Study Agriculture in South Africa

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Port Elizabeth

Agriculture Studies in South Africa

Diverse, dynamic, and steeped in history, South Africa is emerging as one of the most rapidly-developing nations in the world. It has by far the largest and most modern economy in sub-Saharan Africa, a fact that can be easily witnessed by a visit to one of its bustling coastal metropolises. Cape Town, at the southwestern corner of the African Continent, is widely hailed as one of Africa’s great economic success stories, and a model for the rest of the continent to follow. Although inequality remains high and poverty gnaws at many of the nation’s 53 million inhabitants (thus keeping its Human Development Index lower than many countries with a comparable economy), South Africa has made tremendous strides over the past two decades toward a more equitable and just social structure. Thus, this vibrant African nation has a high profile on the world stage, and also boasts some of the highest quality of life on the continent.

There are 7 agricultural colleges in South Africa, nearly all clustered around the Western Cape region, or in the country’s administrative capital of Pretoria. The main exception is the University of Fort Hare, which is on the opposite side of the country in the Eastern Cape. (The University of Fort Hare is also a historic site in South Africa, since the late Nelson Mandela attended college there until he was expelled in 1940 for engaging in political activism.) South Africa’s agricultural colleges offer a full range of courses in agricultural science: veterinary medicine (specializing in livestock), plant pathology, soil science, food science, and even hydroponics. Thus, it is possible to get a wide range of different degrees and specializations as an agriculture student in South Africa.

The agriculture industry in South Africa is unusual in that it is extremely politicized, since the question of land reform is one of the most divisive issues in South African politics. The issue is far too complicated to discuss adequately in a short space, but in essence it hinges on how (or even if) land should be redistributed following the demise of the apartheid state. Many South Africans believe that the government should allocate more land to disadvantaged black citizens, while others argue that legislative equality is sufficient and need not be supplemented by a redistribution of land. There is no easy answer to this question, and no end in sight for the debate as a whole – land reform will almost certainly continue to be a contentious issue in South Africa  for the foreseeable future. Thus, anyone who plans to study and work in the South African agriculture industry should have an awareness of the political situation and should be prepared for upheavals and uncertainty as this diverse nation picks up the pieces after centuries of racial injustice. To some, of course, this may be particularly exciting – since the agriculture sector is in many ways the central pivot-point of post-Apartheid reform in South Africa, working in that sector is a chance to learn and contribute to a long-term process of ethnic reconciliation that has been hailed as the universal model for newly desegregated African nations.

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