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SF Blog: Heading to South Africa

Every year, the International Federation of Ag Journalists (IFAJ) hosts an event for ag writers. The IFAJ Congress, the event’s proper name, takes place in a different country each year and includes multiple farm tours, so the journalists attending can learn about agriculture in that part of the world. 

This year, the Congress and roughly 200 journalists are heading to South Africa. I am one of those lucky journalists who gets to attend this year’s event.

Why South Africa?

You’ve all heard the most-quoted fact in agriculture: The world’s population will increase to 9 billion by 2050, increasing the amount of production necessary to feed the world. You’ve also probably heard the different ways that agriculture will need to adapt to meet that demand, including better hybrids, more advanced technology, robotics, etc. Meeting that demand will also take improved production methods across the world. 

The population of Africa today is more than 1 billion, which is why “all eyes are on the continent to feed its growing population, more so because of its available resources,” states the IFAJ website. “South Africa is the gateway to the rest of Africa. African agriculture and the industry is increasingly depending on South Africa to lead the way. This makes South African agriculture a challenging but rewarding industry – an industry that has a wealth of experience and information to offer members of the IFAJ.”

Here are some facts about South African agriculture.

  • The country has large-scale commercial farms as well as subsistence-based production in the more rural areas.
  • 12% of the country’s land can be used for crop production, but only 22% of this is high-potential land. 
  • 3.2 million acres are under irrigation. 50% of South Africa’s water is used for agriculture.
  • The primary ag sector contributes 3% to South Africa’s GDP. This goes up to 12% when the entire value chain of agriculture is taken into consideration.
  • The country grows a wide range of crops, including corn, wheat, sugar cane, and flowers as well as livestock production, including cattle and sheep. 
  • South Africa is a net food exporter, although drought can force the country to import more food. The country’s main exports are flowers, wine, citrus, corn, grapes, sugar, apples, and pears. 
  • Last year, corn production in South Africa was 7.7 million tonnes. This compares to U.S. production at 384 million tonnes.

Why Me?

I received a stipend to attend the young leaders bootcamp, which is right before the Congress. The bootcamp is held in conjunction with Congress each year and is attended by 10 journalists under 35 years of age from around the world. 

During this year’s event, we will:

  • Tour a Dupont Pioneer research farm as well as a chicken farm.
  • Share the most important issues in ag journalism in our country.
  • Participate in several skill development sessions.

When the bootcamp wraps up, Congress kicks off. The farm tours for this portion of the event look really fascinating, they include:

  • The Rossouw Group, which includes poultry (eggs, broilers, laying and rearing hens), cash crops (corn and soybeans), and citrus (oranges, lemons, clementines, and berries). The farm employs 750 full-time employees and 800 seasonal workers on roughly 15,000 acres. 
  • Mike Bosch’s game farm, which includes chicken and cattle. 
  • Dutoit Agri is a diverse operation with apples, pears, sweet potatoes, cherries, and apples on 11,000 acres.
  • Graaff Fruit, which produces 11,000 tonnes of fruit. 
  • Fairview Farm houses a collection of micro businesses – the highlight being fine wine and cheese. (Yum!)

I leave Tuesday, March 28, to begin the 24-hour journey to South Africa (from Des Moines to Minneapolis to Amsterdam to Cape Town). Be sure to follow along with my trip on Twitter @JessieScott1.

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