Do you like the rural life? Are you interested in farming? The agricultural sector is growing and changing in South Africa and there is a great need for qualified young people in this field. In fact becoming a farm manager is listed as one of South Africa’s critical skills.
What is agriculture?
If you gain a qualification in agriculture you will be involved in the scientific production of plants and animals. South Africa has a growing population and, with climate change becoming a reality, the more people involved in innovative agricultural practices, the better.
There are several fields of agriculture that might interest you. These include: agricultural technologist, agricultural engineer, agricultural assistant, agricultural produce inspector, farm manager and agricultural lab assistant.
Katherine Eve interviewed Andiswa Balilitye who works in the Agricultural Department of the Cape Peninsula of Technology at its campus in Wellington, Western Cape.
1. Do you have many students studying agriculture?
Yes, we have about 140 students in first year. We have many women who do the course, too, so it’s not just for men.
2. What qualifications do you need to study agriculture at CPUT?
People who want to study agriculture need to have a matric with a Code 4 pass in either Physics or Life Sciences, as well as a Code 3 pass in Maths.
3. How long does it take to qualify?
It takes three years to get your National Diploma. The first two years are theory with some practical work and the 3rd year is completely practical. You have to work in the fields and then write a report for the department before you qualify.
4. Are there jobs in agriculture?
Yes, work is everywhere. You can even work for SASOL. There are lots of agricultural farms that are looking for qualified people. The students who finish don’t struggle to find jobs. The Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB) take many of our students.
5. Can someone make a good living as an agricultural specialist?
We had a student called Babalwa who recently got an internship and she is making good money as an intern. You can even get a job at Correctional Services where the salary starts at R 18 000.
6. Why would someone in agriculture work for Correctional Services?
They do the plantings there. If you do agriculture, you can be involved in all sorts of industries.
7. What exactly do the students study?
They have to choose one of three streams: animal production, plant production or viticulture and oenology (wine making). When you apply you need to choose one of these. After you have a diploma you can get a B. Tech, Masters and a PhD. It’s possible to even become a lecturer. One of our qualified students has just got a job with us as a lecturer.
8. Is there funding available to study agriculture?
NSFAS is available to cover the costs of the diploma as well as accommodation if you apply early. There are also various different bursaries that we can offer students. Some of these come from our agricultural partners.
9. How do the students respond to the course?
Some students are disappointed that they need to be working in the field. The people who think this is an office job where you sit behind a desk cancel their place. Those who come in with the knowledge that they will be doing practicals in the field do enjoy it.
10. Would you recommend agriculture to a young person?
Definitely. There is especially a need for young black students. And you can’t live without food so there are always going to be jobs.
There certainly seems to be jobs out there for people in the agriculture. It’s a sector of work that is often overlooked and it’s interesting to find out that there are so many different types of organisations and businesses you can work in.
There are a number of place you can train to become an agricultural practitioner.
Here are some universities and colleges that offer agricultural qualifications:
Cape Peninsula University of Technology
North West University
Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute
INTEC – Farming for Smallholders
There are also a number of short courses available in Agriculture and Forestry
NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme) is available to qualifying individuals who study at a public university. From 2019, NSFAS agreed to pay the registration or first fee instalment for all NSFAS qualifying students therefore students did not need to pay any registration or upfront fees at the beginning of the year.
If you are interested in becoming an agricultural practitioner, apply to a university near you. If you need funding, follow the procedures on the NSFAS website to find out if you qualify for funding.
Other large scale commercial farming institutions also provide bursaries for study in agriculture such as:
Maize Trust Bursary
National Agricultural Marketing Council Bursary
Sugar Industry Trust Fund for Education Bursary
RCL Foods Bursary
As you can see, there are many opportunities to study agriculture in South Africa and if you are interested in the outdoors and in farming it is definitely worth doing some research and applying for a bursary if you have the necessary requirements!
Tell us: Are you interested in farming?