Agriculture graduates exit on the job program with renewed vision

The Northern Cape Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs, Rural Development and Land Reform MEC Mase Manopole, said the provincial government is moving at an accelerated speed to get young people to participate in the agricultural sector.

She was delivering a keynote address at the 2023 Agriculture Graduate Symposium, hosted by Raisins South Africa at the Vine Academy and Model Farm in Kakamas on Thursday (16 March 2023).

About 68 young unemployed agriculture graduates are exiting a two-year on-the-job program, which was supported by government to the tune of R7.2 million.

“When I started in the Department some few years ago, I asked in terms of our farmers register, how many women, people with disability and youth do we have on our database. A shocking revelation was that about 80% of the farmers in our Province will be going on retirement soon and majority are men. The young, women and people with disability are few,” said MEC Manopole.

“I realised then, that there really a need to accelerate recruitment and bring young people to the sector. There is a great need for skills transfer from the elders farmers to the youth and women. Our young people have the academic knowledge, which need to be coupled with the skills. This kind of training is important because it is not only going to produce job seekers but entrepreneurs who will contribute positively into our economy.”

About 72 unemployed graduates were inducted on April 16, 2021 in Keimoes by MEC Manopole, and 68 graduated from the program after four of the seventy-two resigned. 

“The aim of this programme, which costed the department, R7.2 million was to place unemployment graduates, with agriculture related qualifications, on relevant farms or enterprises within the agricultural value chain to acquire relevant on-the-job entrepreneurial and business skills to enable them to establish and manage their own enterprises,” said MEC Manopole.

“This is aimed at adequately preparing them to pursue their envisaged entrepreneurial ambitions after exiting the programme,” she emphasised.

During their participation in the programme, the Department supported the graduates to develop bankable business plans with the help of economists and other relevant experts during the last six months in the programme. 

Some of the interns shared their story on how they would save the little they receive to buy livestock and pay for their studies.

An intern, Gordon Ramaisa said; “I managed to buy eight ewes and one ram of merino breed which are kept on the 36 hectare the mentor of Hangklip offered. I started rearing chickens, bushveld chicken breed for meat production which are sold to OVK and small market in Colesburg.  

Tshireletso Maphula took an unprecedented step and managed to pay half of her outstanding study fees and further saved money to buy sheep and feeds.

GoitseModimo Melodi, said “I produced maize and fresh vegetable from my backyard garden in 2021. I applied for the PESI voucher in order to erect a 40% shade net tunnel and bought seed. I also bought 2 boergoat and 2 dorper sheep with his stipend.”

Raisins SA CEO, Ferdie Botha said getting into the job market has always been tough and it’s even tougher within the agriculture sector. “Raisins South Africa made a decision to be a beacon of hope in the Northern Cape and to make it their duty to ensure that graduate interns are placed within key sectors and with various partners in the agriculture sector.”

He said these partnerships range from agriculture departments, commodity houses, banks, micro and commercial farms. “A lot of strategy sessions and discussions with partners went into the venture. For Raisins SA, it was not just about landing an internship in agriculture. It was important that interns get experience in the field that they’ve studied and in most cases exposure above and beyond their field of studies,” he said.

Botha said in the past two years, the emphases was put on providing technical and financial skills as well as laying the foundation for the entrepreneurial journey within the agriculture sphere. “Besides only focusing one sided on job placement, Raisins SA ensured that development factors were put in place to leverage Emotional Intelligence stimulation of the interns which were needed to prepare the them for the two-year journey.”

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