New group of young graduates wants their hands dirty in farming 

New group of young graduates wants their hands dirty in farming
HANDS-ON: A new breed of black agriculturalists is on the rise, armed with knowledge and no longer prepared to be spectators in the food economy, they say they are moving to secure their future in South African farming. PICTURE Supplied

They believe in team building to achieve a shared common goal in the agricultural sector.

A new group of young graduates have joined hands to get themselves dirty in transforming South Africa’s farming industry, positioning themselves as the future food producers in a country where the contradictions of racially skewed land ownership continue to remain emotive.

Formed in May 2020 and with already 380 members nationally, the South African Agricultural Graduates Association or SAAGA said as degree holders they had felt the need to organise themselves into one and fight for the sector to be opened to black people so that they get their hands dirty in feeding South African population.

National secretary Zwelethu Zulu said they have already met with various officials from the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development to explain their visions and to ask for opportunities in matters of land availabilities and cultivation.

According to a land audit report released by the department of agriculture the state owns 14% of the total hectares of South African land while 79% is privately owned and 7% unaccounted for.

New group of young graduates wants their hands dirty in farming
One of the members of SAAGA pose for a photo during practicals in one of South Africa’s farms

South Africa’s total land area is 121.9 million hectares but not all of it is registered at the deeds office – with as much as 7% of erven not registered.

The audit report found white people own 72% of the total land, coloureds 14%, Indians 5% and blacks 4%.

Most of this land is used for agricultural purposes. In Mpumalanga, 78.8% of households are said to rely on the agricultural sector for a living, mostly as workers.

Zulu said it is against this backdrop that as graduates they chose to organise themselves in the fight to transform the industry.

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New group of young graduates wants their hands dirty in farming

“As agricultural graduates across South Africa we felt the need to take advantage of the agricultural sector which has failed us and left us only as degree holders,” said Zulu when he spoke to the 013NEWS reporter.

He said their purpose “is to challenge the status quo of land ownership in South Africa which consists of mostly old white farm owners which does not represent the racial ratio of our country”.

“It’s unacceptable that graduates are sidelined by both the public and private sector,” he said, adding they will grab each and every opportunity presented by government for their members. 

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Zulu said each of their members has a degree in farming and others possess junior degrees and were prepared to be employers than employees.

Group spokeswoman Mologadi Ngoetjana said they recently had meetings with officials of the national department in Tshwane and “where we raised all the issues”.

“We gathered all the different grievances from our members and those on social media and we compiled a report to the department in a such a way that we highlighted the challenges we face and where we want the state to intervene”.

She added they are totally opposed to the “exploitation” of graduates on farms “in the name of internships which have no exit strategy or plan”.

“The organisation’s mandate is to mobilise and target the alarming unemployment and unemployable youth plus contribute to food security through local markets,” she said.

(edited by ZK)

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