Advertisement
JIS News

In a fast-paced world of flashy lifestyles, quick cash, and emerging new careers, especially in the area of information technology, many young persons may not see the agricultural sector as an attractive or even profitable profession.
As the world shrinks into one global village and food security becomes an increasingly critical issue for many nations, particularly developing ones, the Ministry of Agriculture, through the Jamaica 4-H Club is on a campaign to attract the younger generation to the agricultural sector. This mission is enhanced by efforts to take advantage of new technological developments, which help to drive today’s modernised agricultural industry.
In an interview with JIS News, Executive Director of the Jamaica 4-H Club, Lenworth Fulton, outlined a number of initiatives that have been undertaken over the years to encourage young persons to take up agriculture and agro processing as a career choice. “For example, the 4-H Club has a small citrus farm at Rose Hall, St. Catherine and we have trained people in citrus production. That is one of the areas that we think young persons could go into as a long term agricultural pursuit,” he notes.
Mr. Fulton points out that the citrus industry is a viable one for long-term investment, even with the availability of citrus concentrate. In fact, the government of Jamaica, through the Agriculture Ministry, has implemented a citrus replanting programme to encourage small citrus farmers to resuscitate their farms as well as to plant additional crops.
The 4-H Club is also investing in ackee, and has planted some 15 acres of the fruit since the inception of that project in 2000. “We are encouraging people, especially youngsters, if you have idle lands, invest in this,” he urged. Mr. Fulton informs that citrus and ackee are ideal for apiculture because “you benefit from greater production through better pollination”.
Leading by example, the 4-H Club has already gone ahead with its plans to go into bee production. “We have 250 boxes of bees and we aim to have 1,000 boxes in five years so we can do a revolving project with bees, to lead the way for young people. It (apiculture) works well with permanent crops,” Mr. Fulton explains.
Another viable area in the agriculture industry for young persons, he indicates, is fish farming, utilizing both tilapia and ornamental fish. Goat meat is very valuable in Jamaica, the Executive Director adds, noting that there are great opportunities for growing goat in the island, particularly on bauxite-reclaimed lands. The Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) has experts in the field, who are adept at assisting with goat rearing. “Pig farming has come back on the agenda,” Mr. Fulton says. He informs that a processing facility is being established and that the Bodles Research Station is perfecting technology to rear pig in a profitable way.Poultry has also proved to be a profitable area and the Club operates a poultry farm at its Rose Hall centre. Mr. Fulton says the Jamaica 4-H Club can assist young people to gather all the information they need on poultry farming and to evaluate the cost for a small to medium-scale poultry operation.
Turning to vegetable and food crop production, Mr. Fulton mentions a collaborative project with the Cocoa Industry Board, through which cocoa plots are established in schools and colleges. The plots are used as training areas in cocoa cultivation and will result in revenues being generated in the long-term.
Speaking about the project during his 2005/06 Budget presentation, State Minister for Agriculture, Errol Ennis, explained that 4-H members would be assisted to adopt and rehabilitate dormant and abandoned cocoa plots. “These actions will result in members being trained in cocoa rehabilitation techniques while transforming these fields into commercially viable centres within six months. These plots could eventually be handed over to graduating students to be operated on a full or part time basis,” Mr. Ennis said.
The Ministry, through the 4-H Club, also has a number of ongoing international programmes such as the International Four-H Youth Exchange (IFYE) programme where 4-H members go to the United States (US) to live with farm families and learn various aspects of agriculture. Most of these are families, which are involved in integrated farming.
In June, the Jamaica 4-H Clubs and the United States Peace Corps/Jamaica, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), to ensure the sustainability of the IFYE between both countries. The MoU establishes a framework for a lasting partnership between the Jamaica 4-H Clubs and the peace corps, which will assist in strengthening collaborative efforts in areas such as sustainable agriculture, natural resource management and rural development.
There is also the Michigan Exchange programme, through which some seven 4-H members from Jamaica are now in that state learning farming techniques. This knowledge will be taken back to the island and applied appropriately in the industry.
The 4-H Club is also working closely with the US-based company Spectrum, with the aim of raising funds for the Caribbean 4-H Council; is collaborating on programmes with Canada; and is exploring the option of developing exchange programmes with Latin American countries. There is also an ongoing programme with Switzerland as well as a successful Caribbean-based programme under which youngsters from countries such as the British Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos islands have come to Jamaica to learn agriculture techniques.
“So, we have a strong Caribbean exchange, which we are trying to develop as fast as possible, to give our clubbites here an option to go on exchange programmes and if they can’t get the visa to go to the US, then they can go to the Caribbean. It is as good a place as any,” Mr. Fulton says.
He notes that, “it takes determination and hard work to be successful. You can’t sit on the sidewalk and talk about what is not successful, you have to put yourself in it and go out there and farm.”
But words of encouragement alone are not sufficient to get the youth into the industry and in light of this, the Club has continued a steady campaign, getting its message out through a number of activities and projects, particularly through its annual achievement days.
Fourteen of these are staged annually in each parish, in addition to a national achievement day. This year’s achievement day will highlight the corn and tilapia fish in food preparation.
“We get the message across to the schools by emphasizing a Jamaican product each year,” Mr. Fulton explains. The movement is involved in another 35 projects/events per year. Brochures are also kept updated and a website has been mounted at: http://www.jamaica4h.com.
The youth organization has 12 small farms and an office in every parish as well as 22 centres across Jamaica. In addition, there are 7,000 volunteers and a voluntary council in each parish. Presently, there are 65,000 clubbites across the island. However, Mr. Fulton explains, approximately 40,000 are active at any one time. For next financial year, which begins with the start of the 2005/06 school year, a whole range of agricultural activities are on the agenda. These include: goat and pig care and management, poultry care and management, cattle judging, plant propagation, and land husbandry.
In addition to the work being done by the 4-H, the National Youth in Agriculture Committee, which was established in 1990 under RADA and then merged with RADA’s School Agricultural Programme in 1998, has implemented various activities in order to enhance youth involvement in agriculture.
The Committee has established school gardens across the island, hosted a number of educational programmes and seminars, encouraged schools to participate in its school garden revolving loan scheme and also sought scholarships for students, who wish to study agriculture.
Each year, the programme also stages several competitive events on the first days of the Denbigh Agricultural and Industrial Show.