School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Agricultural economist, Ms Ongama Giwu.

Economic Assessment of Youth in Agriculture Achieves Cum Laude Master’s Degree

Ms Ongama Giwu’s Masters in Agricultural Economics research explored youth participation in agricultural enterprises, a topic that inspired her as she recognises the importance of the agricultural sector in South Africa’s economic growth and development.

With the sector characterised by senior citizens and youth unemployment in South Africa at staggeringly high rates, Giwu considers it essential that younger people are encouraged to join the farming and broader agricultural industry to safeguard the future of this important economic activity and the food security it provides.

Examining the perceptions, willingness, opportunities and effects of youth participation in agricultural enterprises to reduce poverty and create employment, Giwu hoped to contribute knowledge that would inform the creation and implementation of strategies that encourage young people to investigate agrarian careers. She further hoped her work would be helpful to young people willing to or enthusiastic about starting agricultural businesses, as it provides information about the opportunities available in the sector.

Her study also provides information to youth, policymakers and donors. With increased awareness of why young people are not engaging in agricultural enterprises, Giwu believes the government and policymakers will be able to implement novel strategies to combat this. She aimed to incorporate advice on the best ways to support youth in agriculture to inform specific governmental departments and donors looking for solutions to encourage more participation from young people.

Giwu joined UKZN from the University of Fort Hare, where she completed her undergraduate and honours studies as it was close to her hometown of Mount Frere. She chose to enrol at UKZN because of its reputation as one of South Africa’s best universities and because of personal recommendations from alumni.

Achieving excellent results for her studies was not easy – Giwu has a hearing condition that meant large meetings could be challenging, and she struggled to acquire new hearing aids she needed during her studies, but she said that the patience and understanding of her supervisors and colleagues and the extra effort they put in to ensure she was not left behind was invaluable.

She prioritised hard work and commitment to her studies and was determined to achieve her goals. Receiving a cum laude result for her master’s has inspired pride in Giwu, and she hopes to progress to a PhD as soon as she finds funding to support further study.

Giwu thanked her supervisor, Dr Lelethu Mdoda, for his patience, support, professional guidance and availability and also her family, particularly her mother and older brother, for their constant encouragement and involvement in her academic journey.

Words: Christine Cuenod

Photograph: Sethu Dlamini