Agriculture is a viable career choice for young people, and they must be encouraged to take “entrepreneurial advantage” of the sector.
Head of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture’s Office in Barbados, Jean Lowry, made this assertion yesterday during the closing ceremony of the Youth in Agriculture Farm Programme where 12 secondary school students were awarded National Vocational Qualifications in Amenity Horticulture, Level 1.
Explaining that the programme targeted students of the St. Lucy Secondary, Grantley Adam’s Memorial and St. George Secondary, Lowry said: “The programme was designed to work with secondary school students to encourage their participation in agriculture as a career choice, and I want to emphasise that agriculture is a viable career choice.”
She encouraged the students to look at farming as a business.
“Look at it as an enterprise, [see] see yourself as entrepreneurs trying to take advantage of those opportunities,” the IICA official stressed.
Noting that the Youth in Agriculture Farm Programme was also aimed at demonstrating the sector’s income earning potential through sustainable farming methods, Lowry said: “I do know that there is a lot of criticism that farming is tough work, it doesn’t pay very well, and it is not worth getting into, but we want to dispel that image.”
The official stated that IICA’s objectives included developing and building capacity among young people by teaching them how to use low cost agro-technologies to produce food and earn an income base.
She added that there were ways agriculture could be made profitable but this required research, understanding of the industry and time investment.
“We had hoped that by the end of this project that the candidates would have gained some confidence and knowledge necessary for starting a farm, working on a farm, or creating a project in the area of agriculture. We wanted them to gain personal and professional development through hands-on training and working with an international organisation like IICA, but also by working with people in Barbados who are specialists and knowledgeable about how things work here,” she explained.
Lowry stressed that she was “absolutely pleased” that IICA partnered with the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Council on this “really important initiative” and added that IICA was looking forward to further developing the Youth in Agriculture Farm Programme.
During the summer, 15 students from three secondary schools participated in the pilot project. They spent ten weeks training in ornamental horticulture, sustainable farming and animal husbandry.