Unemployed agriculture graduates dumped by department plead with Ramaphosa for intervention

Unemployed graduates. | Supplied

Unemployed graduates. | Supplied

Published Mar 17, 2024


Over 5000 assistant agricultural practitioners (AAP) left hanging after the Department of Agriculture and Land reform terminated graduates' contracts, are hoping that the president will come to their aid and reinstate them to their jobs.

The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development developed a program for three months to appoint 10 000 unemployed agricultural graduates as AAPs to assist the government to reach the target of one extension officer to 250 farmers.

The 5000 graduates were to be recruited in the first cycle of 2022/23 financial year, with them placed at the different provinces and deployed with various agricultural institutions in the sector including Agricultural Research Council (ARC), the Association of Veterinary and Crop Associations of South Africa (AVCASA), Grain SA, and the South African Sugar Research Institute and the South African Poultry Association, among others.

However, during the course of July 2023, the AAPs nationwide were retrenched by the agricultural department citing budget constraints.

It was for this reason that graduates once again marched to the offices of the department in Pretoria as well as taking their plea to the head of the country at the Union Buildings.

The graduates stressed that with the finance minister having released the budget for the sector, they too had to be considered as many were struggling to make ends meet.

Their demands called for the immediate reinstatement of graduates, and for workers to be afforded work gadgets and uniforms to assist them with identification when interacting with stakeholders.

They pleaded with President Cyril Ramaphosa in light of the scourge of unemployment, to ensure that practitioners were hired permanently, as their employment would assist not only with work opportunities but address issues of food security, and decrease the farmer to extension officer ratio.

In addition, they pleaded for the number of workers to be increased to 10 000 as initially planned, the removal of non-qualifying candidates, and most importantly for the program not to be reverted to provinces for a solution.

“We were shocked when we were retrenched as we were given the impression that we were being trained for permanent positions. Why did they give us that hope of the program to last for three years, only to dump us after only 8 months?

“The budget was released a while back and we were expecting them to call us back. We’re so defeated that we have nothing to fall back on and many of us have children and parents that we take care of. That’s why we’re not asking for handouts, just a chance to work for our families,” said one practitioner who requested to remain anonymous.

Their memorandum was accepted by Phil Mahlangu, the communications manager at the Presidency, who said they too were concerned about the graduates’ plight.

Mahlangu assured graduates that their plight would be addressed within seven days.

The Star