2020 Tribute Heroes of Agriculture
Banding together to love thy neighbour. This is how Liza Bohlmann, chairperson of the Agricultural Writers SA, described the way in which the agricultural community came together during 2020 to overcome challenges posed by COVID-19 and the consequent lockdown.
The Agricultural Writers SA traditional host the Farmer, New Entrant to Farming and Agriculturalist of the Year awards during November, but due to restrictions on public events the event took on another format this year, instead paying tribute to what we can only describe as our heroes of agriculture.
“The event was on the brink of being cancelled altogether but we realised that in a year such as this that was so difficult, yet so many rallied together to help where it was needed, we couldn’t but use our platform to pay tribute to the industry. There were so many farmers, agricultural companies and associations that contributed to helping communities in need, near and far, assisting fellow farmers and wherever there was help needed. They not only clothed and fed the nation but kept the economy afloat,” said Bohlmann.
Rossouw Cillie, custodian of the Agricultural Writers SA and chairperson of the ProAgri Group, noted, “when the COVID-19 bomb dropped it was amazing how quickly everyone mobilised to help each other. It has always been my dream to see the sector unified, and we saw during the crisis that unification is possible because everyone came together when we needed it most.
“My message to agriculture is to remember that humankind needs us. They need food and clothes and as such there will always be opportunities for those willing to look and work hard. We must not be afraid of what lies ahead.”
In addition to paying homage to these stalwarts, the virtual event on 13 November, sponsored by Bayer, Santam Agriculture and Health Squared Agility Agri, featured discussions by industry experts, focusing on crucial topics for the further success of both agricultural communicators and farmers.
Valuable lessons on succession planning were shared by Kobus Steenekamp, Commercial Lead for Bayer, and Theo Vorster from Galileo Capital. Vorster noted succession planning went far beyond doing what is stated in the previous generation’s will. “It needs to entail your vision for the next 5, 10 and 20 years. No business can grow as fast as a family grows so you have to decide how you will ensure that the business is big enough to carry everyone. If not decide what is fair for everyone, and how you will approach fairness and equality.”
Steenekamp noted that he has often seen that the parental figure on the farm will make the decisions and the son is out in the field. “The son is not part of buying, selling and business decisions. Parents need to bring their children into the business side of the business far quicker to enable a smooth transition.”
Speaking about responsible use of land and stewardship, Rod Bell, CEO of Croplife, spoke about how technology enabled the company to reach a far wider audience than what they would have, were they able to travel physically to farms. “COVID-19 forced us to use this opportunity and we are very excited about how this will enable us to further educate the sector about better stewardship practices.”
Letlhogonolo Tau and Emil Pretorius, both managers of Business Development at Santam emphasised the importance of acting on risk with confidence. They also shared valuable insights into making the most out of difficult situations.
Kobus Laubscher, an independent agricultural economist and strategist consulting for Agility Agri, cautioned farmers to be more attentive when taking out insurance policies. “We don’t do enough to understand what our insurance policies entail. It is also important to make sure you do your own due diligence to prevent disasters like fires at all costs as prevention is always better than cure.”
Speaking about health insurance, Marcia le Roux, sales executive at Health Squared Agility, said that insurance to properly take care of workers who have sustained serious injuries was often lacking. “Our labourers are usually subjected to the public health system which is not ideal, especially when there is an emergency. If we value our workforce we will look after them.”
During the event members of the Agricultural Writers SA were honoured for their role in communicating issues of interest to the agricultural sector and aiding in responsible communication of the sector.
The winners of the respective categories are:
CropLife SA Crop Protection Article Award:
CropLife SA Biotechnology Article Award:
FNB Communicator of the Year Award:
Print Category: Charl van Rooyen
TV & Audio: Lise Roberts
Social Media & Online: Ronel Botha
BKB Photo Competition:
Agricultural Photographer of the Year: Willem van der Berg
Agricultural Photo of the Year: Willem van der Berg
Bayer Technical Article Award:
- Gerrit Bezuidenhout
- Gerrit Bezuidenhout
- Fredalette Uys
Santam Agriculture Farmer of the Year Best Coverage Award:
Charl van Rooyen
Agricultural Writers SA Special Award
Charl van Rooyen was given this award as a token of appreciation for the passion he has displayed for agriculture for the last 30 years, both on an Association level locally and on an international level.
Issued on behalf of the Agricultural Writers SA
Liza Bohlmann – chairperson AWSA (National)
Mobile: +27 72 209 3584
Tel: +27 12 485 9376
Eunice Joubert – chairperson AWSA (!Xhariep)
Mobile: +27 82 808 1114
Magda du Toit – chairperson AWSA (North)
Mobile: +27 66 204 9285