Matie Voices

Sifiso Ntombela

Alumnus of the Faculty of AgriSciences

“I decided to study agricultural economics because it is key in crafting the policies and strategies for the food system in the country.”

For Sifiso Ntombela, obtaining his bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics and viticulture from Stellenbosch University (SU) in 2006 still ranks among the biggest achievements in his life.

He also completed his honours and master’s degree in agricultural economics at SU and is currently enrolled for a PhD at the University of Pretoria.

Sifiso became interested in contributing to a sustainable agricultural sector at a very young age.

“I grew up in Mtubatuba in the uMkhanyakude District Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal, which is one of the poorest districts in the country. When I was young, this area used to flourish with agricultural activities involving sugar cane, vegetables, subtropical fruits and livestock, but the changes in agricultural policies and conditions caused these activities to collapse, leading to high levels of unemployment and subsequently to high levels of poverty and crime.

“I decided to study agricultural economics because it is key in crafting the policies and strategies for the food system in the country. As we know, a viable, profitable and sustainable food system is critical for alleviating poverty and promoting rural development.

“My studies at Stellenbosch gave me the fundamental tools and skills required to find solutions on critical and complex issues facing the food and agricultural economy in the country. It also trained me to properly communicate policy advice to policy makers and industry captains.”

Sifiso started his professional career as market intelligence manager for the South African Table Grape Industry in 2007. Three years later he joined the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) as senior economist and in 2013 he was seconded as SIP 11 coordinator to the Presidential Infrastructure Coordination Committee (PICC).

He was appointed director of strategic partnerships at the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) in 2015 and in September 2017, Sifiso moved to Agbiz, an association of agribusinesses operating in South and Southern Africa, as head of trade and investment intelligence.

His main responsibilities include conducting research on trade policy and trade performance and identifying strategic export markets; advising industry captains on investment opportunities and strategy to develop and grow the agricultural economy; and linking investors to investment opportunities in the sector, both in South Africa and internationally.

Sifiso is passionate about agriculture and agribusiness.

“Besides being an important employer of many people, especially less skilled people, and contributing to exports, it is the backbone of the country’s economy.

“Creating rural infrastructure, extending farming and agricultural business to communal areas and protecting all our farmers and farm workers can help create more jobs and maintain the existing ones. Formulating clear and transparent land policy that promotes equitable land redistribution and does not harm the food system is urgently needed.”

- By Pia Nänny -