Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, has again called for greater youth participation in agriculture, while reiterating Government’s commitment to facilitating entrepreneurial activities in the sector. “Given the youth’s willingness to adapt to new ideas, concepts and technology, it goes without saying that the future of agriculture in Jamaica resides with our young people,” the Minister said.
He explained that the Ministry has been encouraging more young people to become involved in agriculture through various programmes. “Recognising their enormous potential for risk taking and innovation, the Ministry has developed several programmes targeting our young people. These include our Youth in Agriculture initiative, which encourages young people to become involved in agriculture-based activities as well as to seek to influence them to pursue careers in agriculture and agriculture-based industries,” the Minister informed.
Speaking at the Jamaica 4-H Clubs’ National Achievement Expo 2014, held on April 11 at the Denbigh Showground, in Clarendon, Mr. Clarke lauded the Movement’s focus on science and technology, through the creation of an Agri-Technology Park for the event. He noted that this year’s theme, ‘Promoting sustainable agriculture, impacting climate change’, is timely and appropriate, and is part of the thrust for the sector and an area in which the future leaders should become actively engaged.
The Minister expressed high expectations for the upcoming Denbigh Agricultural Show, where a number of institutions will mount displays in the Youth in Agriculture Village, which will be an integral part of the event. “Coming out of this, it is my hope that some of these projects will be developed into entrepreneurial activities. This can be facilitated through our Young Farmer’s Entrepreneurship Programme that is being executed by the Agro-Invest Corporation, where we give support in the form of land, provide access to markets, links to credit agencies and infrastructure,” Mr. Clarke said.
The Minister pointed out that agriculture is much more than farming the soil and rearing animals. It includes land husbandry, irrigation, agronomy, plant protection as well as social services, he said. Noting that opportunities abound in the field, Mr. Clarke pointed out that students can realize their career potential in many areas in which agriculture is involved.
“You can become an agronomist, an agricultural engineer, an irrigation specialist, a hydraulic engineer, an electronic and computer engineer, a crop consultant, a laboratory technician, an animal nutritionist, a dairy scientist, a research scientist and the list goes on,” the Minister added. He encouraged the students, teachers and volunteers to view farming as a viable avenue to create wealth, and to take steps to access the sector’s tremendous economic opportunities.
The Minister noted that Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean continue to be impacted by environmental challenges, including rising sea levels, longer hurricane seasons and more severe hurricanes. He said it is for these reasons that the Government is seeking to introduce new technologies to young persons through the Youth in Agriculture initiative, “so that it will lead to, among other things, diversified modern farming practices, new varieties and animal strains, less soil pollution and use of more bio-energy.”
Mr. Clarke commended the Jamaica 4-H Clubs for its achievements through youth engagement in schools and communities, and applauded the 67 per cent increase in training opportunities, as well as 23 per cent growth in membership over last year. “It is my hope that the 4-H Movement will continue to grow, and that the training activities will lead to more young people becoming farmers with innovative ideas to create new products, more efficient farming and greater use of technology,” the Minister added.
Meanwhile, Executive Director, Jamaica 4-H Clubs, Ronald Blake, said the day’s activities highlighted the attainment three main goals: showcasing the work of 4-H achievers and volunteers; alignment of the programme with the strategic objectives of the Ministry of Agriculture; and the culmination of parish achievement days and comprehensive evaluation of the national programmes.
The competitions among 4-H Clubs at the parish level were held in a number of areas, including: cake baking, pig care and management, goat care, composting and potting, budding and grafting. The Expo, which attracted hundreds of 4-H clubbites, a group from the British Virgin Islands, teachers and volunteers from all parishes, featured a Healthy Lifestyle Village, 4-H Cubbies Village, an Agri-Science Technology Competition, as well as Agency displays. It was funded by entities, including the Ministry of Agriculture and the Development Bank of Jamaica.