Agriculture and agribusiness are some of the careers that should be considered in addressing the issue of unemployment in South Africa. This was revealed by the Agribusiness Development Agency (ADA) during their campaign which was aimed at encouraging youth to participate in agricultural and agribusiness activities in schools.

The campaign was hosted under the ADA’s Corporate Social Investment Programme called On Our Own for Mandela Schools Gardening Project, which is done in partnership with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), Natal Midlands Development Programme (NMDP), South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and New Generation Youth Empowerment (NGYE).

There are 9 high schools that were visited during this campaign including, Mbamangalo, Ikusaselihle, Mehlokazulu, Mthoqotho, Ekupholeni, Mconjwana, Mazwendoda, Asibemunye and Qoqisizwe high Schools. Explaining about the programme, Mr Sbonga Shelembe, Marketing and Communications Practitioner for the ADA, said, “The misconception that the youth has is that agricultural activities are for old people and that they are associated with slavery. The main focus of the programme is to encourage youth to start producing food and sell to their schools and neighbouring communities. If the youth is actively involved in agriculture and agribusiness, we will address social ills, lack food security and unemployment, said Mr Shelembe.

Mr Xolani Qwabe, Social Facilitator for the ADA, advised learners about careers in agriculture including engineering, scientist, vets, agricultural advisors and other careers that they can explore. He stated that Agriculture is not well marketed hence people do not know about various careers in this field. “Currently these is a shortage of young black engineers which is why we are here to encourage youth to consider some of the careers in agriculture”, Mr Qwabe concluded.

Amongst the speakers who addressed the learners was Ms Bathabile Ndlovu who matriculated at Mehlokazulu High School, she furthered her studies and graduated as a Horticulturist. She now works for SANBI. She also encouraged learners to participate in the programme. “ I spend most of the time in the office, I only go to the garden to check if the work is done properly, which means participating in the agricultural value chain does not mean that you are in the garden all the time, as some of you are thinking”, Ms Ndlovu said.

Mr Mlungisi Mncwabe from NMDP assured learners that they will assist them with technical knowledge to start their gardens, up until they sell their produce. “The purpose of our involvement is to ensure that each learner has a garden at home which will address challenges of food security “said Mr Mncwabe.

Ms Thembile Zuma, an Agricultural Advisor from DARD, said, she started planting her garden while she was very young. Her mother bought her a pair of shoes with the money that she made from selling carrots which she planted herself. The love for agriculture grew since then and she never looked back.

In all the schools, students were taught by agricultural advisors from DARD who demonstrated various methods for planting and taking care of plants. The ADA donated garden equipment, seedlings, fertilisers, fencing equipment and chemicals to the participating schools.

Mr Ngubane, an Agricultural Educator from Mehlokazulu commended the ADA and its partners for this programme, “learners will now be exposed to the practical side of what we teach them in class”, said Mr Ngubane.

The learners showed excitement and welcomed the programme with both hands as they were seen participating during demonstrations and they committed to working hard to ensure that the programme continues to be a success.