Youth Agri-preneurship Programme moulding the future of agriculture
Tue, 04/26/2016 - 12:00am
“Taking proactive steps towards the agriculture industry, where a variety of jobs are made available [to help] reduce the unemployment rate amongst young persons,” was the encouraging advice from Permanent Secretary, Esworth Reid in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management (MAFFW), during a recent interview with The Barbados Advocate.
Reid stated that, “In the Caribbean the population of farmers and those in agriculture are [decreasing]. Most being over the age of 60. It is important we replenish the agriculture sector. We are encouraging and pushing young persons to become involved in the agriculture industry. Not only as a source for employment, but as a source for entrepreneurship whilst reducing the 33 per cent unemployment rate in young persons in Barbados between the ages of 16 and 35.”
He further acknowledged, “It is vital we push entrepreneurship. It will help to alleviate the belief and mindset of persons that agriculture is just about using forks, hoes and other tools because it is more than that. Agriculture is a science.”
It was also noted that now, young persons’ becoming interested in agriculture are university graduates. They see the importance of agriculture and are approaching it from an academic perspective. At a higher level to the so-called ‘barefoot uneducated’ people.
Reid emphasised, “Young persons are interested in innovative ideas with the use of agricultural produce. One such way is the value added chain. A process where persons make products such as soaps, creams, oils and condiments from primary agricultural produce.”
The main reason, he pointed out, that we are pushing young people towards agriculture is to stimulate interest in this extinct sector and broaden the perspectives of parents and grandparents. Agriculture is not a poor persons thing. Secondly, it is food security which is very important because we need persons to fill the void created by older persons leaving. This will ensure we have a source of food in the future.
“We want to engage young persons of all ages. We are going into schools and working with the community. A noteworthy organisation is the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation (BEF) who has agreed to join forces with us to encourage young persons to become involved in the agriculture sector,” he stated.
“We are embracing the interest being shown and encouraging all the young persons to be involved. We are not turning away anyone because once the interest is there it needs to be encouraged because they are the future of our agriculture sector. Hence the reason why we are also encouraging persons to become interested in aquaculture and fishing. The two which comes under the portfolio of the Ministry because food security not only includes plants but fishing as well,” he further pointed out.
Leslie Brereton, Senior Agriculture Officer in Charge of Climate Change Unit noted, “We do not only have an aging population of farmers, but we also have an aging agriculture technical staff at the Ministry.”
The importance the Youth Agri-preneurship programme will fuel the minds of young persons exposed to all facets of agriculture. Whether through livestock, crops, hydroponics, agroponics and even economics. Young persons’ wanting to further their studies in agriculture is one that will benefit Barbados and aid in the promotion of helping the nation not only through food security but food and nutrition security.