The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is looking to set up farmsteads of up to 10 acres, complete with starter units, as a means of attracting young people into agriculture. This was disclosed by portfolio Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, during Thursday’s (April 12) launch of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs National Achievement Expo at the organisation's headquarters at 90 Old Hope Road in Kingston.
A farmstead is a farm containing buildings used for commercial agriculture. It serves as the farmer’s residence as well as production centre. Mr. Clarke informed that the holdings to be set up will be outfitted with the requisite infrastructure to facilitate agricultural production. “What we want to do is develop a new breed of farmers. You can’t just give young people and say ‘that’s a piece of land’; we want to see how we can start them with even a one room with the basis of expanding and we are going to find a way to do it,” Mr. Clarke said.
Turning to other initiatives to attract young people to farming, the Agriculture Minister said that focus will be placed on providing incentives for feasible projects, improving access to financing, and capacity development through institutions such as the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE), the Knockalva Agricultural School, and the University of the West Indies (UWI).
He said that emphasis will also be placed on enterprise development training, particularly in value-added activities such as food processing and packaging. “We cannot continue just to be primary producers; we want our farmers to benefit along the value chain so you just don’t grow and other people reap the sweets. We want to get involved right along the chain,” he stated.
The Agriculture Minister commended the Jamaica 4H Clubs, for its “sterling contribution” to the growth and development of thousands of young people throughout Jamaica, through the promotion of agriculture, home management, environmental awareness, leadership and healthy lifestyle in schools. He stated that the theme chosen for the National Achievement Day: ‘Youth Involvement in Agriculture for Economic Growth and Development’ is timely, as the government seeks to engage more young people in the sector.
Executive Director, Jamaica 4H Clubs, Lenworth Fulton, in the meantime, is expecting a big turnout for the expo, which is slated for Friday, April 27 at the Denbigh Showground in Clarendon. He said that in previous years, the event has attracted up to 7,000 persons, inclusive of clubbites, leaders and other stakeholders. “This year, we sincerely hope to have 10,000 persons in attendance. It is easy to achieve if you spread the word and we sincerely hope people (will come out) and see the work of the youth”, Mr. Fulton said.
The National Achievement Day expo is the culmination of 14 parish achievement days held from March to April. At the event, winners at the parish level will compete for higher honours and awards in their prescribed training areas. The premier achievement of the annual expo is the naming of the National 4H Boy and Girl of the year. Each year, a particular produce is chosen and this forms the basis of the agro-processing displays and this year’s produce is yellow yam. The 2012 National Achievement Day is endorsed by the Jamaica 50 Secretariat.