Dr Theo de Jager addressing delegates at his last AGM
I have served on the Board since 2011, and learned much from legendary leaders such as Mr Doug Taylor-Freeme, Mr Felix Jumbe and Mr Salum Shamte, with whom I served. Mr Ajay Vashee was President when I first attended a SACAU conference. Much of the success of the organisation can be attributed to the visionary leadership and solid governance of these previous Presidents and Vice Presidents.
When I became President in 2013, I realised the true complexities of representing such a wide range of members; from the smallest of smallholders to some of the largest in the world. This poses some of the organisation’s biggest challenges, but is undoubtedly also our biggest advantage. No money can buy the powerful position of having a single voice for farmers in our region, and we need to treasure it above all differences in views or interests. I have spent a lot of time on SACAU, but I have benefited much more.
My biggest personal gain was that I can truly claim that I today have friends in every country in southern Africa amongst the farmers in rural areas. I had the privilege of representing you on the Board of the Pan African Farmers Organisation (PAFO) for 5 years, and being elected President from 2014-2017. I have represented the organisation on various African Union (AU) platforms, UN platforms, development agency driven initiatives, and deliberations on agricultural policies across Africa and the world. I never had to look back. I never wondered about the backing of our constituency.
I have always had the best possible support, administration and logistical, from our secretariat, and technical and intellectual help from the CEO and fellow farmer leaders. I thank you for that. That the organisation has on my watch never slipped up on reporting, financial management or governance, had little to do with my skills or Chairmanship of the Board.
It has everything to do with the quality of Board members with whom I have served, and especially those who were elected Vice Presidents; Mr Salum Shamte and Dr Sinare Sinare. Most of all it has to do with the remarkable management capabilities and leadership style of Mr Ismael Sunga, the best CEO with whom my paths have crossed. I will dearly miss this environment and people! Thank you for vesting your trust in me for leading the organisation and for the honor to represent you over the past 5 years.
A very special thanks to the SACAU youth for the surplus energy and inspiration you shared. You know that you, the under 40’s, are my favorite farmers in the world! Let me also thank my family who allowed my participation in the activities of SACAU, and tolerated my absence from home. Also to my Heavenly Father for His grace, for good health and the opportunity He granted me. May this organisation and its members be blessed beyond our expectations!
Theo de Jager