Nelspruit - Fifty-five students, who have completed a course in Plant Production, are expected to help fill the shortage of agricultural extension officers in Mpumalanga.
The students are currently doing their experiential learning on various farms and at agricultural companies in the province.
Mpumalanga MEC for agriculture, rural development and land administration, Meshack Malinga on Monday said: "Some of you will be working closely with farmers in your areas as extension officers to ensure that communication between the department and farmers is much easier and also assist them with information and services that the department has for them."
Agricultural extension officers provide training and advice that help farmers improve their farming methods and increase their production and income.
"When you look at the extent of the lack of skills in the sector, the 55 graduates will have an immense contribution to make in decreasing this challenge," he said.
Top student, Muzi Mhlanga, 23, scooped ten awards.
"This is the reward for my hard work. I had to manage my time very well because as a young person, I had to socialise with my peers too. But my studies always came first," said Mhlanga.
Mhlanga is doing his experiential training on a citrus farm in Schoemansdal and aims to become a Plant Pathologist.
Dr Eliot Zwane, from the Limpopo department of agriculture, urged the graduates to create jobs for themselves.
"There are many financial support programmes such as the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme and Letsema that aims to develop aspirant farmers within the department of agriculture. Make use of them to develop yourselves while progressing with your studies," he said.