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Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has reiterated the call for more young Jamaicans to consider agriculture as a viable career, in order to ensure food security, against the background of an aging farming population, and increasing concerns about climate change.
He was speaking at the World Food Day National Ceremony and Exhibition, held at the Manchester High School in Mandeville, on Thursday, October 16.
Noting that the average Jamaican farmer is approximately 50 years old, Dr. Tufton told the audience, “We want to expose you because we hope that by doing that, all of you will take agriculture and food production seriously, but we hope some of you will leave the school system and say, I think – I want to become an agriculturalist”.
He stated that the National School Garden Programme, is one of the initiatives devised by the Government to encourage young persons to not only develop an early interest in agriculture, but also to learn methods of farming suited to the preservation of the environment.
“We want in every institution, in every school, a school garden, and the reason is simple- we want you to start exposing yourself, to start looking at what agriculture is about, by exposing you early. We want you to know what it means to grow something, what it means to handle it, to take care of it,” he said.
Minister Tufton said it is critical that all persons become engaged in the drive to ensure the country’s food security, stressing that careful attention would have to be paid to the methods employed in the farming process, as the emphasis should not only be to provide food, but to also do so in a manner, which would protect the environment.
Further destruction of the environment, he stated, would automatically complicate the issue of food security.
“What we are trying to do is ensure that we don’t contribute to a climatic condition that is going to impact on our food security – for example, soil erosion from the way we practice agriculture. The natural environment is being eroded…we are building a lot more houses, we are polluting the environment, which is why the climate change issue is so important,” Minister Tufton added.
At the ceremony, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) awards were presented to the Caribbean Research and Agriculture Institute (CARDI) and Johnson’s Organic Rescue, for work done in the area of climate change and food security, while Jamaica Greenhouse Growers Association, was awarded in the area of bio-energy and food security. Sligoville All Age, Mannings High and Sydney Pagon Agricultural School, walked away with the top prizes in the School Garden Competition. In the Backyard Garden Competition, Theophilus Martin of Mineral Heights in Clarendon, was adjudged the overall winner.
World Food Day was observed under the theme, ‘World Food Security, the Challenges of Climate Change and Bio-energy’.
According to the FAO, climate variability, the severity and pace of climate change, is presenting new challenges to how food is produced, stored and utilised around the world.