Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Haynesley Benn

Government is seeking to develop a new class of high-tech young farmers and distributors to assist in the further development of the agricultural sector.

Word of this has come from Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Haynesley Benn, a proponent of the 4H movement, and, by extension, youth involvement in agriculture.

According to him, during this fiscal year , Government is expected to guarantee loans totaling Bds $15, 000, 000 to the Barbados Agriculture Management Company Limited (BAMC) and the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC) to provide a range of modern amenities including greenhouses, shade houses, tunnels, irrigation systems , cooling rooms and vehicles for transporting produce.

“The focus is on increasing productivity and making the agricultural sector more attractive, especially to our young people,” he explained, during a recent address to the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic’s Agriculture Division’s 5th anniversary Awards and Dinner.

Noting that for a number of years the sector had seen “marked decreases” in the number of persons which it employed, Senator Benn observed that it was also characterised by an aging farming population with younger persons opting for “what seems to be more lucrative sources of employment.”

“In an effort to address this situation, the Ministry of Agriculture has sought to identify a number of strategies and programmes designed to encourage the youth to have greater involvement in agricultural activities,” he said. “Foremost among these, is the establishment of model farms to facilitate the undertaking of research and production activities, as well as training in agricultural practices. Such activities would be conducted through well-structured programmes.”

Minister Benn pointed to to the ongoing discussions between his ministry and the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development, regarding the development of more effective, technology-driven, agriculture curricula to be instituted at Government’s tertiary educational institutions. “Arrangements to strengthen relationships and linkages with the existing tertiary institutions to ensure that young people can see a future in agriculture, as a worthwhile, satisfying, and rewarding vocation are being pursued,” he underscored.

Senator Benn added that partnerships and alliances with other territories and research institutions with similar interests would also be strengthened and new networking arrangements established, in order to facilitate the pooling of resources and avoid duplication of efforts.

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