Commercial farmers are, on average, 62 years old. Incentivising agriculture graduates and public servants to go into farming could have long-term benefits for food security and job creation, says Sifiso Ntombela.
The renowned Strategic Plan for the South African Agriculture, published in 2001 to the current draft Agriculture and Agro-processing Master Plan, identifies inadequate, ineffective and inefficient support systems as barriers to a competitive and sustainable agriculture and food business.
Surprisingly, state-led agricultural support and development programmes intentionally do not incentivise current government officials to transition to farming as a full-time career - subject to cooling-off period. But it is worth noting that today, some successful farmers are former government officials from an apartheid era that decided to cash out their pension during the transitional period (between 1993 and 1997) and venture into farming. Most of them own prime agricultural land in Gauteng, the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the North West. The human capital quotient of these former bureaucrats in terms of skills, knowledge and experience of agricultural production and policy is echoed by their contribution and impact in private commodity associations that mushroomed after apartheid.