Agriculture continues to be the cornerstone of the South African economy, and as times change, this is a fact that remains unchanged. However, many challenges continue to face this industry as it strives to grow, and a young man in the Eastern Cape is at the forefront of addressing the many problems within the industry in a bid to revive the glory the industry once had.
Born in Upper Tabase a village outside Mthatha, Sinelizwi Fakade is an accomplished agriculturist with a Masters of Agriculture in Food Security and is making waves throughout the province as he strives to make an impact on the agricultural industry within the region.
When asked when and how his journey in agriculture began, Fakade bears a warm smile as he begins to tell his story.
“Agriculture is in my blood, growing up in rural areas, we had to do everything as young boys, from herding cows to ploughing in the fields. In that way, agriculture has always been a part of my life. As cliché, as it may sound, but I think it’s safe to say that agriculture chose me.”
As he continues to speak about his career path, you can see the passion in his eyes.
“After completing my matric, I enrolled at Cedara College of Agriculture in KwaZulu-Natal and obtained a diploma in agriculture, after that, I went to Nelson Mandela University (NMU) where I pursued my BTech in Agricultural Management. Upon completion, I went on to do my Bachelor of Agriculture Honours degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), and that’s where I was exposed to more on rural development” he concludes.
As the Eastern Cape’s provincial coordinator at Grain SA since 2016, Fakade travels across the province giving assistance to many rural farmers and mentors over 20 new graduates in the industry.
“I believe it is my job to empower rural farmers, especially those in the remote areas where access to information and technology is scarce. With my mentees, I always tell them that agriculture has no gender roles, the only thing that is needed is hard work and dedication because no seed is planted today and harvested tomorrow. That is my motto in life, and I wish to pass that on to the rest of the youth interested in the field.”
As Fakade continued to speak about his job, we asked him about some of the challenges he faces.
“No journey is ever without challenges, and this industry is no different. Some of our challenges include access to recourses, especially funding and the needed technology. This challenge continues being a stumbling block, especially because we are sitting with an economy that needs us to create jobs, and we can do so once we have more commercial farmers, which is our ultimate goal. So, the more we can access funding for micro-farmers and assist with the needed technology to be able to empower these farmers to develop to commercial farmers, then our task will be much easier.”
He continues to say “We also need the different government departments to be in more alignment, that way we can have more streamlined access to information and services. Currently, there’s a disconnect between the relevant departments, and this hinders the pace at which we can pursue our mandate.”
As Fakade continues to speak, you can hear from his tone just how much this means to him.
“The dream here is to build more commercial farmers in the Eastern Cape, especially in our rural areas. In line with 6th administration’s vision of building an Eastern Cape, we all want, rural development and unlocking such is pivotal towards realising this vision. If the grain produced by these farmers is a staple food in homes across the country, how difficult is it for us to build commercial farmers that will be able to meet the growing demand to grain products, I think this shouldn’t be an arduous task especially with all the needed resources in place. We also need to create access for emerging farmers into the market, because through this, we can also create jobs and fight poverty, which continues to plague our communities.”
In closing, we asked Fakade what his words to the youth in the province are, and these were his closing words. – “Agriculture is not an overnight success business, and that is a misconception many of us young people have. We need to chase our dreams and remember nothing is achieved overnight, also let me reiterate that agriculture has no gender bias but needs people who are willing to work hard.
Looking into the future, Fakade wants to continue pursuing the mandate to create more commercialised rural farmers. His drive and commitment is truly admirable and should inspire more youth to be involved in the industry.