The three-year-old Youth in Agriculture Farm programme, which has turned out a crop of 113 secondary school students to date, is being hailed as a model that should be “widely adopted” to complement the education and training system.
This call came from deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry of Labour Yolande Howard, as she appealed for more efforts to be made to ensure food security and improvement of the island’s agriculture sector.
The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) led programme, which started with three schools in 2012 as a pilot project, and has seen an increase in the number of participants and partnerships over the years.
The eight-week intensive summer training course aims to develop knowledge among participants in sustainable farming methods and demonstrate the income potential of agriculture.
Addressing the graduation ceremony at the St Leonard’s Boys School yesterday, Howard said the challenge now was to ensure that the individuals were encouraged to continue their career development in the agriculture sector.
She also urged the private sector to continue to assist in the growth of the industry by helping policymakers identify the required skills and competencies, as well as provide internships and job placements.
“And if we wish to seriously make a dent into the reduction of our food import bill and enhance our agri-related exports then we need to have persons who are trained, skilled and competent in our agriculture and food industry,” said Howard, adding that there was still a need for a change in mind set among individuals to see agriculture as a valuable sector.
Highlighting the importance of agriculture and food security toward the development of the country, Howard pointed out the necessity of continuous education, training and development of workers in the sector, especially given the advancements in related technologies and the need for more specialised skilled sets.
In addition to gaining a Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ), ten of the participants were given special awards.
IICA representative for Barbados Ena Harvey, in congratulating the students, said the programme was contributing to the food security of Barbados and the region.
“Students who have graduated from our programme have found employment with some of the private sector companies who have partnered with us to give the students practical skills and work experience in producing organic crops, [and animal raring],” Harvey said.
The farm programme was initially designed for 25 students, however this year it welcomed 36 pupils from 13 local secondary schools, as well as participants from the Ann Hill School and two students from the Ottos Comprehensive School in Antigua and Barbuda.