Constraints to growing Agriculture and broadening the inclusion of youth and women in the sector

  • 10 Julie 2020
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The panel also deliberates on ways to broaden women and youth participation in the sector. Led by Wandile Sihlobo as the anchor, the panel of thought leaders includes Paul Ntshabele, Hamlet Hlomendlini, Gift Mafuleka, Tracy Davids, Matthew Piper, Karidas Tshintsolo and Ayanda Vana.

Hamlet Hlomendlini opens the conversation by commenting that debates around the issues spoken about in this session have been happening for many years, but adoption of the solutions conferred in such discussions are yet to be adopted and implemented. He notes that the reason why these conversations keep reoccurring is that they are necessary to grow and advance the South African agricultural sector. He shares a quote by Akinwumi Adesina, President of the Development Bank. He brings into perspective the magnitude and vitality of the agricultural sector in contributing to the economic growth of South Africans. He speaks on the contribution of emerging farmers on the Agri value chain and poses questions as to the role they can play in advancing agriculture.

Tracy Davids talks about advancing the sector through thorough market research and acknowledging the diverse nature of the South African agriculture value chain. She provides a recommendation as to how to harness opportunities beyond the size and scope of a producer’s local market. Wandile notes that Tracy’s take does well to showcase the intricateness of the small and medium-sized agribusiness sector.

Gift Mafuleka shares his experience of the progression towards commercial farming and the challenges faced along the journey. He notes the lack of prioritisation with regards to formulating clear policies that support the emerging sector as a constriction to growth in the sector. Gift says that there is a lack of innovation in agriculture and that is holding farmers back from transformative advancements that will propel their businesses forward.

Wandile asks Paul Ntshabele to give his educated opinion of the constraining factors within rural farming development. Paul responds by painting a picture of how historical structural inequalities constrain growth in those areas. He names specific areas where the infrastructure does not function as well in areas where black, emerging farmers operate. “Water is quite an important element in agriculture production. Until we get that element right in the rural areas, we are not going to be able to have a considerable impact on the increase of production”. He suggests that we start to look at other markets to supply. He thinks South African countries should be leaders in driving initiatives to feed Africa. He notes historical and political baggage that clouds the sector as hindrances to the growth of the South African agricultural sphere.

Mathew Piper, an agricultural technology entrepreneur joins the conversation by pointing out the role that technology can play in assisting with this growth path. He explains the functionality of the Kula app and how it serves to eradicate the information disconnect between farmers and their intended market base. Mathew highlights the various challenges faced by local farmers with regards to market access and the many different factors that bring about these challenges.

Wandile brings into perspective the importance of reflecting on the constraints to youth participation and women participation in the agricultural sector. Wandile shares statistics that show that women make up only a third of the labour workforce in the agricultural sector.

Speaking on ways to resolving the issues hindering youth inclusion and gender diversity in the sector, Hamlet says that there is no need to “make agriculture sexy” when attempting to get the buy-in of youth and women. He stresses the importance of using affirming language when showcasing the importance of the work done within the sector. He says that we need to change the mentality and inspire a mind shift when it comes to how agriculture is thought of and received. Tracy adds that part of making the industry attractive is to create an environment that people would want to operate in.

Ayanda Vana sheds light on the challenges of working and thriving in spaces that have been designed for men by men. She illuminates macroaggressions subtle and not so subtle that women have to deal with while trying to validate themselves as excellent, competent professionals in the sector. She speaks of the importance of integrating policies with behavioural changes that will make it easier for women to move and operate in these spaces.

Karidas Tshintsolo says that marketing agriculture as an economically viable option for young people wanting to build wealth is the way to advance youth participation in the sector. “We need to position agriculture as having a commercial value proposition for young people. The reason why young people are not going into the sector is not that it is not sexy, it just does not look like you will make money."  

Wandile wraps up the conversation by thanking the panel and reiterates the importance of diversity and representation when aiming to inspire young people to participate in the sector.