Afasa calls for a separate agri youth fund

Existing financing models aimed at rural youth development in agriculture, were ineffective and not serving the needs of the youth.

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This was according to the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa’s (Afasa) youth wing, which has called on the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and the National Treasury to initiate what it called an agri youth development fund. According to Outlwile Maselwanyana, North West Afasa youth co-ordinator, such a fund would provide tailor-made funding models suited to agriculture.

He said funding models by organisations such as the National Youth Development Fund (NYDA), which focused on small projects, were not working for agriculture. “They focus more on arts and crafts in the rural areas,” said Maselwanyana. The NYDA was only providing grants of up to R100 000, which could never be sufficient for farming, he said, adding that the NYDA was not accessible to rural youth.

Tsholofelo Khotule, a young farmer from the Free State said, “They don’t have offices in the rural areas. We’ve seen how our elders were struggling with funding from existing organisations and wanted a different funding model.” Khotule said many young people are unable to acquire funding through existing structures. Aggrey Mahanjana, Afasa’s secretary-general, said the establishment of a ring-fenced agri youth fund would go a long way towards empowering young farmers across the country.

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“The Afasa National Executive Council has now been entrusted with the responsibility of lobbying government and agribusiness development agencies to support this initiative,” said Mahanjana. Yershen Pillay, NYDA chairperson, said a single entity such as the NYDA cannot tackle all the challenges faced by the youth in the agricultural sector. Pillay said government, through organisations such as the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and the National Empowerment Fund, already provides a number of interven-tions in this space.

“The question should be why is it that young farmers find it difficult to access these programmes?” said Pillay. The NYDA would welcome dialogue with funding institutions to find a solution to increasing access. He said that while not every young person who walked into an NYDA branch could expect to receive support, due to limited capacity, The NYDA planned to work with other state agencies, such as the IDC and the Small Enterprise Finance Agency (Sefa), to ensure that as many young people as possible were able to access the R1,7 billion worth of funding set aside for the youth according to Pillay.

“We hope to complement the loan finance offered by the IDC and Sefa with business development support and mentorship in order to improve the chances of success for young entrepreneurs.”

‘We didn’t snub Afasa’ – NYDA
The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) did not snub the African Farmers’ Association of SA’s (Afasa) youth wing by not attending their national youth workshop in Pretoria recently. It was already committed to its own activities. This was according to Yershen Pillay, NYDA chairperson, in response to queries about their absence at the workshop. Pillay said the NYDA remained available to engage with Afasa on issues affecting young people in the agricultural sector.