Gloomy SA needs happy farmers

Let’s be honest, living in South Africa can be really depressing, despite our many sunny days, beautiful scenery and generally long-suffering disposition.

Gloomy SA needs happy farmers

As a country, we’re placed too high on too many miserable rankings, including unemployment, crime, corruption, and economic inequality.

We pay more taxes than most people in the world and receive disgracefully poor services in return.

And I hear our sports teams have not been doing so well lately. So how can we remain optimistic, and why does it matter?

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We have entered ‘awards season’ and at most of the functions I have attended, business and farming leaders have urged South Africa’s top-performing farmers to be a force for hope in their communities.

At the Young Farmer and New Harvest Farmer of the Year awards ceremony, Agri SA president Dan Kriek spoke about how negativity and uncertainty about the future of South Africa were making young and older farmers give up on farming.

I can’t blame any farmer in South Africa for struggling to see a silver lining or a light at the end of tunnel; too many have suffered the consequences of drought, crime, poor governance and economic troubles.

But I have boundless admiration for those who choose to remain positive regardless of the hardship they face. Award ceremonies can seem tedious to an outsider, but I always walk away inspired by the determination shown by the winners.

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Successful farmers are invariably hopeful about the future of their particular industry and the future in general; they invest in their businesses and the development of the people who work for them.

Many can tell you stories about how they have failed in the past, or of hardships they have had to overcome, and it seems their optimism is not only born out of success, but also the opposite.

In an article published recently by the Word Economic Forum in collaboration with the LSE Business Review, two US psychology professors, Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California and Julia K Boehm of Chapman University, write that research they have conducted over many years proves “happiness may not only be a consequence of success, but also a cause”.

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One of their research questions was whether happy people were more likely to perform well and succeed in the workplace, and the results indicate that this is indeed the case.

“Relative to their less happy peers, people who experience frequent positive emotions are more satisfied with their jobs, receive more favourable evaluations from supervisors, and perform better on work-related tasks,” they write.

I sincerely hope more farmers in South Africa will find the courage to be hopeful about the future, because we all depend on you keeping on farming.