Graduates of the Class of 2021 of the Kaap Agri Academy.

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Thirty-two farming students from the Western and Northern Cape recently received national certificates in mixed farming, animal production and plant production at the Kaap Agri Academy in Porterville.

Agricultural training and employment opportunities

The students are part of the Academy’s Farmer Development Programme which consists of three courses, all accredited by AgriSETA in terms of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). The programme is specifically designed to provide new generation farmers with theoretical, practical, and managerial knowledge to help equip them with the skills to pursue successful commercial farming careers.

Kaap Agri is one of only a few organisations that offers outstanding, free academic training to new generation farmers, providing students with NQF2, NQF3 and NQF4 level qualifications.

The Academy’s primary focus is to contribute to the empowerment and transformation of South African agriculture. As Kaap Agri’s flagship social responsibility programme, the Academy has paved the way to uplift communities through education.

Traditionally, the programme required that applicants attend the course at the Academy’s Porterville campus. However, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, new virtual learning opportunities through online contact and video-based facilitation were introduced.

Speaking at the graduation ceremony, Kaap Agri’s CEO, Sean Walsh, recognised that the students earned their qualifications under extraordinary circumstances.

“We focus on the kickstart phase and are one of only a handful of organisations that provide a learning pathway for new generation farmers in South Africa. Choosing to empower yourself with knowledge and practical skills is one of the best choices you can make for your career in agriculture. We are proud of all the graduates who showed great commitment and persevered despite the challenging circumstances brought on by the pandemic. Congratulations to the class of 2021. Thank you for choosing the Kaap Agri Academy. We wish you all the best and all the success.”

Educating a new generation of farmers

Established in 2008, the Academy has upskilled more than 400 new generation farmers, some of whom have secured lucrative export and supply contracts and who have become leaders in their communities.

Andrew Solomons, who farms with sheep outside of Malmesbury, graduated at the top of his class this year and hopes to follow suit. Andrew first enrolled at the Academy in 2019 to complete his NQF 2 in mixed farming and has since obtained his NQF 3 and 4 qualifications in animal production.

“I come from a family of farmers and have always been passionate about farming. I thought I knew a lot but the training I received at the Academy made me realise that there’s still so much to learn. My 4-year journey with the Kaap Agri Academy has been life-changing. At 60 years old, I am still learning and being exposed to new opportunities which has enlightened my mind and community. With my newly gained knowledge, I feel empowered to reach even higher heights. You are never too old to learn new skills! These past two years I even learnt to do online classes. I am definitely excited for what the future holds,” Andrew said.

Top achievers in the animal and plant production programmes Andrew Solomons (left) and Lindy Kraak de Vos (right)

Lindy Kraak de Vos, a spinach and butternut farmer in Mamre, is one of this year’s top achievers in the plant production programme. She said the Academy opened a new world of opportunity and learning for her and her community. “When I first got the news that I was accepted at the Academy in 2020, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. This programme has given me the knowledge and skills to confidently enter the market and make a meaningful impact in my community.”

“If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that agriculture is the backbone of our country. It’s more than just the farmer and the farmworker but it’s the organisations that make training opportunities like this possible. It’s the funders and the participants – it’s all of us playing a pivotal role in feeding a nation and making our country great,” she added. – Press release, Kaap Agri