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Deputy Chief Agricultural Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Charleston Lucas (FP)??

Barbadian youth have been receiving some advice as to how they can "cut their teeth" in the local agricultural sector and some of the requirements for a successful career in the field.????

It has come from Deputy Chief Agricultural Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Charleston Lucas, who suggested that if the sector was to regain its former glory, then a cadre of young, skilled Barbadians could provide the injection the industry needed.

Speaking at the launch of the fifth phase of the Youth in Agriculture programme at the Ivy Community Centre, The Ivy, St. Michael, he said the involvement of more youth would aid in the sustainability of the sector as stalwarts would be able to pass on their valuable skills to a younger generation.

"Why do we need the youth involved? Because of the ageing population of the labour force in agriculture. The average age now is about 60 and for any industry to be sustainable we need an influx of young people, persons taking over from the older folks and learning the trade and carrying it on," the agricultural official observed.

The Youth in Agriculture Programme exposes young Barbadians to the theoretical and practical aspects of the agricultural sector, as well as assists in the development of business, social and life skills.

Mr. Lucas gave the young audience some tips on how to prepare for life in agriculture, noting that first and foremost training in the discipline was necessary for a successful career.

He said the Ministry was cognisant of the need for relevant training and reiterated government’s commitment to providing support for institutions such as the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic, the Barbados Community College and the University of the West Indies.

The agricultural official also revealed that plans were still in train for the establishment of an agricultural training facility in St. Lucy, which would offer practical education in the field.

Financing was another area which he touched on, stressing that it was one of the most critical aspects of starting a business.

"In terms of finance there are two institutions there – the Rural Development Commission (RDC) and the Agricultural Development Fund. The RDC gives small loans up to $50,000, while the Fund gives larger loans of up to $100,000. For the latter, you must ensure you have a proper project proposal to make sure the project is viable," he underlined.

In addition, Mr. Lucas said government had provided the sector with a number of incentives and rebates in an effort to make it more attractive to Barbadians.

"There are a wide range of incentives for persons in agriculture, whether production, distribution, marketing…

There are a number of incentives and concessions within the Ministry’s incentives programme which you can access to help you move forward if you want to start a small enterprise."

He added, however, that in order to access such incentives, persons must be registered farmers and this could be done at the Ministry of Agriculture’s headquarters at Graeme Hall, Christ Church.

In terms of technical support and advice, the Deputy Chief Agricultural Officer stated that the Ministry’s extension officers were there to provide assistance, while persons seeking access to land were encouraged to speak to officials at the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC) about their Land for the Landless Programme.

"[Through this programme] government lands and some private lands are leased to persons who have no land or who have small plots of land but want to get involved in agriculture on a larger scale," he explained.

Mr. Lucas said a major complaint of local farmers was the inability to have their lands cultivated and to this end, the Ministry, through the BADMC, would be implementing tractor cultivation services to assist farmers. Under this programme, he explained, tractors would be made available for hire to cultivate farm lands throughout the island.

He noted that government had also heard the cries of farmers about the high costs of agricultural inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides and the Ministry was working to tackle this issue.

"The government has sought to address this problem by instructing the BADMC to source these inputs from overseas, probably in bulk where you can get them at reasonable prices, so that we can pass these on to the farmers. They have started already at the 4H Seed Store in Crumpton Street…," he pointed out.

Mr. Lucas said even though there would be many obstacles in the path to agricultural success, he urged the participants to remain dedicated to their vocation.

"Now that you have been provided with the opportunity and have made a choice to become stakeholders in this important industry, all that remains is for you is to be fully committed; not only in agriculture, but in whatever you do. When things get rough, you must not just drop out. It is only through commitment that you will stay the course. You must also work hard. These are the rules for success," he concluded.

andre.skeete@barbados.gov.bb

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