SOUTH AFRICA – The Citrus Growers’ Association of Southern Africa (CGA) has unveiled a groundbreaking Citrus Secondary program aimed at reshaping agricultural education in the country.

The program, spearheaded by the Citrus Academy, a CGA subsidiary, introduces a new qualification in citrus production for high school students across the country. Over 450 students from 16 schools are set to benefit from this forward-thinking endeavor in 2024.

This educational opportunity is strategically rolled out in citrus-producing regions, encompassing schools in various areas such as Bonnievale and Riversdal in the Western Cape, Patensie, Kirkwood, and Fort Beaufort in the Eastern Cape, Umzimkulu in KwaZulu-Natal, Kakamas in the Northern Cape, and Hoedspruit, N’wamitwa, and Tzaneen in the Limpopo province.

The Citrus Secondary program spans two years and is tailored for Grade 10 and 11 learners, aligning with the citrus production cycle.

Modules cover essential topics like enterprise planning, irrigation, financial management, pest management, and plant manipulation.

Jacomien de Klerk, General Manager of the Citrus Academy, underscores the significance of this initiative: “It opens a path into an industry that can offer so many opportunities. It addresses a challenge that many school-leavers unfortunately face having few marketable skills while not having access to tertiary education.”

De Klerk emphasizes that Citrus Secondary supports the academy’s broader goals of transforming the citrus industry and cultivating a passionate new generation of industry participants.

The program, fully curriculum-aligned, can be integrated into the Agricultural Management Practices school subject or pursued as an extramural activity, offering students a valuable qualification.

Reflecting on the successful pilot phase, Theo Bezuidenhout, a Community Development Coordinator from the Sundays River Valley Collaborative, a non-profit company, notes the program’s popularity: “We’ve learned so much about how to make the program work practically during the pilot phase, but what we found out was that there is an immense interest in and need for this type of qualification. In one school, registrations doubled as things progressed.”

Emphasizing the transformative impact, Bezuidenhout adds, “This is about recalibrating the current education system, working with the local community and local government so that the system can have a systemic effect on things like employment prospects.”

The Citrus Academy, under the CGA, will provide content, assessment, and administration for the program, leveraging its e-learning platform.

This platform enables learners to access supporting information, videos, sound clips, and interactive material, enhancing the overall learning experience.

South Africa’s citrus industry, which exported 165.1 million (15kg) cartons in 2023, supporting 140,000 livelihoods and generating over R30 billion (USD 53.15 million) in annual export revenue, stands to gain significantly from this forward-looking educational initiative.

Projections indicate the potential for an additional 100,000 jobs in the industry over the next eight years with collaborative efforts to secure increased market access and improved export logistics.

 

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