Scholarships and programmes such as the Youth in Agriculture Farm Programme, where students can earn Caribbean Vocational Qualifications (CVQs), will greatly benefit Barbados??? agricultural sector in the future.
This view was expressed recently by Minister of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development, Senator Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, at the awards ceremony for this year???s Youth in Agriculture Farm Programme at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic.
She underlined: ???Not only will [the Youth Farm Programme] provide skills to enhance the employability of our young people and cultivate their interest in agriculture, but it will also help to encourage their awareness and consumption of healthy local foods, which can translate into a reduced food import bill and a reduction of diabetes, hypertension and other chronic illnesses that result from an unhealthy diet and lifestyle. This is extremely important as we seek to increase the productivity levels of our workforce.???
Senator Byer Suckoo also expressed her pleasure with the growth of the programme over the last few years. ???When I first addressed this awards ceremony in 2012, there were 15 students from just three secondary schools and then in 2013, 21 students from seven secondary schools. This year, 31 agriculture students from nine secondary schools participated and they have all gained their CVQs in Amenities Horticulture Level 1,??? the Minister said.
Several students also took a keen interest in entrepreneurship and the Labour Minister advised them to register their businesses with departments such as the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) and the Barbados Revenue Authority.
???I know it may seem cheaper not to register and it doesn???t seem important when you???re young and strong but before you know it, you will be getting up in age. You will start taking more sick days and if you are not registered, there will be no coverage for those days.
“I see a lot of people reach pensionable age and then realise that they have not saved enough for pension, nor have they registered with NIS, so they are forced to turn to welfare. I want to advise you to register, because in the long run, if you are injured or when you retire, you would realise that you need that protection and the benefits far outweigh the costs,??? she advised.
This year, students Ishara Williams and Romario Cumberbatch received scholarships to participate in the Caribbean Permaculture Research Institute Programme, aimed at the development of sustainable and self-sufficient agricultural ecosystems. Other students received special awards for showcasing excellence and leadership throughout the course.
The Youth in Agriculture Farm Programme was organised by the Technical and Vocational Educational and Training Council, in collaboration with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture Office in Barbados and the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation.