A senior government official believes that more young Barbadians would show an interest in agriculture if they were exposed to the "ins and outs" of the sector at an early age.
Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries, Industry and Small Business Development, Dr. David Estwick, made this point during a recent interview with the Barbados Government Information Service, lamenting that the number of schools which teach agricultural science had steadily decreased over the years.
"If you look at the school curriculum, very few schools have agriculture as an actual [subject]…what they need to do is not only teach children about [the rudiments of agriculture] but that it is a business. Teach them the marketing and financial sides but they must also understand that the potato chips that they eat come from a vegetable
grown somewhere, or even the corn curls they eat, someone has to plant the corn. ??All the things that they use, they must now see an opportunity for them to produce," he said.
Dr. Estwick suggested that one of the ways to capture more young persons in agriculture was to redesign the training being offered. In this regard, he revealed that plans for the establishment of a new agricultural training institute were at a critical stage.
"In consultation with the Ministry of Education, we are looking at setting up such an institution at the Hope Plantation. We are reasonably far along in terms of the evaluation and design. Once you have that type of structure in place, it means you can set your curricula in place to gear younger persons toward that type of activity, that is, agricultural production as a business option," the Agricultural Minister pointed out.
Dr. Estwick maintained that efforts to capture the interest of young Barbadians have not reaped much success over the years and his Ministry would be seeking to better promote the opportunities available in agriculture to community groups.
He pointed out that there were a number of small grants available for community oriented agricultural activities and within this financial year, his ministry would work towards creating an avenue for such groups to take advantage of these opportunities.
"My Ministry is committed to creating a window for community groups from St. Lucy to St. Phillip, who wish to get involved in agricultural production and training [so that they] can come and access those funds through the Ministry and this is another way I believe we can pull a lot of younger persons into agriculture," the Minister maintained.
According to Dr. Estwick, another major challenge to getting young persons involved in agriculture was its perception, that is, backbreaking work with little gain. He contended, however, that this was not the true picture of the sector, as there were several local success stories of some Barbadians doing well financially from agriculture.
"When persons go to a career showcase and you show a child that you are only planting yams and eddoes and you don’t make a connection to all the other [processes involved in agriculture] … so the child cannot get a true understanding of the value and what could happen…then you are doing the sector a major injustice," Dr. Estwick emphasised.