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28/06/2019

“I would love to encourage more people, especially women and the youth to see agriculture as a vital career path. In my opinion, everything starts and ends with agriculture, it is an incredible industry, it has great opportunities and is growing in technological advances” academic award winner S'Busisiwe Vilakazi says.

Having achieved an 86% average for her Agricultural Management Diploma, S'Busisiwe won the first diploma award in the Faculty of Science at Mandela University’s annual Academic Awards recently.

S'Busisiwe wants to pursue her master’s degree in sustainable agriculture to provide the less fortunate with basic skills in agriculture and agribusiness to better support subsistence and emerging farmers and alleviate poverty.

Initially, in high school, her main focus was on Science, particularly chemistry, astronomy and neuroscience.

“However, living most of my life with my family, and my grandmother and mother, who always worked the garden at home in the suburban areas of Harrismith in the Free State. This is where I was introduced to some form of “agriculture”, she says.

“I never really had any agricultural background in the form of subjects or living on a farm. My grandmother’s crops were always so beautiful, her garden so neat and fruitful. My parents started rearing chickens for a bit of household money and I was the only child amongst my siblings that enjoyed the garden chores, I made the yard my playground and had no intention of turning it into a career.

“However, in matric, I weighed my options, likes and dislikes, personality, talents and passion. I discovered then that agriculture just fit the picture. Loving both the outdoors and indoors, my love for the laboratory, captivated by nature and its magnificence, a passion to feed and develop the poor, and my dream of inventions and becoming a world-renowned scientist. 

Ultimately my happy vision is where I am looking out of the window of my farmhouse at the vast acres of land, contributing to the economy by producing various crops and livestock, my children running through the fields of corn as my husband charges up the tractor for the seasonal ploughing. I was sold to the dream.

Everybody pressured her to use her A student record for the medical field or something “more credible”, but she was drawn even closer to turn the agriculture industry around and build her portfolio as a grand contributor as one of the women in agriculture. Her personal “mantra” was “Use your complex abilities to turn what is seen as simple into an extravagant masterpiece”. And so my love for agriculture developed,” S'Busisiwe says.

During her studies, she became passionate and interested in both crop and animal production and wants to gain more experience in both these fields, but she does prefer working with animals. She would also really love to work in the dairy industry for some time, learning how to manage and work with cattle would be incredible, she says.

“Currently my focus has shifted to agricultural education and urban agriculture in terms of growing the aquaponics industry in South Africa and educating communities and the youth in agriculture and subsistence farming, in correlation to curbing poverty, in the light of the South African land reform concept. I am also working on getting involved in the poultry business industry as my first business venture.

She wants to gain experience in the United States of America, China and India as she is quite intrigued by their transformational agriculture, in terms of vertical farming and aquaponics (especially due to the industrial revolution), their farming technology development, dairy farming and vineyards.

In India, she would love to experience their cattle farming and subsistence farming (as in China). Other countries of interest include Israel, Australia and Germany. She feels that these platforms can stretch her capability to contribute greatly to the South African agriculture industry.

In 2017, she was elected as the Chairperson of the Agricultural Society at Mandela University. In that year, they ran many projects focused on educating communities in subsistence farming. The seniors created booklets on simple steps of starting and maintaining a garden (in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa), which they used to assist community developments.

“Not only was our focus external but we also conducted academic development through providing tutors and mentors, as well as volunteering on the university garden to provide food for the students. The chairperson is changed each year and therefore I remain as a committed member of the society. Now I act as a leadership adviser and mentor for newly elected chairpersons assisting them in running the society. I also avail myself as a tutor for the students.  

S'Busisiwe is also a Madibaz Cheerleader and a How2Buddy. She likes reading, writing, singing, dancing, arts and crafts, hockey, science and inventions.

Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777
Zandile.Mbabela@mandela.ac.za