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Senator Norman Grant has criticized, what he describes as, the “very limited youth involvement” in the regional agricultural sector.
“Surveys among farmers’ organizations across the region indicate that the average age of farmers is increasing and, in most cases, is above 45 years old; the majority being over 60 years old,” Senator Grant said.
The Opposition Senator was speaking to the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) about the recent Caribbean Farmers Network (CaFAN) “Youth in Regional Agriculture” workshop at the Grand Beach Resort, Grenada, January 25-28. Senator Grant is Chairman of CaFAN.
He claimed that the lack of youthful interest has been triggered by negative perceptions about agriculture and farming among young people, in the region. However, he says this will have to change, if the sector is to become a key economic earner.
He said that the state of the economy represents a protective factor for the young, when it provides well-paid jobs, career development opportunities and resources for social services, but changes into a risk factor when it represents uncertainty and vulnerability for youths.
“Caribbean economies are small and are very vulnerable to economic and natural shocks, which the region often has difficulty in enduring. In this context, the social exclusion of youths, in the form of limited access to labour markets, goods and services and social protection programmes, is a rick factor,” Senator Grant warned.
He is encouraging CARICOM leaders to bring together top level regional agricultural officials, in a bid to chart a new course for the ailing sector. He said that over the past three decades regional Governments have not given agriculture the level of focus and funding it needs for an effective transformation.
Over 40 young business farmers and agro business leaders from 13 Caribbean countries took part in the workshop, which planned the way forward in regional agriculture development, from a youth perspective.
It was part of CaFAN’s overall agricultural development strategy, to inject young leadership into its network of over 500,000 farmers, and to get more young people involved in the sector, Senator Grant explained.
The workshop was organized in collaboration with Grenada’s Marketing and National Importing Board (MNIB), the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA-ACP-EU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
CaFAN is a regional umbrella organisation for national farmer organisations across the Caribbean. Its mission is to enhance Caribbean food and nutrition security, foreign exchange earnings and foreign savings, by repositioning agriculture through the capacity building of farmers and the institutional strengthening of the farmer
The Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), of which Senator Grant is the former President and current Vice President, was represented at the work shop by Odean Bradshaw, the 2009 National Farm Queen.