KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development Bongiwe Sithole-Moloi has urged stakeholders in the agricultural sector to spearhead efforts to reduce the unemployment rate among agricultural graduates.
Sithole-Moloi was speaking during the launch of the unemployed agricultural graduate programme at Ntathakusa Citrus Farm in Eshowe over the weekend. She met graduates who had already been placed in the workforce as part of the intervention by the programme.
She said young people carried a burden of unemployment as they accounted for 59,5% of the total number of unemployed persons in South Africa. Sithole-Moloi said it was concerning that the youth, under the age of 25 were more vulnerable in the labour market with an unemployment rate of over 63%.
According to the department, the unemployed agricultural graduate programme portal is part of the department’s interventions in efforts to rescue the youth from the worrying unemployment figures.
She said the department was hard at work in order to change the portal into a key tool in empowering young agriculturalists towards entrepreneurship and employability.
The department said it was planning a new programme which would allow graduates who exited the on-farm placement programme to apply for opportunities to become incubators/instructors/coaches on department-funded projects or identified small to medium-scale enterprises.
Sibusiso Gumede, who is the owner of Ntathakusa Citrus Farm, which took in two unemployed graduates, said the programme was quite helpful in adding value in the sector.
“It helps a lot because these young graduates are people who are energetic and willing to work. The youth get the valuable practical experience and they get the chance to be employable once they complete the programme.
Siyabonga Mhlongo, a beneficiary of the programme, said when he arrived at the farm, he had no knowledge of how a citrus farm operated but after receiving mentorship he feels that he is ready to work on his own farm.
“I would like to get a farm where I can work on my own after having acquired the experience on the farm. This is a very important programme and it helps us a lot. We also appreciate the stipend we receive under the programme. I only need to familiarise myself with the farm payroll system so that it would be easy when I’m carrying on on my own to deal with employees,” he said.