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Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, Victor Cummings, has informed that the Ministry has redesigned its Youth in Agriculture Programme, “to cater for young people from all walks of life”.
He also pointed out that there has been an overall increase in youth involvement in the sector.Mr. Cummings, who was making his contribution to the 2006/2007 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives yesterday (July 26), said the new thrust to involve the nation’s youth in the agricultural sector would start “with the ones in the rural areas, progressing up to those who are pursuing or planning to study agriculture-related disciplines in tertiary education”.
The objectives of the programme, he told the House, were to promote agriculture’s role in the provision of lucrative livelihoods, the enhancement of food security and the overall development of communities and the national economy.
The State Minister said the revised programme would also undertake campaigns to market the spin-offs of agriculture.
These campaigns, he said, were aimed at “more than just creating interest in pursuing agriculture as a career”, but instead, would be accompanied by “support structures and incentive opportunities”.
This comes after the Ministry’s announcement last fiscal year of an estimated $98 million investment in Programmes for Youth in Agriculture over the next three years.
Meanwhile, Mr. Cummings, who noted that the programme was, to a large extent, “the backbone of the mission of the Ministry,” cited several achievements and new initiatives.
He said just over 462 students have successfully completed the Tractor Operation and Maintenance, and Home Economics Training aspects of the programme since its inception in 2001. He also told the House that the 4-H Clubs had experienced a growth spurt, with 9,000 more members than last year at this time.
Regarding new initiatives, Mr. Cummings said the Integrated Environment Challenge Programme received additional funding through the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica.
Furthermore, he said the Youth in Agriculture Programme has intensified its focus on several projects, including development of the Long Pond 4-H Clubs Training Centre at Chudleigh in Manchester; the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Lions Club Goat Project at Warminster inSt. Elizabeth and the Junior Leaders Project, through the United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF).
The State Minister also informed that there continued to be improvement at the youth in agriculture centres.
He reported that some seven acres of coffee and five acres of ackee had been planted at the Font Hill Centre in St. Thomas, with 10 acres of the national fruit being planted in Bog Walk, St. Catherine. He said 45 acres of land were under sugar cane and mixed crop cultivation at the Vernamfield Centre in Clarendon.
Mr. Cummings told the House that plans were in train to re-introduce bananas on a larger scale into the youth programme, adding that there were 1,500 layers at the Rose Hall centre in St. Catherine.