About the Association
Agricultural Writers SA is a voluntary, non-profitmaking professional association promoting the image and standards of agricultural journalism in South Africa.
It all began on a Wednesday evening in March, 40 years ago (that is 1977) when a gathering of seven agricultural journalists made the decision to establish an association exclusively for agricultural journalists. The seven journalists represented the 3 segments of the media, as it were in those days, namely the Press, Radio and Television. The meeting took place in the canteen of a small publication house located in Pim Street, Johannesburg and it was there that the historic decision to formally establish the Agricultural Writers Association of South Africa was taken.
Even though all seven journalists resided in Gauteng, as we know it today, it was unanimously decided against the establishment of a local organisation. They instead opted to make it National with branches in the provinces. From those small beginnings, the association expanded rapidly. By the third year Agricultural Writers SA had four branches namely Transvaal-, Western Cape-, Eastern Cape- and Free State branches. Subsequently, three more branches, Natal, North-Western Cape and Western Transvaal were added.
The first general meeting of Agricultural Writers SA was held a year after the inaugural meeting took place. Among the foundation members present, apart from the executive, were such stalwarts as Jean le Roux, Henk van der Merwe, Dries Sonnekus, Mike Hattingh, Franz Schäfer, Theo Kleynhans, Klasie van Vuuren, Anita Chittenden, Roy Billet, Andries Gouws, Lourens Oosthuizen, Hans Lombard, Stoffel Smit and Willem Thompson.
The organisation’s membership reached a total of 140 within two years’ time and peaked on 187 members in 1985. Today membership stands on well over 200.
During the inaugural meeting of 30 March 1977, the very first clause was adopted for incorporation in the organisation’s constitution. This clause provided for the annual selection of a regional and national Farmer and Agriculturist of the year.
The association’s motivation behind the introduction of these honours, was to give recognition to deserving farming and scientific agricultural merit. In a broader sense, the awards were meant to inspire others to emulate the accomplishments of those persons singled out, and at the same time showcase what could be achieved with passion, good planning and hard work, under various kinds of conditions and environments.
Agricultural Writers SA was invited to send observers to the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) world congress held in Hamburg, Germany in 1981. The delegation of three were reasonably well received but the South African political situation at that stage was cause for some hostility, particularly from countries like Holland and Norway.
In 1984 the President of the IFAJ, Franz Sterkx of Belgium visited South Africa. He travelled as a guest of the Agricultural Writers SA and the visit was made possible by a generous sponsorship from the South African Agricultural Union. Sterkx gave an assurance that when the local political dust had settled, South Africa’s application for membership to the IFAJ would be viewed in a favourable light. However, it took many years, more than a decade, for South Africa to gain membership of the world body. The association can today proudly state that since becoming members of the IFAJ, Agricultural Writers SA has successfully hosted the IFAJ world congress twice- first in 2004 and the second time in 2017.
The association can look back with pride and satisfaction on a history stretching over 40 years of serving the agricultural industry. Looking forward to the future, the members of this association will continue, with passion and perseverance, to promote new technologies and developments in the interest of the agricultural sector and the food security for the people of our beautiful country.
The association today
Agricultural Writers SA is representative of agricultural journalists serving the industry through magazines, newspapers, radio and television. Qualified membership is also extended to friends of the agricultural media. It remains, however, primarily a body run by journalists for journalists.
The main objectives of the association are:
- To promote and foster matters of common interest to members.
- To advance the profession of agricultural journalism through the stimulation of thought, study, research, discussion and the dissemination of information to members.
- To raise funds to further its objectives.
- To nominate and select worthy candidates for its awards.
- To support and encourage freedom of the press.
- To establish and maintain contact with journalists in other countries.
- To maintain neutrality in matters of religion and politics.
- To take appropriate action to safeguard the status of the profession.
- To maintain close contact with other bodies serving agriculture.
- To strive to promote better understanding of the role of agriculture in the community