At the #YAFF (Youth in Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries) award ceremony last week in Port Elizabeth, the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries recognised some of the young top performers in the agriculture and forestry sectors. The importance of the fresh produce industry to the country’s economy was underscored by the fact that the winners in the categories for both commercial and smallholder agriculture were fruit and vegetable producers respectively.
Furthermore, the department wishes to change the perception borne out of the country’s history that black young people’s participation in the formal agricultural economy is as a labourer, not as owner of the means of production. The enterprises were also evaluated on the contribution they make to alleviating rural unemployment.
The laureate in the excellence in commercial agriculture category was Wayne Peter Mansfield of Fruitfield Farming in Paarl, Western Cape (pictured left are Dr Mogale Sebopetsa of the Western Cape department of agriculture with Wayne Mansfield and Lukhanyo Nkombisa, general manager of the CGA Grower Development Company).
Wayne’s path to becoming a farmer was an unusual one: he started as a fruit buyer, procuring second grade fruit from the many fruit farmers in the area for resale through informal channels. Today he leases land to produce lemons for both the export and the domestic market.
In the smallholder category Siphesihle Kwetana from Tsolo, a small town in the Eastern Cape, has been producing spinach, cabbage, broccoli, pumpkin, beetroot, carrots and green peppers for various retailers.
The challenge of farming while living with a disability is successfully navigated by Godfrey Mathebula, an arm amputee, who owns Macelakuomile farm in the Vhembe District of northeast Limpopo Province. He produces a variety of vegetables ranging from dry beans, tomatoes, green pepper and Chinese spinach for the local community, retailers and the Johannesburg and Tshwane fresh produce markets.
Molatelo Edward Kgarose is an entrepreneur who has developed a sweet potato-based yoghurt, the first of its kind in South Africa. He buys the sweet potatoes directly from small-scale farmers and markets the product around Polokwane, Limpopo Province. He was rewarded for his innovation in the agro-processing category.