Government is moving apace in its bid to engender youth participation in agriculture through exposure to the available technology.
According to Minister of Agriculture, Senator Erskine Griffith, the idea is to expose students to agricultural technology from as early as possible in order to highlight the benefits wrought through its usage, as well as to promote the industry as a financially viable employment option.
In this vein, Senator Griffith said the Ministry was about to embark on a collaborative programme with the Ministry of Education to develop programmes utilising various types of technology for schools which have .agriculture on their curriculum.
In the case of the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic (SJPP), Minister Griffith explained that the programme would involve the use of greenhouse technology. He also cited hydroponics as one of the other areas which would be utilised.
“The aim is to allow the students to grow up using the technology, so that when they leave school and want to get involved in agriculture, it would not be a question of now being trained in the use of technology, because they would have come up using it.”
Minister Griffith also revealed that further educational assistance for youth would come through the Home Agricultural Project. He said the final designs for this state-of-the-art facility had been handed over by an Israeli design team who recently concluded talks in Barbados.
The Home Agricultural Project will be available on a lease basis to students from the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic and the Barbados Community College among others. It will be a fully-integrated facility featuring a greenhouse; state-of-the-art pig pens; sheep pens for production of black belly sheep as well as a bio-digester, which will utilise the waste from the pig pens to generate electricity.
Adding that the project proposal was expected to go before Government’s Planning and Priorities Committee (PPC) on November 2, Minister Griffith said once clearance was given, construction would commence immediately and should be completed in eight months.
“We have already identified some of the young persons who will be involved in the project. The Israelis will, however, manage it for a while to ensure that it is well –established and functioning profitably,” Senator Griffith explained, noting that a similar project was due to be established at Bath, in St. John, as well as a livestock component at Greenland,St. Andrew , for students with an interest in livestock production.
In addition, the Minister noted that issues of access to land and finance for young prospective agriculturalists would be placed on the Ministry’s ‘front burner’ in an effort to make the industry more attractive to youth.
“The Land for the Landless programme is, therefore, very important, because it is through this programme that we are helping to provide youngsters with access to land. It is one thing to have a desire to farm, but it is another to have the wherewithal to farm …” he underscored, charging that the Agricultural Development Fund and the Rural Development Commission had an equally important role to play in providing finance, as did the various incentive schemes offered by the Ministry.
In reference to the farming community’s willingness to embrace technology, Minister Griffith said he was “quite satisfied” with the progress being made, with many persons gradually putting up greenhouses, wind tunnels and other technology-based facilities.
“Among the younger farmers there is a lot of enthusiasm for the technology. There has also been a gradual change among the older farmers through their recognition that by making full use of the (available) technology, they would be able to improve their operations,” he concluded.
The programme to enhance the skills of young people in agriculture forms part of Government’s overall objective to make the sector more viable and attractive to a wider cross section of Barbadians.