At a series of career workshops at Afrika Tikkun Diepsloot, on Mandela Day, the CEO of Land Bank talks about why it is putting hand to the plough in the business of youth development. Through its strategic partnership with non-profit Afrika it aims to facilitate access of urban youth to opportunities in the agricultural sector.
The slow and disappointing implementation of land reform in South Africa, has led to increasing frustration, and calls for expropriation without compensation. From the Preamble of the Constitution to the Land Reform Act and the efforts arising from that, significant attempts have been made by government to address land ownership issues. It is now widely accepted, however, that the implementation of the project of land reform has not been fast or far-reaching enough. Government itself has acknowledged that the majority of farms given to historically black people as part of land reform have failed.
And they have failed due to a lack of skills to sustainably and productively develop the land explains Tshokolo Petrus Nchocho, CEO of Landbank, “before we contemplate expropriation, we need to address the land already in the hands of the State and ensure we are able to successfully farm those land parcels.”
The sustainability of the agricultural sector depends not only on access to land, but access to capital to develop that land; and most importantly on the know-how and skills to farm productively and sustainability, he explains. Akinwumi Adesina, President of African Development Bank has repeatedly said that the next generation of African billionaires will come from the agricultural sector. But until the skills shortage is addressed that potential cannot be leveraged.
A recent survey by the Land Bank shows that young people, and urban youth in particular have misperceptions of the agricultural sector and are therefore unaware of the opportunities that exist there. The sector tends to be perceived by young people through the lenses of historical experiences of farm labour rather than farm ownership. The perspective is limited and unaware of the many technological solutions that exist that means agriculture is no longer an industry characterised by hard labour. “With many other career opportunities available such as Soil Scientists, Plant Production, Animal Sciences, Agricultural Communications, Agricultural Economics, Agricultural Engineering, Agricultural Education and Farming the industry is a very exciting one,” said Phuti Moloto Land Bank’s Credit Manager.
“On a daily basis, we meet young people who are farming successfully,” Nchocho goes on to explain. “They have two things in common, a skills base from which to operate, and secondly, they are mentored by established successful farmers.”
Speaking at a series of career workshops held at Afrika Tikkun’s Wings of Life Centre in Diepsloot for International Mandela Day, Nchocho described a strategic partnership being entered into between Land Bank and Afrika Tikkun to promote access of unemployed youth, emerging farmers and unemployed families to the agricultural sector as part of a broader Youth Strategy. The strategy involves linking big capital to emerging farmers, giving access to land and finance to buy necessary inputs, and providing an on-site technical assistance programme.
Land Bank have successfully built entire full value chain eco-systems linking successful, established large scale farmers and companies and black emerging farmers; in systems that ultimately connects emerging farmers with access to a market that they can consistently supply with high quality product.
Working with an average of 5000 young people every month, Afrika Tikkun is dedicated to the eradication of poverty by caring for vulnerable young people in townships from cradle-to-career. It runs programmes that address the various needs of township children and youth with the end goal being their successful placement in careers or tertiary learning facilities. This includes a Youth Skills Development and Placement programme that provides career-pathing, job readiness, learnerships and entrepreneurial training and placement opportunities for young adults.
“It is highly important to educate the youth about the opportunities available to them in agriculture because they are the future. Many young people of today are very techno savvy, and they can come up with the technology that could make the industry even better which is why is it important to get them thinking about careers in agriculture while they are still in high school. That way when they start early we have them for a lifetime” said Moloto.
“There are a lot of agricultural opportunities in the urban periphery. Space per se in urban environments should not be a constraint from entering the farming sector provided the right technology choice is made,” Nchocho explained. Afrika Tikkun, which operates in townships in the two biggest urban areas of South Africa – Johannesburg and Cape Town, are excited to facilitate agricultural opportunities to township urban youth.
Afrika Tikkun’s beneficiaries have also welcomed the opportunity – in particularly those who are already emerging farmers and have struggled for years to access land, like Njabulo Nkonyane of Cosmo City. Many besides him however were unaware of the potential of the sector, “I always thought that I had to choose from a limited number of careers, and being in Grade 11, I was not sure what to do when I finished high school. The workshops excited me about the possibilities of a career in agriculture, and should I pick one I will be ensuring food security for my country” said Thapelo Mokoena, an Afrika Tikkun beneficiary.
With the population of Africa estimated to be 1.3 billion by 2050, the future is in the hands of the youth to ensure food security for the future generations