NINE young people from Hankey and Patensie are well on their way to making a significant contribution to the Eastern Cape agricultural sector after completing a one-year internship in plant management.
The programme, aimed at growing local farming talent, is a partnership between the Gamtoos Irrigation Board (GIB), local farmers and service provider, Ethics and Leadership Institute (ELI), whose singular purpose is the development of the agriculture sector in Africa.
So successful has the programme been that already three of the nine students who graduated in February either have been permanently placed at farms or with GIB itself.
During the 12-month course, the students gained a holistic understanding of plant-based commercial production rooted in expert guidance from local farmers. Both theoretical and practical aspects were covered, with the result that the graduates now have a firm grasp of what is required to manage farms effectively.
All costs and coordination of programme activities were borne by GIB, with students receiving a monthly stipend for the duration of their training.
GIB programme facilitator Nomazizi Tube said the students exceeded expectations.
“At the beginning of the programme in March last year, the students assured us they would finish the course, and they were true to their word. They are very excited,” Tube said.
For Tube, the programme has great value in that such opportunities are rare in the Patensie and Hankey areas.
“Most young people usually only qualify as general farm workers, but the learnership has allowed them to look beyond that to become farm managers and owners themselves.
“By working with managers at the farms they were allocated to, they were able to experience the different categories of farms and farming.
“While our region is known for citrus, the students did not only work on citrus farms. The experience they picked up while working on a vegetable farm, and cucumber and green pepper farm, places them in good stead for the future.”
Tube emphasised the importance of the role played by local farmers in the programme.
By getting involved, “they have been able to develop farming skills in their own community.
“Our participating farmers have been so accommodating, not only to the students but also to us at GIB. We went to the farms several times to get feedback on our students, and the farmers always made themselves available. We are truly thankful to them.”
Tube said with the agricultural sector being a crucial contributor to the South African economy, it was vital that skilled jobs were created for the country’s young people, particularly those from areas where unemployment was high, such as Hankey and Patensie.
Graduate Ricardo Steve Jenneker, a product of Patensie High School, said he had always dreamt of becoming a successful farm manager. He said the programme has taught him as much about himself as about the finer points of commercial farming.
“I can now manage my time more effectively. I learn fast, I am adaptable and I am an effective and polite communicator. Now my ambition is to succeed,” he said.
The internship has also allowed Hankey resident Ronique Williams to overcome her fears and self-doubt.
“I have established what my strengths and weaknesses are while learning about my core values and personality type. I now hope that I can be a good leader.”