South African youth unemployment has reached record levels. According to figures from Stats SA, 66.5% of people between the ages of 15 and 24 and 43.8% between 25 and 34 are currently without jobs. There is a pressing need to change this situation and part of the solution can come from the agricultural sector.
“Young people, particularly in rural areas, see the value in this sector,” says Litha Kutta, Tiger Brands Enterprise and Supplier Development Director. But, while many of these individuals are qualified to some extent, adds Kutta, they remain left out of the agriculture industry either due to a “lack of access to develop their skills” or the need to receive “corporate assistance” when it comes to developing their entrepreneurial ambitions.
These issues speak to the greater challenge facing small-scale farmers who struggle to produce at the scale and quality that large food producers demand. Reaching this level of production requires development and support, often spanning several years – something that adds complexity to a corporate supply chain. As a way to address this challenge, Tiger Brands introduced its Agriculture Aggregator model, which through expert technical and management skills support, helps to scale small scale black farmers to compete at a commercial level.
The programme pairs small-scale farmers with Aggregators to multiply economic activity within agriculture. As fully-fledged business entities, Aggregators procure from multiple farmers and enter into commercial agreements with corporates such as Tiger Brands, providing better guarantees on tonnages, delivery timeframes, and quality standards.
Since it launched in 2019, the programme has supported 157 small black farmers and raised R54m in funding. One young farmer supplying produce feeding into the Tiger Brands supply chain is Azwikonei Ramalivhana, a 28-year-old from Mutele, a village just outside Musina in Limpopo, who’s farming journey began in 2019.
“I didn’t have a job or food for my family, so I decided to start planting okra, tomatoes and spinach,” recalls Ramalivhana, who started out with half a hectare of land. “I wanted to produce food for the people around me and try make some income for my family at the same time.”
At the beginning Ramalivhana wasn’t able to earn enough to pay for any help. This changed when she entered the Agricultural Aggregator Development Programme. As part of the programme, Ramalivhana was paired with Tiger Brands Aggregator, Mpumi Maesela, director of Servicios Empresaviales Holdings. Under Maesela’s guidance Ramalivhana has been able to grow her enterprise, providing Tiger Brands with two hectares worth of ground nuts used to produce the company’s iconic Black Cat Peanut Butter brand. Ramalivhana cultivates a further eight hectares for herself, which brings in added revenue and enables her to hire one permanent employee and three temporary.
“Being an indirect supply to Tiger Brands, I’ve been able to help decrease the unemployment rate in our village,” says Ramalivhana. “Thanks to my income, I am also able to buy food for my family and send money to my siblings who are still going to school. The people that I hired from my community can now support their family, which helps to reduce financial stress and show us a bigger picture of the farming industry.”
Ramalivhana’s story highlights the potential that can be realised by bringing South African youth into the agricultural sector. Going forward, this will help to grow the country’s agricultural sector, while helping to improve food security, address poverty and unemployment, and grow the South African economy
“There is a very real risk facing the survival of South Africa’s agricultural sector if we don’t encourage more young people to participate in it,” says Kutta. “These graduates are an untapped workforce with a keen interest in agriculture. It will benefit us all to help nurture them by removing barriers to entry, so that they can make a valuable contribution to the sustainability of agriculture.”