- When the Rural Agricultural Development Authority’s (RADA) Principal Director of Technical Services, Marina Young, commenced her tertiary education at Moscow Timiryazev Agricultural Academy (now Russian State Agrarian University), little did she know she was destined to spend nearly all of her professional career on a small island, thousands of miles away, named Jamaica.
- However, after meeting her Jamaican husband while pursuing her Master of Science in Agronomy, she relocated here in 1989.
- The first of Mrs. Young’s several roles in public service was as a Plant Protection Officer at the Plant Protection Division at the Bodles Agricultural Research Station in Old Harbour, St. Catherine, that year.
When the Rural Agricultural Development Authority’s (RADA) Principal Director of Technical Services, Marina Young, commenced her tertiary education at Moscow Timiryazev Agricultural Academy (now Russian State Agrarian University), little did she know she was destined to spend nearly all of her professional career on a small island, thousands of miles away, named Jamaica.
However, after meeting her Jamaican husband while pursuing her Master of Science in Agronomy, she relocated here in 1989.
The first of Mrs. Young’s several roles in public service was as a Plant Protection Officer at the Plant Protection Division at the Bodles Agricultural Research Station in Old Harbour, St. Catherine, that year.
Mrs Young tells JIS News that she experienced several challenges in that capacity.
“It was a hard time [from the outset] because it was just a few months after I came to Jamaica [that I was appointed to the position] and at that time my [English] language skills were almost [nil]. So [while] I had the technical knowledge [I] could not explain myself fully in English; but all of the people [with whom I worked] were very kind and helpful,” she says.
Mrs. Young subsequently served as a Virologist in the Post Entry Quarantine Facilities at Bodles before joining the Banana Board, where she worked from 1996 to 2005.
She subsequently joined the staff of RADA in 2005 where she worked as the Senior Plant Health/Food Safety Specialist at the Division of Technology, Training and Technical Information prior to being promoted to her current position.
Mrs. Young, who expresses pride in the activities that she has been engaged in since her entry into the local agriculture industry, highlights the importance of work done in relation to food safety.
“The matter of food safety is about confidence in the quality of the food… from the field to the table. It includes a lot of activities that farmers implement and RADA’s efforts with the lead of the Ministry. It is to ensure that farmers adopt good practices in terms of training in the use of pesticides, how to protect themselves and also what pesticides are approved for specific crops,” she explains.
Mrs Young points out that there have been specific programmes across the island targeting thousands of farmers.
RADA’s mainstreaming of the farmer field school is another programme that the Principal Director says she is proud to have been instrumental in undertaking.
A farmer field school entails utilisation of land as the primary resource for discovery-based learning.
“Twenty years ago, it was not very common in Jamaica or in the region. So over the last 10 years, we had an opportunity to work with our international partners, especially the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) where we have been able to develop one-stop shops within extension services for the planning, implementation and monitoring of farmer field schools,” Mrs. Young informs.
She explains that this engagement helps in addressing the adoption and adaptation of technical knowledge and skills while providing farmers with opportunities to stay in the field and learn from each other.
“The sessions see extension officers playing facilitator roles, where the topic is planned and delivered in a way that is easily understood,” she adds.
Mrs Young emphasises that teamwork has seen her being a part of these success stories.
“Jamaica is a very small country; everyone is connected, especially in this sector. So if you look at the organisational structure of RADA, there is no single manager in a particular area, it is virtually impossible to implement any of the programmes of activities without working integrated,” she says.
“Without organisational structure and strong professional relationships with my colleagues, it would be virtually impossible to be successful in implementing any project and or initiative,” she adds.
Mrs. Young notes that she is motivated when she sees the positive effect which the programmes she has been a part of implementing have on farmers.
“Creating impact in the agricultural community means that, from the beginning to the end, we are working for the farmers of Jamaica. Being in the system for over 30 years, I can see the shift in attitude and technical knowledge in many farmers over the years. [As such] you feel like you have been a part of that success because you contributed in some way, and that is the great thing because you see how people improve,” she says.
Mrs. Young adds that the character of farmers islandwide continues to inspire her.
“Farmers are the backbone of this country and I am really privileged to work with them. Circumstances such as weather events impact farms because the sector is rain-dependent, so they need to align with the traditional rainy periods,” she explains.
Mrs. Young says while the pursuit of this alignment has been elusive for farmers in several instances, “farmers are really resilient people and it has personally given me life lessons and made me learn from them, because they remain optimistic even after losing an entire crop, [while] still looking forward to the future”.
Meanwhile Mrs. Young encourages women to consider entering the agricultural field.
“If you are a person looking for a job that has no limitations and want to build your career, then this is the field for you. It is a job which will allow you to impact the lives of many by making their lives more productive,” she says.