Minister of Agriculture, Dr. David Estwick is concerned about the lack of respect and the demeaning manner in which the agricultural sector is perceived by the wider Barbadian community.
He told farmers gathered at the Barbados Agricultural Society’s (BAS) Annual General Assembly at the Grand Barbados Beach Resort last Saturday that the sector must move beyond its perception as a "fork and hoe" activity, to one where the community recognises its invaluable contribution to the national economy, the environment and the island’s aesthetics.
To this end, Dr. Estwick revealed that his Ministry would soon design and employ a public relations strategy which would seek to re-educate Barbadians about the importance and value of agriculture to the advancement of the island.
According to him, the programme will target the youth and highlight the opportunities available in the sector, embrace cross-border investment and provide an environment which will encourage focus on research and development.
"This project will expressly aim to capture the interest of the younger generation, utilising all the available forms of media. Indeed, even the education system, which in recent years has been de-emphasising agriculture, must play its role in ensuring that the youth have access to programmes."
Dr. Estwick said his Ministry would undertake several projects aimed at encouraging the involvement of more youth in the sector.?? He outlined that this would include the promotion of modern agricultural programmes within the educational system and the provision of scholarships.
The Agriculture Minister also called on local farmers to be more forthcoming with information which would assist the Ministry of Agriculture to better plan programmes and policies to support the sector.
"I, along with others within my Ministry, have realised that there is [a] tendency among the local farming community to stifle the circulation of information and for individuals to hoard this knowledge. Without sound and reliable data, we cannot plan effectively for the advancement of the agricultural sector," Dr. Estwick firstname.lastname@example.org