A transformed agricultural sector necessary to build a united, prosperous South Africa

In commemoration of Mandela Day, I have today spent 67 minutes engaging members of the farming community about how we can build an inclusive agricultural sector that can serve as a tool to correct past injustices, empower young South Africans and ensure food security for all.

The engagement included a diverse group from the agricultural fraternity, including large- and small-scale farmers, established as well as emerging farmers, both urban and rural farmers, and farmers from all demographics.

Despite their different backgrounds, I was deeply inspired by their shared commitment to building an inclusive agricultural sector, and their collective desire to see farming used as a tool for transformation and empowerment.

This echoes the sentiments expressed by Nelson Mandela in 1994 regarding the role of farming in building a prosperous and united South Africa: “few other sectors can be as crucial in this as the agricultural industry: for it is on your shoulders that the food security of the nation rests. It is on your efforts that a great part of the manufacturing industry relies for its raw materials”

Our food producers deserve our praise and support for the invaluable role they play in providing for our nation. A transformed agricultural sector can serve as a powerful driver of economic growth, job creation, empowerment of young South Africans, tackling food insecurity, and correcting past injustices.

Today’s engagement served as a platform for the agricultural fraternity to share their ideas of how this can be achieved. Some of these ideas included:

  • Farming needs to be promoted as a viable profession among young people with incentives, such as bursaries, that will encourage young South Africans to pursue a career in agriculture.
  • One such incentive is to partner commercial farmers with schools and universities to allow learners studying Agriculture to gain practical experience and learn about best-practice farming methods. Hands-on experience is invaluable to growing a new generation of farmers.
  • A national mentoring program where established farmers can assist emerging farmers with the knowledge, experience and tools required to build a financially viable commercial farm. This must include the sharing of the latest farming methods and technologies that will assist to increase productivity and crop yields.
  • Ensuring the safety and security of our farming community is imperative. A dedicated Rural Safety Unit must be established in SAPS, in partnership with the agricultural community, to protect our food producers.

The discussion today is the latest in a series of such engagements we are undertaking as we develop the solutions blueprints for our new political party to be launched next month. We believe that the solutions to our country’s greatest challenges will not come from career politicians and a broken political system, but from ordinary South Africans who are experts in their fields.

We have already engaged experts on the criminal justice system, anti-corruption, law enforcement, the economy, and education and skills development. As with today’s discussion, I have been overwhelmed by the willingness of South Africans to contribute to the project of fixing their country and building a shared future for all its people.

It is only through a collective effort that we will be able to achieve Tata Madiba’s dream for South Africa and see it take its place among the great nations of the world once more.