors, brought on by misconceptions about what it entails, is fast ending.
“For many it was just seen as being on the ground and getting dirty. But with information [being shared] we are in a space where the sector is going through a sort of facelift, and it is attracting young people from different backgrounds.”
With this attraction, he said, came a a diversity of expertise and ideas that would grow the sector.
He also shared during the session why agriculture is low-hanging fruit in dealing with many of country’s social issues, particularly unemployment. “With the young people that are coming and the adaptation of technology, we are able to solve the challenges that we are facing as a modern-day society through agriculture.”
Calling on innovators and visionaries
Meanwhile, Thabo Skhosana, a dairy farmer from Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal, pointed out that contrary to popular belief, the fourth industrial revolution was here to aid farmers to work more efficiently.
“It’s not here to make the work for us more redundant or stagnant,” he stated. “Most of the equipment used today is digitalised and works best on apps on cell phones, which makes it more efficient to work on farms.”
The industry needed innovation and visionaries who would bring forth industry solutions and alleviate poverty, Skhosana said.
A stud breeder from Sussex in the Free State, Annalea van Niekerk, added that it was unfortunate that there existed a stigma that farming was only for a certain group of people. She said agriculture remained a capital-intensive industry no matter what the scale of production.
“For many people, they are growing food for their own household and agriculture is often their only source of income that they get. On the other side you have the stigma that agriculture is for rich people. This needs to change.”
*The Twitter session was recorded and the full conversation will soon be available on Food For Mzansi.
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