Youth involvement and interest in agriculture continues to be welcomed by the Agriculture Ministry.

This was made clear today by Minister of Agriculture, Dr. David Estwick, as he addressed the award ceremony for 20 young men and women who successfully completed the inaugural Youth Agri-preneurship Incubator Programme (YAIP) of the Ministry, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

Dr. Estwick stressed that the sustainability of the agricultural sector was critical to the country???s economic development and food and nutrition security.

He noted that older farmers had gone out of production and said the future of the industry would be in doubt if young people did not become involved to replace those ageing members of the farming community.

Commending the YAIP, the Agriculture Minister said he was heartened to see many young persons getting involved in the sector. He continued: ???In 2008, the average age of persons in Barbados actively involved in agriculture was over 50 years. Based on the records of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, the average age of registered farmers in 2015 was 38 years.

???This is indeed very encouraging and I would attribute this partly to the intensified efforts of the Ministry to encourage younger persons to pursue agriculture and training programmes provided by the Government and non-governmental organisations.???

While acknowledging that the country had not yet reached ???the Promised Land???, Dr. Estwick reminded those gathered that young people would not perceive agriculture as a career unless convinced it was an economically viable and intellectually stimulating pursuit.

???To this end, the Ministry seeks not only to strengthen the infrastructure necessary for sustainable agriculture, but to attract the younger generation to the sector by communicating a more positive and attractive image of agriculture, including the use of modern-day technology and equipment,??? he remarked.

The Minister added that through YAIP, the Ministry had sought to assure participants that the sector had the potential to provide several employment opportunities in food production, marketing, processing, catering, veterinary services, land and marine fisheries and the like.

He further expressed pleasure at the strides made through numerous efforts – for instance, the Ministry???s Food and Nutrition Security Campaign, with its familiar slogan, Grow Well, Eat Well, Live Well, Right Here in Bim. He said this had been reaping considerable success with its School Gardening Competition for primary and secondary school children.

The Minister also praised the development of agricultural programmes at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic , the Barbados Community College and the 4-H Foundation. The Royal Commonwealth Society???s Sir Clifford Husbands Agricultural Chlallenge; the Youth Farm Summer Programme of IICA, was among others lauded.

Despite these, Dr. Estwick noted that higher levels of commitment and allocation of resources were still required and he disclosed that his Ministry, in an effort to ensure agriculture was considered as a career choice, would shortly be meeting with officials of the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation.

He said they would be seeking to address agricultural curriculum development and to ensure that the curriculum in schools adequately meets the employment needs within the agricultural sector.

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