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Executive Director of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs, Dr. Ronald Blake (left), conversing with students from the St. Ann-based Ocho Rios High School at the 2016 staging of the National Achievement Expo held at the Denbigh Showground in May Pen, Clarendon.
Photo: Dave Reid

The Jamaica 4-H Clubs will be introducing new initiatives and programmes in 2021 to engage more young Jamaicans in the business of agriculture.

Executive Director of the organisation, Dr. Ronald Blake, tells JIS News that the first quarter of the New Year, between January and March, will be spent training 500 youth farmers and providing them with agricultural inputs.

In addition, persons will be assisted to access government-owned lands to start farming ventures.

This is in keeping with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries’ drive to provide young people with access to agricultural land.

“We [are] also going to be rolling out a fisheries programme. We are also going to be scaling up our home garden programme… under what we call a Family and Home Garden Initiative,” he points out.

Dr. Blake says that the gardening programme is a continuation of the Home and Backyard Garden Challenge implemented this year, which encouraged Jamaicans to grow their own food.

He shares that the challenge was a success, as the initiative helped thousands of Jamaicans start their own backyard gardens.

“We had hundreds of competitors, out of the thousands of persons who would have established backyard gardens under the initiative. That was a big one for us because we got [thousands] of Jamaicans producing their own food,” he points out.

Dr. Bake further tells JIS News that the annual National Achievement Day in April, which will be staged virtually in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, will be used to “put back some energy and stimulation into youth in agriculture”.

Executive Director, Jamaica 4-H Clubs, Dr. Ronald Blake.

 

“This is where thousands of young people would normally converge at Denbigh and is the second largest agricultural event outside of the Denbigh show. We want to mimic that using an online platform sometime in April. So that’s one of the things we want to do,” he notes.

He says that the movement will also be ramping up the use of innovation and technology among young farmers.

“Out of that is going to come a challenge where young farmers are going to be competing to see which of them is going to be best able to demonstrate high levels of productivity because of innovation and technology incorporation,” he informs.

He says that focus will also be placed on empowering and training women in rural communities through an undertaking in partnership with the United Nations.

“We are going to be training them in agro-processing and helping them to start their own cottage industry,” Dr. Blake points out.

The 4-H Executive Director tells JIS News that the new initiatives, which will be rolled out throughout the year, will complement the organisation’s regular activities, aimed at training and mobilising young people in proper agricultural practices, which are critical to the development of the sector and ensuring the country’s food security.

“It is going to be a busy 2021 because we recognise that there has been significant fallout. We had previous good years in terms of youth employment but I think COVID-19 has disrupted that in a big way and I think we are repositioning 4-H to ‘mop up’ some of that unemployment out there in the agricultural sector,” he notes.

The 80-year-old 4-H movement is considered to be the leading youth organisation in the island, with more than 100,000 members.

It is mandated to provide skills training for young people aged five to 25 in the areas of agriculture, home economics, social skills, entrepreneurship, environmental awareness and healthy lifestyle.

The movement also seeks to provide a cadre of trained young leaders, capable of contributing to national development.

The National School Garden Programme, which is managed by the 4-H Clubs, teaches clubbites agricultural and environmental practices and contributes to the National School Feeding Programme.

For more information about the activities of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs, persons can visit the organsation’s website at www.jamaica4hclubs.com or call (876) 927-4050-2

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