JIS News

The Jamaica 4-H Club is seeking to boost its membership in the coming year, by targeting and providing training for unattached young people to increase their chances of securing a job.
Youngsters being targeted include those not employed or attached to a school or other training institution, explains Linton Barnes, Field Service and Economic Development Officer for the 4-H movement.
Training will be provided in areas such as agriculture, home economics, food hospitability, tractor operation and maintenance, floral decoration, in addition to leadership and life skills and community development.
He tells JIS News, that inasmuch as the club has a registered membership upwards of 50, 000 persons spread across the island, “we would like to reach out to more youngsters and we think we are making and can make a significant contribution in changing the whole sort of social ills that we [Jamaica] have.”
He notes that, as part of the process, “we are looking on the expansion of the 4-H community clubs and to capture that age group of individuals who are unattached.”
Community groups are among the affiliate bodies that comprise the total number of 4-H clubs, which currently is in excess of 600. Other clubs can be found in churches and schools, and these account for the majority. Members are required to be aged between nine and 25 years old, and are placed in junior and senior clubs, accordingly.
With the mandate of the 4-H Club being to train youth in various character building and practical disciplines, Mr. Barnes notes that several leadership training and development programmes are hosted over the course of a year to empower the junior (clubbites) and organisational (adult) leaders.
He says that these training programmes are funded through the subvention received from the Ministry of Agriculture as well as from donations made by public and private sector entities. He estimates that it costs somewhere in the region of $2 million to host the training programmes on an annual basis.
Pointing to community clubs, Mr. Barnes explains, “we have these training programmes where we teach [community club members] leadership development so that they can undertake development in the community, form community projects, and lobby for development on behalf of the community.”
Furthermore, he adds, “we teach them project writing and development so that this will assist them in identifying projects that will benefit the community in terms of income generation, and gaining skills.”
Mr. Barnes notes that leadership training and development programmes are conducted at different locations around the island. “We have what is known as parish advisory councils in each parish so the parish officer works along with the parish advisory council,” Mr. Barnes informs, further noting that, “these groups come up with the needs of the club in the parish and they also seek the venues for training, so training might be done at a church, at a community centre, at a parent’s home, on a farm, or in our 4-H training centres.”
The 4-H Club has 12 training facilities across the island, which are used as both production and training centres. Citing the Rose Hall centre situated in Linstead, Mr. Barnes says, “there we have poultry unit layers, we have citrus, a bit of vegetable growing including organic vegetable production and also the building is used as a human resource training centre both for 4-H staff and people in the community.
“We try to generate income so that these centres are self-sustaining. The emphasis though is not on income generation but on training. That is the purpose of it but we do generate some amount of income from them.”
In respect of the schedule of training programmes, he tells JIS News that each parish submits a programme that will take them through the year, and the 14 parishes are combined to make a national programme. “There are some areas that are emphasised by head office and that goes down to the parishes and are included in their programme. The club year starts in April, and this is considered one of the slow periods because of the exams and children going off on holidays. But on average, each parish should have a minimum of 30 training sessions,” he says.
The Field Service and Economic Development Officer is enthused with the results of the training programme and happily reports that in terms of community clubs, “we see an increase in participation in community activities, with people coming up with feasible project proposals.” He adds that other successes of the training programme has been manifested through the increase in the number of young persons enrolled in 4-H Clubs at tertiary institutions such as the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) in Portland. “The student, having left that institution or other tertiary institution, are usually involved in the clubs in the community or at the school level,” Mr. Smith says.
He explains that the training is designed to empower the youngsters, adding that, “the leaders, who are mainly teachers attached to the schools, also assist the youngsters in getting training materials, organise training sessions, and getting resource persons from the community so that these youngsters are trained. So the programme that we run, we empower these leaders and other persons to pass on information.”
As for the challenges that currently face the 50-year old institution, Mr. Barnes tells JIS News, “our greatest challenge is not having enough financial resource to deal with our programme.”
He notes that apart from the club’s direct membership of 50,000, “we interact with twice or three times the amount of persons, and we are not able to fund our programmes as we would like to because of the scarcity of funds.”
The movement also wants to attract more volunteers. “We rely a lot on voluntary service,” Mr. Barnes continues, “and although our volunteers have been working very hard.we would like to involve more persons but for whatever reason, we have not been able to attract the number of persons we would like to, to give voluntary service”.
These are issues, Mr. Barnes says, that the 4-H Club will be seeking to address in the future. In the meantime, he is issuing an appeal to donors from the private sector to assist in whatever way they can, whether in cash or kind.
The involvement of donors, he explains, can work towards expanding the 4-H Club’s training programmes “so we can reach more youngsters, so we can give them the type of training that will help them to be useful citizens, who can contribute to the building of society.and the type of leadership that they can carry to the community so that they will build the community and cut down on the type of social ills that we have.”

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