Absent agri skills hinder industry

If South Africa doesn’t fix the education system soon, then we will not become the powerhouse of Africa we are hoping to become, according to Prof Johann Kirsten, head of the department of agricultural economics at the University of Pretoria.

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He was speaking at the Standard Bank agricultural roadshow in Johannesburg on Wednesday (5 February).

Kirsten said education and research were needed to lift the agriculture sector, but that SA was lacking in both. “We need the right people to be developed and put in place to drive the sector forward.”

He said that the talent pool is very small in SA and maths and science knowledge is very poor. “Of the students with good marks, very few end up in agriculture. Agricultural companies must actively target good students and steer them into the career, otherwise they will end up in urban jobs.”

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Kirsten added that few agribusinesses were willing to take agricultural students in for the holidays for training as it was seen as too much effort.

Meanwhile, Dirk Hanekom, Agri Gauteng executive manager, explained that the agriculture sector needed more unity, but that it could only be driven through proper leadership. “Good leadership comes about when someone is confident and that only happens when they are educated on a subject.”

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