Sakhiseni Nxumalo
Senior journalist
3 minute read
27 Jun 2022
06:00

Stakeholders urged to reduce unemployment rate among agricultural graduates in KZN

Sakhiseni Nxumalo

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.

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: 

“We all know how our young people struggle in the South African labour market. The official overall unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of 2021 was 35,3%. This rate was 46,3% among young people aged 15-34 years. This implies that almost one in every two young people in the labour force did not have a job in the last quarter of 2021.”

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.

Sithole-Moloi said: 

“We, as a department, want to ensure that this portal becomes a more valuable tool/network for opportunities and information to unemployed graduates, even linking them with sector roleplayers towards employability within the entire agricultural value chain.”

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.

He said: 

“I have noticed that in the first year of mentorship they are usually not clued up about how the farm operates. It is the second year when they show signs of progress and knowledge. Unfortunately that is the final year of the programme. I wish the programme could be extended to three years.”

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.