With the sluggish recovery and other challenges in the economy, it is imperative that we start devising creative strategies to arrest the soaring unemployment which threatens to spiral out of control. That our economy has failed to create enough jobs to contain unemployment is common cause. We need not say more. We should start looking in every sector and subsector of the economy for opportunities to create our own jobs.
Take the agriculture sector. With the deadline for the ploughing season fast approaching, a depressing picture of huge empty tracts of land is becoming clear around the country. As one traverses the country, acres and acres of land, previously used by past generations to eke out a living, lie fallow while young people with loads of energy roam the streets in search of formal employment. The long queues at the department of labour, which have become synonymous with every start of a new year, are clear testimony that we cannot all be absorbed into the job market whether we are graduates or not. We need to devise creative ways to create employment for ourselves instead of always looking up to government or some other employer to hire us.
There are many programmes put up by government in different ministries and departments which individuals or groups of individuals can access to provide services to their communities and create employment for themselves at the same time. Are we doing enough to explore these opportunities? It is quite disturbing that most members of community are scared of approaching government offices to enquire on available opportunities rather resorting to picking gossip and hearsay on the streets, which more often than not will be misleading. Some hide behind the myth that it is impossible to access government programmes, while most never bother to ask. Just have a chat with public servants in offices administering these programmes and they will reveal shocking statistics about the number of people interested in these assistance programmes.
Some argue that such programmes remain inaccessible to most young and eligible members of society. While we concede that to some extend the requirements in some instances are prohibitive and a deterrent, we still maintain that opportunities are still out there if we work hard enough to achieve self-sustenance. Take for example the Intergrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture Development (ISPAAD), which has seen food production in the country increase by over 500%. Numerous opportunities in the programme are available to subsistence, emerging and commercial farmers to access requisite inputs including draught power, potable water, seeds, fertilizers and herbicides, facilitation of access to credit, fencing and establishment of agricultural service centres. One only needs a valid Omang and have access to a piece of land; you do not need to own such land to enjoy support from subsidies and grants under the programme. But how many young people are looking into the agriculture sector as an opportunity for income generation, food production and economic diversification?
From a long time back, government has been trying to persuade people to invest in agriculture and go commercial but there is very little movement in this direction. It would appear that everybody wants an office job. Elsewhere in this publication we repeat concerns by farmers about acute shortage of draught power and other farming implements, which compromise their efforts to plough their fields. Such shortages are a great opportunity for young people to step in and fill the void as businessmen while at the same time improving food security in the country. Formal employment is not the only form of employment. It may not be easy to access agro-business CEDA loans and other financial institutions to venture into such business but it is possible. A re tlogeleng boitseme!