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Teach your children well…

January 2018

Long gone are the days when children knew exactly where their food came from i.e. their own back gardens! Too many children of today think milk is made in a factory or somehow magically appears in the grocery store! 

Young people have become distanced from agriculture and have lost perspective of the connections between farming and the food we eat or the clothes we wear. Furthermore, many of the youth associate with agriculture negatively and see it as employment which makes one very tired, from working long hard hours, under the hot sun, for minimal income!

There is a growing sense of urgency worldwide that recognises the need to educate the youth about agriculture. Educating the youth about agriculture is considered an important strategy in the disaster risk management toolbox towards managing the threat to food security levels. 

This is especially important in South Africa where latest statistics record the average age of farmers at 62 years! In Africa, the demographic structure is particularly youthful, with over 60 percent of the population currently below the age of 25. Large numbers of young people live and work in rural towns. 

It is significant that the potential of the urban sector to offer these young people wage-earning employment is low. Clearly, the role of agriculture as a source of employment and livelihood opportunities will be increasingly important. But the biggest challenge is that the majority of youth do not see agriculture as a viable career path. Too many have witnessed their elders’ struggles in the sector with low productivity and low return to feel drawn to it. This is exactly why a schools programme is so important in developing the knowledge, skills, and talent of youth. Through our schools programme we must ultimately aim to demonstrate the huge potential afforded them in the agricultural sector.

We have a responsibility to the future to open the eyes of our children to the value of a healthy agricultural sector now. Children are current consumers, consumers of the future, and the next generation of workers and employers, and the sooner we can make them aware of the value of agriculture in general, and the maize industry in particular, the sooner we can hope to have them understand the importance thereof.

In June 2016 Dr Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank stated that Africa has immense agricultural potential and called for greater commitment to turning farms into ‘intelligent farms’ with investment into science and technology to increase efficiency and competitiveness. Africa is characterised by under investment which has had a negative effect and left people in poverty and the agri-sector in economic crisis. He says Africa has 65% of all arable land left in the world to feed 9 billion people by 2050 and therefore, ‘What Africa does with agriculture is not only important for Africa: It will shape the future of food in the world!’ Agriculture should be seen as an opportunity for wealth creation and not only as a tool in the social and development sector to manage rural poverty!

Clearly the sector needs an injection of youth to bring a fresh passion and energy. In the not too distant future the learners in the classrooms around our country will be adults who are making important decisions about food systems and agricultural sector policies! It is essential to encourage young people to: 

  • Make connections to food and be aware of the value of agriculture as a source of food and fibre → Agriculture matters to the future of development;
  • Recognise agriculture as a field filled with diverse career/employment opportunities → Agriculture research needs young brain power; 
  • Make connections to the land as a major role-player in the economy → Agriculture can be a source of income for young entrepreneurs. 

Why do we think the youth can contribute to changed communities through farming? Abundance does not spread…famine does!

  • Engaging young people in farming activities can be a dynamic way to promote healthy communities through → household food gardens and community gardens. The youth can contribute to food security and raise awareness about the environment.
  • Marketing skills can be developed where young people grow their own foods and more → they can become young entrepreneurs by selling or bartering excess produce.
  • Young people who believe in the value of something will pursue it with energy and passion. It is a constructive way of spending time and acquiring lifelong skills. 
  • Youth leadership can transform communities, ensure healthy foods for rural and urban places, and transform their relationships within themselves and the world around them.

The Grain SA Farmer Development Schools Programme is the result of a partnership between the Maize Trust, Winter Cereal Trust and the AgriSETA, which all fund the programme in different ways and in the different areas. Several facilitators have been contracted to do the presentations at schools in all nine provinces of South Africa. Three visits are paid to each school in one school year and a selection of DVD’s is shown to the learners which are then discussed in the classroom environment. The learners are usually in Grade 9 (subject choice) or Grade 12 (career choice). These DVDs portray messages such as:

  • Food, Fiber, Life: This focusses on creating awareness among learners of the type of products that are derived from agriculture. Available online: https://youtu.be/TPT4GXsNIVM
  • Dig in – Introduction to Farming: This teaches learners about the agricultural production areas in South Africa. It also gives a broad overview of soil, the factors influencing it and soil conservation methods. Available online: https://youtu.be/yYRy3mSn1vA
  • Economics – What's in it for me? This DVD places emphasis on various economical concepts such as needs vs. wants, trading patterns like bartering vs. marketing, production and GDP, What are resources e.g. land and human resources, capital, production inputs etc. Available online: https://youtu.be/GR4iOyc5Mvk
  • Plant yourself in the future: This DVD is presented in the third term and has a strong focus on career choices and gives an overview of the types of careers that the agricultural sector has to offer. Available online: https://youtu.be/hlfH3SY2K1s
  • Careers in Agriculture – Livestock: This is a slightly more in-depth view on various types of careers that originate within or are associated with agriculture. Available online: https://youtu.be/2WVVP1St3hM.

During 2017 our facilitators have visited 852 schools and opened the eyes of 115 695 learners to the impact agriculture has on their lives. We are constantly excited by the learners’ responses who without fail, relate that they were unaware of the important role of agriculture in their everyday lives. Many learners are unaware of the diversity of career opportunities offered in the agric-sector. The educators receive us well and say they need MORE visits from the team. As a team we are committed to creating greater awareness about the importance of agriculture amongst the youth!



Article submitted by Jenny Mathews, Pula Imvula contributor. For more information, send an email to jenjonmat@gmail.com.


Publication: January 2018

Section: Pula/Imvula