The Caribbean is “in the midst of plenty”, yet “surrounded by scarcity”.
Minister of Education Ronald Jones, told this to young farmers at the start of a Web 2.0 Training and Exchange workshop, designed by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation and the Caribbean Farmers Network. It is being held here until tomorrow at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus.
Stating that it would take a “revolution of the mind” to change that position, Jones told local and regional participants that all researchers, scientists and agronomists needed to come forward and enthuse young people about the “bounty which exist in our midst that we need to plant, harvest and make valuable use of”.
The minister had earlier outlined to delegates that a number of fruit and vegetables existed within their countries and carried both medicinal and monetary potential, but were underutilised, or left to spoil.
Jones said the negative perception of agriculture and its workers as well as bureaucrats and politicians not understanding agriculture, had resulted in the crippling of some persons’ minds and their actions, and had contributed to the region not seeing “that groundswell of production”.
He further decried the need to import meat, like chicken, from anywhere in the world, and said to international franchise business holders here:
“There is nothing wrong in working, as an extension of your business, with our producers of good chicken and pork, to ensure you are able to use it in your final product that you are selling to the public.”
Referring to the training in Web 2.0, the minister, who also has responsibility for science, technology and innovation, said once farmers were online they could use the tools effectively to showcase their work, production and talents to the world. He noted that social media, through the use of Facebook and instagram, could allow them to promote produce, although there were inherent dangers of praedial larceny, where others “without conscience or soul” could take their labour and add value and dispose of them.
Jones urged the young farmers not to let this deter them from reaching beyond their own country, especially with primary production.
“You have to now merge your understanding of agriculture, the science of planting, and technology with the new knowledge, the new systems, new human endeavours and behaviours… With the other part of your life so that they conjoin,” he said.
The minister lamented that statistics were not always recorded on crop production, and farmers didn’t always “keep books”, although there was now the availability of simple spread sheets.
“You are a critical cog in the new way forward [that requires] an understanding of how to bend technology to more effective use… Use the technology to share what you are doing, to make your work more effective and efficient,” stressed Jones, adding that there were so many tools out there for farmers to build a simple website.