Cape Town - Joyene Isaacs has a vision for the Western Cape’s agriculture.
“I want to make this sector sexy,” the head of department in the provincial Agriculture Ministry told a room full of young people who have taken an interest in the sector.
Isaacs’s remarks during the 2014 International Food and Agricultural Management Association (Ifama) and CCA Food and Agribusiness World Forum at the CTICC are illustrative of a larger effort to pique the interest of young people and to encourage them to pursue careers in the agricultural sector.
The theme for this year’s conference is the “talent factor”, which event co-ordinator Jan Greyling said was fitting for Youth Day.
Economic Opportunities MEC Alan Winde said they decided to add a youth component to this year’s conference to introduce more young people to the agricultural sector.
“The sector is such a big driver of the economy, but it’s not attracting young people,” he said. “The discussion here is about how to be of value. How do we add young people into the mix? These young people are the winemakers of tomorrow.”
Drawing on Isaacs’s push for “sexy”, Winde said it was important to showcase the agricultural sector within the economy to youth. “It’s not about gum boots,” he said. “It’s about technology, innovation, productivity and opportunity.”
Roderic Duminy, director of the United SA Agricultural Association, said the forum was about being exposed to knowledge from international experts, the universal global picture of agriculture and empowering young farmers. “We no longer want to farm like our grandfathers farmed,” he said, explaining a shifted focus on cutting costs and environmental impact.
Duminy said the image of a farmer was also shifting: “It’s no longer just a poor worker, but a thinker. What we want to see is these young people develop as entrepreneurs and engage with other countries…”
Mandiphiwe Nomakhakhayi, 18, visiting from Sinenjongo High School, is unsure what she wants to pursue as a career, but sees opportunity in the agricultural sector. “It involves every part of the world. Everything comes from agriculture.” She said she was particularly interested in studying food science.
“You get to know the world and you can be exposed to all different kinds of things.”
Byron Booysen, 25, not only understands what hydroponics and tunnel farming are, but uses them to grow cocktail tomatoes. Booysen, who is working on his Master’s in environmental ethics at Stellenbosch University, believes his career is an opportunity to improve his leadership.
“I see agriculture as more than being a farmer in the traditional way of thinking where you’re dirty and it’s not a passion. It is a passion because I link it to other things I’m passionate about – I’m linking it to people and community upliftment.”