Generally, youth are not attracted to a career in agriculture. The perception amongst many is that it is difficult to become successful, to earn a decent living through agriculture or even to establish a sustainable household or community food garden. Parents encourage their kids to pursue jobs in the corporate world and farming is seen as a profession for poor, rural and uneducated people. What’s more, its rewards take time and patience to reap whilst success in the corporate world is more immediate.
So how do you get through to our youth and change their minds? Opportunities for young people to engage in agriculture today are far greater than they used to be particularly small scale farming. At the same time, however, there are more challenges at the market side and more competition from the production side. Therefore, young people need to develop a range of skills and knowledge that may not have been accessible in the rural areas.
What does capacity building in agriculture mean? Essentially, it means mobilising young adults for both careers in agriculture and simply encouraging them to use their potential to find innovative and future-oriented agricultural approaches. It also means developing skilled, creative and motivated individuals and establishing effective forums and institutions to engage youth in problem solving regarding good nutrition, general health and environmental health amongst other priority matters.
With this in mind, the Tigerbrands-Siyakhana partnership conducted a site assessment at NWU to see whether the establishment of a food garden would be a worthwhile agricultural intervention to engage the students. The proposed site at NWU is at a central location on main campus and is strategic for the demonstration of agro-ecology methods and principles. A borehole is situated in close proximity to the site, which will vastly enhance the garden’s sustainability.
How does the partnership intend to effectively mobilise and encourage the students to take ownership of the project and to ensure that it is enduring? One of the ways was to expose students to various possibilities through presentations, discussions and training engaged a range of project stakeholders, from students and lecturers through to ground staff and representatives of early childhood development centres. These sessions will be ongoing and the focus will be on building capacity, encouraging active participation in the project and most importantly, on changing the perception of agriculture.