The Western Cape minister of agriculture, Dr Ivan Meyer, welcomed the placement of 120 agricultural graduate interns who will be taking up their two-year internship in the Western Cape agricultural sector.

“In line with two of my priorities, namely structured education and training and farmer support and development, I am pleased to offer 120 graduate interns with agricultural qualifications placement with farmers or enterprises. It will be our contribution to the priority of jobs and dignity of the Western Cape Government,” Dr Meyer said.

According to Dr Meyer, the department aims to increase the employability of agricultural graduates through on-the-job experience at major agricultural host farms and entrepreneurial entities.

Key placement areas

Dr Meyer explained the initiative: “The initiative targets qualified unemployed graduates in agriculture who want to venture into entrepreneurial projects related to agriculture. The key placement areas within agriculture are livestock rearing, poultry production, horticulture or crop production, aquaculture, viticulture, agro-processing, agricultural extension and agricultural economics.”

One such graduate intern who has benefited from the department’s graduate programme is Asiphe Kamte. “I am extremely grateful to the department for the journey I was able to undertake as an intern. My willingness to learn has resulted in my being able to take up a position with the Deciduous Fruit Development Chamber,” Kamte said.

Mentors share farming experience

A critical component of the graduate programme is identifying experienced mentors. Trevor Abrahams is one of several farmers who has volunteered to mentor agriculture graduates. “It is about sharing our farming experience and teaching our interns the value of knowing every tree, sheep and cow on the farm. Sharing our knowledge and experience is fulfilling to both our graduates and us. It is also about the future of agriculture,” he said.

Dr Meyer highlights that the internship creates a pool of future farmers and entrepreneurs among young people and reduces youth unemployment. “We must provide a platform for the active participation of youth in the agriculture value chain and create an enabling environment to support the establishment of youth-owned and/or managed enterprises,” he continues.

The Western Cape Government has identified three key priorities, namely safety, jobs and dignity, and well-being. According to Dr Meyer, the placement of graduate interns is a direct response to these three priorities. “We are investing in youth development in agriculture as the future is driven by innovation, technology, big data and research. Our farmers in the Western Cape are sharing their practical experience to contribute to creating a bigger pool of commercial farmers to work the land #ForTheLoveOfAgriculture.” – Press release, Western Cape Government