Jamaican Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, has called for greater involvement of young people in agriculture.
This comes against the background of what he says are “worsening” global food insecurity challenges being experienced by many countries, which is compounded by the economic crisis.
Speaking at the handing over of a refurbished poultry abattoir at the Garvey Maceo High School, at Vernamfield, in Clarendon, on 1st February, Mr. Clarke said that in the face of these developments and as Jamaica finds itself grappling with issues such as job losses, the nation must “look to agriculture as a means to our prosperity.”
“I am of the belief that, without food, we will all die. And I have always said that as long as people have to eat to live, agriculture will survive. It is a way of life for many people, and like any other job, requires time and energy. It is, in fact, one of the foundations of any society, because it facilitates the nourishment of the society, provides employment and generates wealth,” the Minister argued.
Mr. Clarke said statistics published by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in its global employment 2012 report ‘Preventing a Deeper Jobs Crisis’, pointed to a serious employment challenge of creating some 600 million jobs over the next decade.
Additionally, some 20 million youth, aged 15-24 years, were among the unemployed during 2011, and this cohort was “disproportionately” among the “working poor.”
He said the report also noted that as the number of young people withdrawing from the workforce continues to rise, there was little hope, on the present course, for a substantial improvement in short term employment prospects for young people.
The Minister informed that a 2007 agricultural census showed that only six per cent of the local farming population was under age 25, while the 25 to 35 age cohort accounted for only another six per cent.
“What this tells me is that we are not attracting enough young people who possess vim, vigour and vitality, in the sector. This government and this Minister want that to change. I am making a push for these young people to be engaged in agriculture, because we cannot have a sustainable industry without their input. Their involvement gives me hope that the sustainability of the sector is in good hands,” the Minister said.
Mr. Clarke urged students at Garvey Maceo High, especially those involved in agriculture, to give consideration to starting their own business, instead of just “looking a job,” when they graduate.
“Farming could be the start to your own independence and wealth creation,…be entrepreneurs. I charge you, the young ones, to achieve excellence in whatever you do, irrespective of the odds. If you become a doctor, be an excellent one; if you become a teacher, be an excellent one; if you become a farmer, be an excellent one. Because it is only when we achieve excellence in whatever we do, that we will be able to compete and co-exist in a harsh global world,” Mr. Clarke stressed.
The poultry abattoir at Garvey Maceo High School was refurbished through a US$10,000 funding facility provided by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) from its Telefood Special Fund (TSF). This facility aims at assisting grass-root level projects in developing countries, by providing direct funding assistance to groups engaged in small agricultural projects.
By Douglas McIntosh,