Harry Gwala Agri is a non-profit organisation that was launched in March 2017 and exists to uplift and facilitate growth among aspiring farmers within the district municipality after which it is named. This mandate is achieved by strengthening agricultural-education obtained by young upcoming farmers and providing skills development to current emerging farmers.
In May 2017, Harry Gwala Agri (HGA) began engaging with the Esayidi TVET College in Umzimkhulu, in an effort to establish an in-service training programme for their students undertaking a national diploma in farm management. This course involves 18 months of theory after which candidates are required to complete 18 months of experiential learning in order to obtain their diplomas. At the time there was no system in place to offer practical training to the students nor any funding available to support them whilst undergoing this. The Umzimkhulu campus alone enrols upwards of 100 students for this course every semester and so there is a terrific need for assistance.
After several avenues were explored unsuccessfully to procure funding, a significant milestone was reached when Pannar Seed came on board by offering to fund the monthly stipends for 20 students for the duration of their training. HGA then went about interviewing students to identify those with a real passion for a future in farming. The level of enthusiasm shown by the candidates was impressive and even more so, the significant obstacles many of them have had to overcome in order to get to where they are today and the determination they expressed to ultimately obtain their diplomas and pursue a career in agriculture.
With the top 20 students selected the next move was to identify commercial farmers willing to offer these students the opportunity to complete their diplomas by obtaining practical experience on their farms. Thanks to their support, these students are now dotted across the district and gaining experience on a range of farming operations in line with their area of interest, including dairy, vegetable, poultry and citrus operations.
Above: Mzilikazi Khumalo (right) enjoying his experience on the Hauff’s dairy operation near Donnybrook.
HGA is now working hard to streamline the programme in order to build on it in the future and get more qualified individuals out into the agricultural workspace. An important step in this process has been the establishment of a monitoring and evaluation system to ensure that all parties involved obtain the full measure of benefit from the programme. Instrumental in this regard has been the involvement of Mr. Hank Pike, a retired headmaster from Durban with over forty years’ service to education in the province. He volunteered his wealth of experience in guiding the design and implementation of this system.
Above: Primed for action: Asanda Jele (L) and Njabulo Makhatini (R) on the Stapylton-Smith’s farm, Eastwolds.
HGA is incredibly grateful to the members of the four farmers associations who have partnered with HGA (Mount Currie, Zwartberg, Highflats-Ixopo and Ingwe) and whose monthly financial contributions help make the initiative possible. Significant support has also come from the private sector through Mascor, De Heus, Dairy Farmers of South Africa and, notably in this case, Pannar Seed. It is hoped that the programme will prove to be a success for both the host famers and the students and that with time HGA will be able to place a greater number of students across the district and see these young farmers find success in their future endeavours and ultimately contribute to agricultural development in our region. For more information, visit HGA’s website (www.harrygwalaagric.co.za) or find them on Facebook (harrygwalaAGRI).
Above: Wendy Ngungama and Thayi Thabisile (beside the Mascor-sponsored Toyota Hilux) awaiting departure to meet their host farmer, Mr. Peter Button, a citrus and beef farmer near Umzimkhulu.
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