NINE young people from Hankey and Patensie are well on their way to making a significant contribution to the Eastern Cape agricultural sector after completing a one-year internship in plant management.
The programme, aimed at growing local farming talent, is a partnership between the Gamtoos Irrigation Board (GIB), local farmers and service provider, Ethics and Leadership Institute(ELI), whose singular purpose is the development of the agriculture sector in Africa.
So successful has the programme been that already three of the nine students who graduated in February either have been permanently placed at farms or with GIB itself.
During the 12-month course, the students gained a holistic understanding of plant-based commercial production rooted in expert guidance from local farmers. Both theoretical and practical aspects were covered, with the result that the graduates now have a firm grasp of what is required to manage farms effectively.
All costs and coordination of programme activities were borne by GIB, with students receiving a monthly stipend for the duration of their training.
GIB programme facilitator Nomazizi Tube said the students exceeded expectations.
“At the beginning of the programme in March last year, the students assured us they would finish the course, and they were true to their word. They are very excited,” Tube said.
For Tube, the programme has great value in that such opportunities are rare in the Patensie and Hankey areas.
“Most young people usually only qualify as general farm workers, but the learnership has allowed them to look beyond that to become farm managers and owners themselves.
“By working with managers at the farms they were allocated to, they were able to experience the different categories of farms and farming.
“While our region is known for citrus, the students did not only work on citrus farms. The experience they picked up while working on a vegetable farm, and cucumber and green pepper farm, place them in good stead for the future.”
Tube emphasised the importance of the role played by local farmers in the programme.
By getting involved, “they have been able to develop farming skills in their own community.