Continuing in our celebration of Women’s Month we chatted to a few women that are passionate about agriculture and helping other women to find their feet within this space. One of the insights we loved was something that can easily be missed. Cecilia van Dis has been an agronomist for more than 26 years and she emphasises that you do not have to compromise your femininity to be successful in agriculture. You do not have to be like a man, but rather work with the unique strengths you have as a woman. “Know that you are going to work very hard and prepare yourself with the right training and walk into a job with an open mind.” A valuable starting block, or needed reminder, for a career in agriculture.
When exploring the possibilities for a career in agriculture two valuable viewpoints that provide insight are from the perspective of recruitment and training.
Elaine van Niekerk is the Managing Director of Mayfly Agri and has been a specialist in recruitment within the agricultural industries in Southern Africa for the past 12 years. With a background in Chemistry, she quickly saw the need and opportunities available in agriculture for scientists. “Agriculture has become a highly specialised industry that rely on technology and innovation to grow and become more sustainable. There is a shortage of well qualified scientific minds within the industry.” Elaine shares that she has observed an increase in dynamic women entering the industry in recent years, as companies are becoming more diverse and are sometimes specifically looking for female candidates. Encouraging news, so how do you get started? As Cecilia said, equip yourself with the right skills and training.
Laurika du Bois is just the person to talk to when it comes to skills and training. Having grown up on a farm herself, she now serves the agricultural industry through her role as Manager for Marketing, Student Recruitment and New Business Development of Agricolleges International. When speaking about trends of women working in agriculture, Laurika provides significant insight: “Women make up 43% of the global agricultural labour force, yet they face significant discrimination when it comes to land and livestock ownership, equal pay, participation in decision-making entities and access to credit and financial services. We need to work at two levels to address this discrimination: at government level, we need to help women to ensure that policies promote gender equality; at the individual level, we need to empower women with entrepreneurial and business planning skills to make them more independent and capable to participate in the local economy. Women’s incomes also make a larger impact on food security. Studies have shown that every Rand in income earned by women achieves the same impact as R11 earned by men. As a result, increasing the effective participation of women in commercial agriculture will significantly increase the potential to address food insecurity.”
With this insight, it is important to look to the future of what jobs may look like for women wanting to build a career in agriculture. Laurika explains: “As countries develop and people spend more income on higher valued, non-traditional food and non-food items, agriculture’s role as employer declines, and the profile of the agricultural labour force changes. The farm workforce becomes older, more wage-oriented, and less domestic. In high-income countries (and many not-so-high income ones) several agricultural subsectors rely primarily on hired farm work force. At the same time, while employment in agriculture shrinks, the broader food system expands and the scope for agriculture-related jobs shifts beyond the farm, upstream, in agricultural service activities and downstream, in the food value chains. The rapidly unfolding digital revolution (information and communications technology, artificial intelligence, machine learning) is further shaping these transformations in new and unprecedented ways.” According to a recent U.K report, jobs in 2030 can possibly include vertical farmer, limb maker, waste data handler, GM or recombinant farmer, or climate change reversal specialist and other sustainability related jobs.
In closing, Laurika advises young women with a passion for agriculture to remember that the agricultural industry requires diverse skills, and you may find opportunities in the industry as broad as administration, engineering, labour, sales, or science.
Excited yet? There really are so many opportunities in agriculture, so if you are considering a career in agriculture or in the agro-food industries, find out which skills are scarce. You can contact Agricolleges, as well as Mayfly Agri, for career advice.
You can also have a look at publications setting out the scare skills in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries on www.agriseta.co.za and www.dalrrd.gov.za.