On 16 April, the Northern Cape Department of Agriculture, Environment Affairs, Rural Development and Land Reform welcomed 75 learners to partake in a 2-year departmental agriculture skills development.
MEC of Agriculture Mase Monopole said the programme was not about creating graduate employment only but promoting entrepreneurship.
“Agriculture is the second biggest economic activity in our province, at the forefront of job creation. Since we begun with the programme two years ago, we have witnessed smallholder farmer operations improve massively partly due to graduate knowledge influence” she said.
Owne Segano, a livestock farmer from Kuruman, who attended the proceedings of the day agreed with the assessment by the MEC.
“As farmers we do not have knowledge like these young guys from universities and colleges. They have the new theory of agriculture, quicker to adapt to new technologies while we have the experience. When the two merges, it produces high productivity” he added.
According to Segano, transferring experience to the graduates could only augur well for the Northern Cape agricultural economy as these graduates would get hands on training to learn firsthand how to manage farming operations.
“My department has been identified as one of the strategic economic sectors geared towards transforming the province’s economy. To do this, we need to ante up agriculture, get our youth in agriculture farming, as we have land available and the technical expertise to guide them. But they must start their entrepreneurial journey from an experienced farmer” added MEC Monopole.
Keitumelo Mohtlouleng, an agricultural science graduate from the University of Free State said he looked forward to learn first and being exposed to commercial farming.
“Off course, even when I attended the interviews, I laid out my plans on how I will use my university degree to help on the farm but most importantly, I had to identify in which area of farming enterprise I would start and obviously how” he said.
16 farming entities partnered with government to train the graduates in upskilling them and were involved in the shortlisting and interviewing of the graduates.
“We don’t want to create a long list of unemployed graduates in the province but of agricultural entrepreneurs. The mandate was clear from the Premier Zamani Saul at his inaugural acceptance speech that youth must play a pivotal role in the transformation of the province’s economy” added the Acting HOD of agriculture Lerato Modise.
Northern Cape is endowed with massive tracts of land with the department pledging to support graduates with their agribusiness startup. Future plans of the programme are to involve private sector in stimulating agricultural growth in the province.
“It is practically impossible to steer this alone. We have set afoot plans to involve and partner with funding agencies when our graduates complete their training. This is to solely fund their agribusiness start-ups” said MEC Monopole.
She further urged graduates to represent the department positively by learning as much as possible in those areas of placement.
Furthermore, the MEC acknowledged the following partners Raisins SA, Blocuso Langoed Trust, Orange River Cellars, and farmers etc.