Is Commercial Farming a Solution for South African Youth?
Farmers. Source: Safe News
South Africa had an unemployment rate of 32.5% as of 2020. According to (Trading Economics, 2021), South Africa currently has 7.2 million unemployed people; it is only necessary to highlight that (Plecher, 2020) reports that of these 7.2 million South African youth account for 55.75%, i.e. youth in this case being defined as people between the ages of 15 and 24.
Farming, on the other hand, has been used as a way of sustenance since the beginning of time; people would typically grow crops through traditional methods & technologies (our donkey driven ploughs and moulds) and keep livestock for their consumption, especially the Bantu; to whom the size of heard kept on communal grazing land, occasionally spotted crossing roads at intersections in settlements culturally determines wealth, this practice is known as subsistence farming. On the other hand, (National Development Bank, 2015) suggests that farming can be done for profitability instead of sustenance; this is also known as agribusiness. A situation whereby one can invest millions and billions of dollars in modern farm equipment and farming methods that allow for continuous crop and livestock production.
WHY COMMERCIAL FARMING?
SDG 2,Source: United Nations
By virtue of venturing into commercial farming, not only do they participate in working towards the second goal of the Sustainable Development Goals of zero hunger, but they also facilitate the human right to freedom from hunger. (Hendriks, 2020) suggests that 11% of all South Africans experienced hunger before Covid 19, but within the first four months after the first case and lockdown in March 2020, 24% of South Africans experienced hunger.
According to (Oxford Business Group, 2019), the South African Agricultural sector contributes approximately 2.5% towards the nation’s GDP; (Statistics South Africa, 2020) states that the Agricultural sector in South Africa is worth roughly $15 billion. This has catapulted the industry into the National Development Plan to tackle the country’s unemployment and food insecurity. Having a policy to support industrial growth has been very beneficial for the development of the economy; in most cases, one would find themselves in positions whereby they enjoy the privilege of incentives and subsidies towards developing the sector. There are situations whereby there would be growth and collaborative opportunities between large scale and small scale farmers.
The aim is not to get young people into actual farming; not all of us have a passion for farming, but the main goal is to utilise agriculture to develop industries that contribute to the value chain of the agricultural sector, i.e. we have unemployed engineers who could be developing efficient irrigation systems and fertilisers, there are youth that have passions in food processing, which counts towards value addition to a nominal good, turning many nominals into finished goods increasing the annual GDP; while creating many employment opportunities along the agricultural value chain. Another opportunity to leverage is the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) which opens up South Africa to the wider intra-Africa trade market.
Challenges in Agriculture
Although many opportunities arise from the agricultural sector in South Africa, it is still riddled with challenges for an industry employing 1.05 million people from the nation’s workforce. According to (Akinola, 2020), the sector is faced with a challenge of racial discrimination, with farm killings or murders happening annually. One thing of note a majority of Commercial farmers in South Africa are white; this issue is due to mainly the land distribution in the country. Of the 46.4 million hectares of land used for farming, 67% is occupied by white farmers, who have acquired the land through conquering in the colonial times; apartheid did not make it easier for land distribution policies to be equal, with the 10.9% white minority reforming policies to benefit them more than the 76.7% black and 8.9% coloured who were oppressed.
To this day, most land rights still belong to the white minority. However, current land distribution policies allow for a willing buyer (black) to buy from a willing seller (white), or the seller offers the land to the government for redistribution at a cost. This land distribution has been the most debated topic for the past two decades. Most people question whether or not black people will be able to farm the land, as most of the farms which were part of the initial redistribution project failed to sustain continuity after 16 years. The issue of unequal land distribution has been at the centre of the continuous impoverishment of the African decent South Africans, who cannot access land to further any of their ambitions. For large projects, having land as an asset is essential for financial leverage to advance initiatives.
In conclusion, there is enormous room to solve South Africa’sAfrica’s challenge through commercial farming, provided the agricultural sector has been made racially inclusive, with compliance to the labour rights and more superior human rights of the citizens. The purpose of this article was to in no way suggest that youth become farmers but to facilitate the various ways in which youth can ideate to solve their challenge of unemployment whilst also working towards other goals such as the said second SDG.
Akinola, A. O. (2020, 2 28). Farm Attacks or ‘White Genocide’? Interrogating the unresolved land question in South Africa. Accord. https://www.accord.org.za/ajcr-issues/farm-attacks-or-white-genocide-interrogating-the-unresolved-land-question-in-south-africa/
Hendriks, S. (2020, May 12). outh Africa needs a national food security council to fend off starvation. Malabo-Montpellier Panel. https://www.mamopanel.org/news/blog/2020/may/12/south-africa-needs-national-food-security-council-/
National Development Bank. (2015, December 20). Commercial Farming| National Development Bank. Commercial Farming. https://www.ndb.bw/commercial-farming-0
Oxford Business Group. (2019, May 15). South Africa’s agriculture sector seeking balance as it expands. Oxford Business Group. https://oxfordbusinessgroup.com/overview/growth-industry-striking-balance-sector-expands#:~:text=Worth%20over%20%2415bn%20to,the%20strongest%20on%20the%20continent.
Plecher, H. (2020, November 3). South Africa: Youth unemployment rate from 1999 to 2020. Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/813010/youth-unemployment-rate-in-south-africa/
Statistics South Africa. (2020, March 24). Stats SA releases Census of Commercial Agriculture Report. Stats SA. http://www.statssa.gov.za/?p=13144Trading Economics. (2021, January 31). South Africa Unemployment Rate. Trading Economics. https://tradingeconomics.com/south-africa/unemployment-rate