Getting comfortable with ambiguity

I am still busy processing the vast amount of ideas and information that were shared by the speakers and other participants at the 12th Agribusiness Africa Conference, hosted by Farmer’s Weekly in Johannesburg.

One of the recurring themes that surfaced during the many conversations was, perhaps predictably, the difficulty associated with entering the farming or agribusiness sector as a newcomer.

As some of the members of the audience pointed out, the agriculture industry keeps on encouraging young people to pursue a career in agriculture, but far too often, young people who choose this path end up at a dead end.

The problem is not that there are no opportunities in agriculture, but that making use of those opportunities requires financial resources to which few young people and new farmers have access.

READ Training the future guardians of our natural environment

In addition to this, the type of training offered at various agricultural colleges has become outdated or simply irrelevant, and these institutions fail to prepare students for a career in agriculture.

Even for those who do manage to establish themselves as new farmers, further training, especially in terms of marketing produce, remains a problem.

The hunger for information, knowledge, and training among farmers in Africa seems almost insatiable and there is a clear need for governments to partner more closely with the private sector to make sure that those training programmes that have already proven to be successful can be expanded.

On a different note, it was interesting to hear so many comments about false information, half-truths and biased information being spread and perpetuated by the media.

READ Top female entrepreneur’s passion for training new farmers

Because of the fear of fake news, many people now seem to scrutinise the information presented to them by the media much more critically than they may have done in the past.

This is, of course, a good thing, but my fear is that this creates a society that can only accommodate absolute fact as the alternative to ‘fake’. But things are rarely as simple as black and white.

Take for example the land reform debate in South Africa. While political parties and civil society organisations, who each represent their own extreme views, would like voters to think that there can be only one right and one wrong answer, more moderate thinkers would agree that there is no single, simple solution that can be applied across the board.

We should never shy away from trying to know the truth, but because we live in such a polarised society, we desperately need thinkers and leaders who can comfortably embrace ambiguity.

This will deliver the strong and open-minded kind of leadership that will not seek to please one specific grouping for short-term gain, but that will find and implement tough solutions that will be of more widespread benefit in the long run.