Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Floyd Green, says there needs to be a comprehensive repositioning of agriculture among the nation’s youth, including how it is presented in the school system and, by extension, viewed by society as a lesser career choice.
Addressing the launch of a Youth in Agriculture Roadmap, at the Ministry in Kingston on November 12, the Minister noted that along with creating a Youth in Agriculture Policy, which would address some of the long-standing issues that face the youth in agriculture, such as access to land and funding for agriculture, marketing and information about the industry, the issue of how agriculture is taught in schools will also have to be addressed.
“There also has to be a bigger approach and a bigger rethink, and a part of that rethink will have to start in our education sector,” he said.
“Agriculture is not a secondary profession. It’s not a fallback profession. It is not something you do if you don’t have anything else to do. We need agriculture to be given pride of place in our education curriculum and not just to be taught to our students on the basis of primary agriculture,” the Minister emphasised.
According to Mr. Green, the agriculture curriculum must also epitomise the agri-business push that is needed in the society at large.
“So, we want more of the business of agriculture, the dollars and cents of agriculture, the cost of production, the markets, how you write your business plans, how you look to value-added [products] and how you look to agro-processing,” he added.
Given the current reality, the Minister said the agriculture curriculum has to directly address climate change, innovation and technology.
“We want our young people to leave secondary schools choosing agriculture, saying that I want to be a farmer,” Mr. Green said.
“So, this rethink of youth in agriculture means that we will have to take a relook at how we position agriculture, how we position the sector and a realisation that the sector is a business and that we need our young people to choose the sector,” he added.
The Ministry, he noted, has already formulated a programme to help in this area, which will see successful farmers sharing their stories.
“Nothing inspires participation more than inspirational stories of success, and, unfortunately, the reality is, oftentimes when you hear stories about agriculture and farming you hear the sad stories,” Mr. Green shared.
However, he said part of the Ministry’s job is to share the farmers’ success stories, so that young people can know that there is a bright future in farming.
In the meantime, the Minister said he is happy about the pending changes and the ones that are taking place now, such as the newly launched Youth in Agriculture Roadmap.
“We are excited about rethinking youth in agriculture and we are especially excited that young people can now have a physical document and also can go online on the 4-H website and access a roadmap that can point you in the right direction,” he said.
The Minister commended Executive Director of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs, Dr. Ronald Blake, and his team for putting the map together, and suggested that the organisation consider a 4-H application, where youth could access all their information along with the roadmap on their smartphones.
The Youth in Agriculture Roadmap, which was prepared by the Jamaica 4-H Clubs, offers a comprehensive guide to farmers, and youth who are interested in farming, on wide-ranging issues.
These include educational institutions offering training in agriculture, scholarships, careers in agriculture, farming networks, guidance on accessing land and funds for agriculture businesses, marketing, and farmer registration.
The document can be accessed in electronic format on the Jamaica 4-H Clubs’ website and its social media platforms.
It is also available on the social media platforms of the Ministry and its agencies – Rural Agricultural Development Authority, Agro-Investment Corporation, Jamaica Agricultural Society, and HEART/NSTA Trust.