On 16 June, our country commemorates Youth Day to remind us all of the determination and resilience of our youth. It's a time to remember how they have continuously proven that they have the power to forge their path, even in the face of adversity.
A shining example of this tenacity has taken root in the agricultural sector, where South African youth are making a place for themselves within a sector typically saturated by men over the age of 60.
Take Njabulo Mbokane for example. This 24-year-old female farmer from humble beginnings has ploughed a future for herself in farming! Njabulo is a testament to the fact that, with the right agronomic and market support, youth have every potential to be successful in the agricultural sector and challenge the status quo.
Njabulo discovered her passion for agriculture while tending to her parents' backyard vegetable garden. Today she is an award-winning farmer operating on a 26ha plot of land.
Njabulo turned her passion into a business, and attributes her career breakthrough to an intervention supported by The South African Breweries (SAB) in conjunction with FarmSol, SAB's implementation partner.
The success of Njabulo's business, AW Dalia, was ignited when she became a participant in SAB's Farmer Development Programme. This programme supports over 520 emerging farmers and is an example of SAB's commitment to young farmers.
The programme provides the following:
- Patient funding for Agri-SMMEs for production
- Access to modern production inputs
- A route to formal markets via a guaranteed offtake agreement with SAB
- Agronomic extension support through technical experts that provide training and mentorship
- Agronomic and business training for skill development through classroom and field-based training
Njabulo started off with no capital, no assets and no agricultural background, so the path was not always easy. She had to become a fast learner on the programme in order to realise her farming potential.
Njabulo's participation in the programme had a significant impact on her business. She overcame her biggest challenges and achieved the 2019 SAB-FarmSol Young Emerging Farmer of the Year Award.
Njabulo receives access to an interest-free loan for the procurement of needed inputs and services as well as a soil correction grant that covered the purchase and application of lime onto her fields.
With healthier soil, along with support from the SAB research and development team for the introduction of crop management tools, Njabulo is able to increase the quantity and quality of her maize yield, which she then supplies to SAB.
Aron Kole, managing director of FarmSol describes Njabulo as a farmer with a desire to learn and grow. He says she is an entrepreneur that goes out of her way to help others.
Njabulo should be seen as a beacon of hope for any young person with aspirations of becoming a farmer. She has been awarded the title of FarmSol's Youth Ambassador, encouraging young people to take up farming as a viable career.
Njabulo says "One of the hardest challenges I encounter is being young, black and female. Transformation is moving at a slow pace. The face of the industry has always been male, so amidst everything else I want to change perceptions about women in agriculture,"
Njabulo has challenged the status quo and come out on top, proving that farming no longer needs to be a field dominated by older males. It is, in fact, a promising career path ready for young, dynamic and determined males and females of all backgrounds to plant their seed and grow their own success.