Is our education system really preparing Agricultural graduates for real life working environment? Most students, fresh from colleges or universities, see themselves in the air-conditioned offices with a chair and a computer once they are offered an internship after graduation.
But reality hits them when they get to the farms. There’s no office or computer but hard labour in the farm, where they sometimes have to work in the blazing sun. It should, however, not come as a surprise as that is the nature of farming. Farming has always involved hard labour.
Even in the old days, when men left women in the rural areas to go work in the mines, women used to till the land to feed their families…and this was farming which involved hard labour.
Our education system today seems not to equip agricultural students with the fact that they will be working in the field with their hands as soon as they are placed for internship hence this comes as a shock to many of them.
Lots of graduates faced the same situation upon taking on internships. Many, however, appear to cherish the experience.
Mzansi Agriculture talk caught with ‘Farmer from The North’, Maphate Rakoma, owner of Farming with Maphate (PTY) (LTD), situated in Ga-Maboi, Polokwane Limpopo. Maphate hold an honours degree in BSc Agricultural Economics from the university of Limpopo.
Q: Upon completing your honours degree, what were your expectations with regard to the workplace conditions?
A: My expectations were that I will work in a very conducive working environment… working for companies such as AgriSA, Absa and Land Bank but the reality was that farm experience and knowledge were the key to secure a job at those reputable institutions.
Q: Please elaborate on the hardships you faced while working at the farms and how you managed to keep up with them and get over them?
A: I got an internship at GDARD working on a Graduate programme that was first established at GDARD and I was part of the first group. We were placed at farms; the living condition and housing structures were the worst. There was no access to clean water, a clean environment and no safety measures at all. I was nearly attacked at the farm. I had to move from one farm to another because of the conditions that I was living in. We also worked odd hours that was not indicated in our contracts doing hard labour but all that made me strong and I learnt a lot from all the hardships I encountered.
Q: Regarding the work conditions and the accommodation, what do you wish could change going forward?
A: As the program continues, I believe the employer (GDARD) will improve the living conditions of graduates where they place them (at the farms). Farmers must also make sure they provide a safe and clean house to graduates.
Q: Now that you are a broiler farmer with one permanent and 2 casual employees, is the business making enough to sustain your monthly expenses?
A: Not really because I just started and I reinvest 95% of my profit back into the business so that it can grow.
Q: What are your plans going forward with regard to you farming business?
A: My plan is to produce at least 50 000 chickens per cycle to local and international markets.
Q: Do you think enough is being done to empower young female farmers like yourself and if not, what suggestions do you have?
A: The patriarchy within agricultural sector is still a problem especially in villages. If our elders, especially men, could understand that we are living in a different era whereby females are also capable to farm thing will get better.
Q: Are there any or enough commercial female farmers in the country, if not, how would you change that if you were minister of agriculture?
A: There’s only a few female commercial farmers in our country be…