Students from several secondary schools across the island assembled at the Home Agriculture Station in St Philip to showcase their Youth Farm Crop Production Open Day.
The initiative which is sponsored by the Inter-American Institution for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) was a two-month intensive programme where students learned occupational health and safety in the workplace, how to use hazardous substances and got their hands dirty as they planted beans, lettuce, Chinese cabbage, cucumbers, tomatoes, cassava and sweet peppers.
Today, which was their last day of teaching assignments as they prepare to launch their agribusiness week from Monday, August 26, 2019, they allowed Barbados TODAY and members from IICA to see firsthand what they had learned on a brief tour around the facility which ended with a farmers market.
Technical Specialist IICA and National Caribbean Vocational Qualification Coordinator, Training and Assessment Centre Dr Roxanne Waithe told Barbados TODAY the initiative has existed since 2012.
“The purpose of the IICA Youth Farm Summer Programme is to help young people who are doing agricultural science in schools to think seriously about agriculture as a career. We find that they would take agricultural science as a subject and then it meant nothing to them beyond having to undertake four or five CXC’s in school. So, the purpose of the programme is to teach them more about the income-earning aspect of agriculture. How do we do that? We have three cohorts depending on the candidates’ level of interest. We have a cohort doing NCVQ in livestock rearing, we have a cohort doing their CVQ in aquaculture and what you are partaking in today is our crop production cohort. Each group has, on average, ten candidates but we have 14 candidates for crop production, ten for livestock and seven for aquaculture,” she said.
The coordinator of the IICA Youth Farm Summer Programme said another mandate was to ensure young persons saw the finances to be earned from the agricultural sector.
“We show them the income-earning opportunities from cash crop farming. Over the past eight weeks they grew lettuce, Chinese cabbage, cucumbers, things which grow in six weeks in a cash crop kind of environment, and hopefully, some of them would take this skill to earn income beyond school,” she said.
Waithe told Barbados TODAY she stressed to the students the importance of being able to feed themselves in a country that has a high food import bill.
“Everybody has to eat whether you are a doctor, a lawyer or a policeman. Everyone has to eat. So there is money in food. The second thing is, if you grow your own food you would not have to pay as much as you would in the supermarket or buy imported food. Thirdly, when you get imported foods, they are not as fresh, and the quality is not as good as if it is locally grown and homemade. So, we told them that from the beginning and they understand the importance of growing their own food not only to reduce some of the money spent on food but also to contribute to the [reduction of] imports we have coming in from overseas,” she said.
Following the tour and demonstrations, students were treated to light refreshments which showed them the many ways they can use their crops in tasty Barbadian dishes.