03 July 2017 Read: 272
One of Tzaneen’s, and indeed the world’s, most prominent voices in the agricultural industry was elected President of the World Farmers Organization (WFO) this month. Dr Theo de Jager, became the first South African to head this international organization with his election on the 13th of June this year, in Helsinki, Finland.
Following in the footsteps of another African, Dr Evelyn Nguleka from Zambia, De Jager became the second of his countrymen to be democratically elected into the chair. He will be joined by Alfred Kapichira Banda, from the Farmers’ Union of Malawi, who was also elected to the WFO board.
De Jager was in the running for the position with two other nominees including Dr William Rolleston, acting president of the WFO and chairperson of the Federated Farmers of New Zealand, and Fritz Glauser, vice president of the Swiss National Farmers’ Union and treasurer of the WFO.
He will take over the position from Rolleston, who assumed the role of intermediate president after the late Dr Evelyn Nguleka resigned in September last year. It is reported that Nguleka was charged with theft and money laundering at the Zambian National Farmers’ Union.
De Jager was nominated by the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union who also congratulated him on the new title.
“We know that Theo has a keen interest in our local situation as well as his commitment to farmers at large in advocating at a global scale for pro-farmer policy in matters such as climate change and ending farmer poverty,” the organisation said in its congratulatory note. “We look forward to continued collaboration with him as we search for solutions to our local problems as farmers and in his work on the global agriculture platform.”
Agri Letaba expressed their pride in one of their active members attaining such a prestigious achievement. “We would like to congratulate Dr De Jager on his appointment as the head of this international organization and express our pride to have one of our very own members heading the WFO. Well done to you, sir, we salute you,” said the organization in a statement.
The Tzaneen farmer known for his work with avocados, litchis and macadamias previously headed the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU), and played an integral role in strengthening relations between South African and Zimbabwean farmers’ organizations. He is an honorary member of the Zimbabwean Commercial Farmers Union because of his efforts.
Prior to his appointment this month, De Jager served as deputy president of Agri SA, and president of the Pan African Farmers’ Organisation (PAFO). He also spear-headed many transformation initiatives at Agri Limpopo- where he currently serves as a member of the managerial committee. In addition, De Jager is a co-founder of Agri All Africa, a company which assists small farmers in Africa to transition to commercial farming. He was also voted South African Agriculturalist of the Year in 2016 by the Agricultural Writers SA.
Earlier this year, “Dok Theo” travelled to the United States where he met with Microsoft Founder, Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda at their Foundation headquarters in Seattle. The aim of his meeting with the software giant was to establish a way forward for the small-scale African farmer with the emphasis on modernization and automation through the availability of cellular technology.
According to an interview with various international media houses, De Jager reckons he has a few items of priority on his list during his tenure in the chair. One of the most important being the establishment of working agreements among farmers from across the globe despite political unease. He used the example of Mexican farmers who do not want to partner with American farmers because of President Trump’s promise to build his wall to keep them separated. “Similarly too, the Russians and the Europeans growl continuously at one another and that North- and South Americans don’t really see eye to eye.”
Another issue of concern for him is the number of countries who have not yet joined the united front of the WFO, particularly in the African states and the Eastern Block regions. His plan is to visit these countries and negotiate their membership in order to establish a truly united voice for farming organizations across the globe.
Judging by his ambitious goals and determined approach to achieving them, the next two years will be an extremely productive period for the good doctor.
News of De Jager’s election went viral, minutes after the announcement was made on Day 2 of WFO’s General Assembly. Farmers organizations from all over the world congratulated Dr De Jager on his appointment.