The average farmer in South Africa is 55 years and above. In the period between the mid 80’s and 90’s, there were close to 60 000 commercial farmers. By 2000, this number had dwindled to a staggering 30 000 and counting down.
Clearly, getting youth into agriculture has become something of an uphill battle.
But most interestingly, the number of youth farmers Mzansi Agriculture Talk profiled, were independent and started off on their own.
A similar trait noticed among all, was the market gap they had identified and the alacrity to provide food to the less fortunate. It starts off as such from the beginning and surreptitiously some become motivated to leave their lucrative jobs and plough all their savings.
There more engrossed in farming way of life, the sooner they realize the need for government to meet them half-way. Unfortunately, this is often not the case and they are sent from pillar to post.
Banks also turn them away and if given an ear, a long list of requirements are thrown in their faces.
If they have complied with all market requirements and so forth, barriers are installed on their path.
Still they raise to their feet, stubbornly marching to become better farmers, chucking away all things of gatekeeping.
Amazingly, no one seems to appreciate that youth farming must be a cornerstone of government policy and organized agriculture.
European Union members, are also faced with an ageing farming population and its stepping its efforts in encouraging young people into farming.
“Young farmers are given a helping hand to get their business off the ground with start-up grants, income support and benefits such as additional training” says EU.
Through the Youth Farmer Payment (YFP), EU member countries are encouraged to “set aside up to 2% of their total allocation of income support funding for the YFP, decide on the number of hectares per farm to be supported under the YFP (up to 90 ha);choose one of the YFP calculation methods (up to 50% of farmers’ income support payments); decide whether the YFP beneficiaries should have appropriate skills and/or fulfil certain training requirements; grant the YFP for a period of five years after the setting up of the eligible young farmers.”
Our youth farmers need bold actions demonstrated by YFP and less youth day celebrations.