The Youth Agri-preneurship Incubator Programme (YAIP) is achieving its objectives.
This was pointed out today at the awards ceremony and launch for the first cohort of the programme, held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
Project Manager with the programme, Kareem Payne, while noting that food security, climate change and youth unemployment continued to be issues regionally and internationally, applauded the Ministry of Agriculture for moving to address these through the conceptualisation and implementation of YAIP.
Addressing the 20 youth and personnel from the business and agricultural sectors, Mr. Payne said: ???At its core the Youth Agri-preneurship Incubator Programme seeks to address the problems of youth unemployment, youth participation, the negative perception of agriculture among the youth, climate change and food security.???
The Project Manager had earlier noted that, in the space of approximately 30 years, agriculture had moved from contributing approximately one third to the Gross Domestic Product of Barbados to approximately one tenth. He said if nothing was done to curtail and arrest this situation, the island could be vulnerable to external and natural factors.
???While there have been tangible reductions in the contribution of agriculture over the years, part of the most damning and critical change has been the intangible change in the perception of agriculture by the citizens of Barbados, which unfortunately has been passed on to the current generation and is seemingly being passed on to the next.???
The YAIP, he stated, was an extremely important programme for Barbados, which he hoped would be duplicated on a large scale in other territories. In the four-month programme, the youth were taught organic farming, science and technology, business development, and research. They were also exposed to a wide variety of agricultural concepts and techniques and encouraged to embrace and recognise agriculture as a science.
The Project Manager said he was highly encouraged by the results of the group and the positive impact the programme made on some students. ???I am extremely happy to report that 12 students of the first cohort decided to come together and establish a business eco-growers to officially begin their quest towards becoming agri-preneurs,??? Mr. Payne said.
Further commending them on a journey which required perseverance, commitment, determination and the right mindset to succeed, he assured the youth that the Ministry and project team of YAIP would be there to lend support.
He highlighted two outputs of the programme, the establishment of a demonstration farm and an agricultural cooperative for the students. Stating that work on the first had already begun, Mr. Payne said it was envisioned as a place for students to practise concepts and techniques learnt. He added that it would eventually be established as an official agri-tourism and training site to facilitate tours by schools and all interested parties.
Pointing out that the Ministry had already begun to make provisions to ensure the cooperative had access to land and funding, he said its establishment should encourage students to continue to work together and increase the likelihood of each becoming an agri-preneur.
Assistant Project Coordinator, Brian-Lee Chandler, said the Ministry had achieved its objective by empowering young people who are now equipped to transform the agricultural sector in Barbados. He told the young agri-preneurs that they had the potential to solve problems facing the sector, such as food security and climate change, and could contribute significantly to the social and economic development of the nation.
Stating that the modules taught were expected to advance the sector and reposition the way agriculture is currently perceived by the general public, Mr. Chandler stressed: ???This programme is important because it has the potential to create value chains, reduce the importation bill, provide opportunities via the use of new technologies, to network regionally, and moreover reduce non-communicable diseases.???