By: Anna Majavu
A new, cutting-edge study into the different types of psychological capital possessed by young Free State SMME farmers, has found that designing a range of support programmes to suit farmers who share the same psychological approach could be key to the survival of agricultural SMMEs. The failure to consider psychological capital important to the success or failure of an agricultural SMME created a “missing link”, University of the Free State agricultural economists Primrose Madende, Johannes Henning and Henry Jordaan, have found.
Psychological capital usually refers to the manner in which individuals make use of hope, efficacy, resilience and optimism to combat tough situations. It is seen as essential in the SMME agricultural sector, where funding rejections, natural disasters, climate change and a lack of capital can throw even experienced and bigger farmers off course. The authors interviewed 492 Thaba Nchu and QwaQwa-based farmers between the ages of 18 and 36 in an attempt to demarcate different psychological groups and see what kind of tailor-made support each would need.
The research, carried out over three years, found that 97% of the young farmers were extremely disadvantaged – 45% surveyed had low access to land, 22% lived as dependents within families who themselves were dependent on social grants, and 30% were farming livestock with very few resources. The livestock farmers were also working in part-time and informal jobs to make ends meet, meaning they were “less able to invest in resources and inputs for their productive activities and less attractive for credit offers”.
The research found that this group was also farming while waiting for better opportunities to come along.
The 22% of farmers who lived with families surviving off social grants were found to have access to tiny portions of land of one hectare and also had the least training in farming. They mainly entered agriculture “as part of family chores, not because they are interested”, the research found.
Of the 45% who had the lowest access to land, the majority were young women farmers. However, while this group suffered from “pessimism and hopelessness”, they also had the highest membership rates in co-operatives and youth clubs, and were “strongly driven to achieve, innovative, seizing opportunities, determined, and embracing change”.
The authors recommended that youth clubs be used as agricultural training spaces for the socially connected group. On the other hand, the group who was dependent on unemployed family members needed more access to government funding and to be linked with social networks that would help them access more resources, “for instance through collective action initiatives to access land and credit”.
The group mainly made up of young women was being disadvantaged by the government’s policy of giving preference to married youth during land allocations, the researchers found. It was possible to group young farmers according to their “livelihood assets, psychological capital, and entrepreneurial characteristics”. “Characterising youth should emphasise more on the resources youth have instead of the often overemphasis on the have-nots,” wrote Madende, Henning, and Jordaan.