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Vodacom Eastern Cape Region in partnership with the Eastern Cape Department of Education and Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform (DRDAR) unveiled a ground-breaking and technology driven Agriculture and Food Security programme in over 131 underprivileged schools across the province. The programme aims to underscore that youth can play a significant role in food security, job creation and poverty alleviation through their active participation in agriculture.

Known as the Agriculture School Programme, flowing from the Vodacom Sustainability Living (VSL) project, it is designed to inspire school going children to enter the lucrative agricultural sector when they complete their schooling and be part of the agriculture value chain. The programme is also aimed at increasing the participation of youth in schools with special needs to participate in agricultural activities.

The Eastern Cape is an important player in the country’s agricultural sector as it is responsible for producing about 31% of South Africa’s milk, 27% of South Africa’s citrus and 39% of South Africa’s wool. Research shows the Eastern Cape’s production and other agricultural enterprises ensured that 12% of South Africa’s agricultural jobs were created by the Eastern Cape in the second quarter of 2019.

Mpumelelo Khumalo, Managing Executive for Vodacom Eastern Region said: “As a responsible corporate citizen and partner of government, we actively look for opportunities to collaborate with government in areas where we think we can drive sustainable change in society, using the power of technology, our core capability. Eastern Cape has untapped agricultural potential and through this programme we hope to make the agriculture sector cool among youth and inspire many of them to take up agriculture as a fulltime vocation.”

The Agricultural Schools Programmme has a competition aspect to it where schools are identified and undergo rigorous adjudication process. For example, 131 schools were part of the first cohort of this programme, planted their school gardens, and have been adjudicated. To win the grand prize, schools needed to demonstrate innovation and creativity in improving production. Secondly, they need to have a commitment to care for and ensure sustainability of the natural resources, including under-standing of adaptation and mitigation to climate change. Critically, they needed to demonstrate a degree of innovation and creativity in improving farming methods and deliver a consistent supply of products of high quality.

The competition has three categories: Best Junior Agricultural Practice, Best Agriculture Practice in Special Schools and Best Agricultural Practice in High School.  The winners are:

  • Primary Schools Category: 1. Emafini Primary School; 2. Meyiwa Primary School and 3. Mbewula Primary School.
  • High Schools Category winners are 1. Phambili High School; 2. Ncura Secondary School.
  • The Agriculture School Category winners are, 1. Clarkebury Agriculture High; 2. Frank Zibi High and 3. Ulana Agriculture High School.

Emafini Primary School took the number one position and received R418 000 grand prize which was used to build school ablution facilities. Phambili Secondary School, which took the second place won R180 000 used to build borehole to provide water for the entire school. Third place went to Clarkebury Agriculture School and received R161 000 used to build fence to secure the school. The 2021 rollout will include 70 new schools and they will be on-boarded next month.

The next phase of the programme will be to introduce smart farming and Internet of Things (IOT) at school. With the assistance of the RDAR, Vodacom will get local commercial farmers to empower emerging farmers from the school programme. Vodacom will also introduce learners to the Connected Farmer app, which is an easy-to-use mobile phone-based solution that enables enterprises in the agribusiness to interact and transact with the smallholder farmers from whom they buy produce.