Why SA needs young farmers

Millions are spent on deadbeat soccer coaches, but where’s the money to kickstart young entrepreneurs?

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It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall of the offices of the South African Football Association as its management discusses whom to choose for a new Bafana Bafana coach. What I’d particularly like to hear is what criteria are being used to select a new coach for a team that has failed to win a single match in the last 10 played.

Let’s just hope they appoint someone truly capable rather than a person who merely has the right connections or who can be pushed around by those in control. Otherwise, we will have scant chance indeed of going to Brazil in two years’ time, let alone of winning the Africa Cup of Nations. SAFA has been an outstanding job creator over the years, having more coaches for Bafana on its record books than wins.

And at unbelievable salaries too. Inevitably, one contrasts these pay cheques with the grim statistics of unemployed in this country, especially among the youth. With Youth Month coming to an end, I can’t help asking myself where we are heading as a country. Exactly 36 years ago, young people took to the streets in protest against the enforced use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in schools. More than 20 000 took part and 176 ended up being shot dead by police.

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Last year, over 5 000 young people across the country took to the streets protesting against joblessness. Are we looking at another 1976 looming? Well, we may be looking at an even worse scenario. With 73% of young people under the age of 35 unemployed, some believe the situation could turn ugly, and liken the potential trouble to the Arab Spring. “This is a crisis… a ticking bomb,” Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has said, referring to the demonstrations – led by unemployed youth – that have already exploded in many poor areas.

Entrepreneurs: key to employment
Out of a total population of 49 million, 7,5 million South Africans are out of work. What is the solution? Well, many experts say that entrepreneurship could help to create jobs. Yet looking at places such as Diepsloot near Johannesburg makes me wonder if young people realise that a farmer is an entrepreneur!

There are over 200 000 people in Diepsloot. The majority are young and have come from rural areas seeking a better life in Gauteng. Driving through the township, one can see that many are washing cars, working as backyard mechanics or welding exhausts at the roadside.

How many jobs can such one-man businesses create? And how secure are they? By contrast, an agricultural enterprise can employ numerous people. A 25-year-old friend of mine, who farms on just 2ha outside Pretoria, employs more than 10 permanent workers and several more during the harvesting season.

We need to work much harder at attracting young people into the agricultural sector. Developmental institutions, in particular, should do more to help young agricultural entrepreneurs. At present, there seems to be precious little funding or assistance coming from organisations such as the National Youth Development Agency.