The Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) is on a mission to make agriculture fashionable.
The department recently hosted the Youth in Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (YAFF) Awards that attracted about 200 young farmers from the region.
The YAFF Awards was introduced by the National Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development to groom 2 500 youth-owned enterprises countrywide every year.
Speaking at the awards ceremony, Free State MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development Thembeni Nxangisa said this was a turning point for youngsters to take farming seriously and to contribute enormously to the food security of the country.
“The Provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has also made great strides in attracting young people to take advantage of career opportunities within the sector. This will also shift the mindsets of young people from being job seekers to creating a platform for them to become creators of employment,” said Nxangisa.
Tebello Yvonne Mokoena (27) of Masela Lefika Farming in Fouriesburg, Mashaeng, is one such exemplary young farmer. Mokoena won R50 000 for her cooperative as one of the recipients of the MEC Special Award and
R10 000 as a second runner-up for best subsistance farmer.
Mokoena and her three male partners started farming vegetables in a backyard in 2019. “In 2020, we were allowed to use four hectors of municipal land. We expanded our organic farming crop, which includes cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, beetroot, green beans, pumpkin, spinach, green peppers and chillies.”
She says the YAFF programme helped Masela Lefika Farming with knowledge and working tools. “The department also gave us a R2 500 voucher in 2021 and a R5 500 voucher earlier this year to help us acquire tools and products for the farm.”
Mokoena says they aim to employ youth in their area in the coming seasons. “Through youth employment, we will be able to help build the economy and minimise food insecurity. We dream of supplying our herbs and canned food internationally.”