‘Get on board’ with farming
BARBADOS IS SETTING up a time bomb for itself if it does not put a sustainable agricultural policy in place to adequately supply the country with food, says Elsworth Reid, Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture.
And this is why agriculture must be seen as the business it is, on par with any other career, he argued.
Reid made the comment at the opening of the eight-day Youth In Agriculture Programme organised by the Office of the Advisor on Poverty Eradication and the Millennium Development Goals.
He told the 35 men and women between the ages of 17 and 35 gathered at the Clapham Community Centre on Monday that the programme was not designed because Government felt there were rejects in society, barefooted people who left school without certificates and could not find a job, or to keep young people out of trouble by finding them some place to go.
Rather, said Reid, it was designed with them in mind as young people who needed the opportunity to develop an entrepreneurial skill that could give them the economic empowerment they deserved.
“A career in agriculture is just as important as a career in medicine, law, accounting or any of those other careers that some parents always say they dream of for their children. Agriculture is a business that employs a specialised form of natural sciences.”
He said a growing number of people were showing an interest in agriculture, but there was still a need for there to be a transformation in the general mindset of most Barbadians because many youth, as well as parents, still connected agriculture with slavery.
“Let me make it clear that agriculture is not a remnant of slavery and it is not a career that is only good for the barefooted and those who did not do well academically at school. It is as good an opportunity for business as any other, and parents have to stop trying to convince their children otherwise.”
Reid said if the agricultural sector was allowed to be destroyed by using arable land for housing or to be left fallow, or parents determining that children would not enter farming, there would be challenges.
Participants in the programme will deal with crop cultivation and animal husbandry.
A self-development component is also part of the package.
Undene Whittaker, Government’s advisor on Poverty Eradication and the Millennium Development Goals, said since the programme started in 2008, there had been 229 participants. And a recent exit survey of past participants showed that 108 were gainfully employed, with 24 actively involved in farming. (LK)