Minister dispels ‘ANTI-AGRICULTURE’ notion and declares paradigm shift in youth interest

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Basseterre, St. Kitts, January 30, 2012 (SKNIS): Minister of Agriculture Hon. Dr. Timothy Harris has called on the general public to consider again the realities of youth participation in agriculture as he addressed persons at a handing over ceremony of a Shade House to the School Farm at Needsmust.

Senior Minister Harris said it was evident that persons were uninformed or badly advised in this regard given the statistics which reveal a high and increasing level of interest in agriculture by the youth of the Federation.

“We are regularly being asked whether young people are interested in agriculture. Today we can respond positively, sincerely and optimistically… Yes our young people are interested in a modern

agricultural experience,” said Senior Minister Harris.

He made specific reference to Stuart Versailles, who studied Agriculture in Mexico, and is now actively employed in the field and is the current President of the Agriculture Youth Forum. He also mentioned Grace Lewis and Jerome Davis both of whom studied at the Guyana School of Agriculture, as well as Crispin Worrell and Clement Gilbert who studied Veterinary Science.

In the field of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Tracey Challenger was cited as another outstanding example. Eric Browne, Ian Chapman, Blyden Brudy, Genaldo Gilbert, Lionel Stevens were all highlighted for their interest and travel to pursue careers in the field of Agriculture.

Minister Harris reiterated his Government’s policy and commitment to the distribution of land to facilitate the growth of farming in St. Kitts-Nevis.

“Let me as a member of cabinet, and a former minister of Lands, assure you our young people, that whatever policy we pursue … will ensure that our lands, sacred as they are, remain available and accessible to our people first and foremost.”

The opportunity afforded to stakeholders by what Dr. Harris referred to as “agriculture in change mode”, was one in which individuals can pursue an entrepreneurship as a viable option given the increasing economic challenges faced globally.

Young farmer

He said specifically that as the civil service is restructured, the experienced and mature persons could “use the skill sets honed by years of management in the public sector to good use as owners, managers and distributors of farms as well as to produce the outputs of agro processing entities.”

Minister of Education and Information Hon. Nigel Carty who accepted the Shade House on behalf of the School Farm was in agreement with Minister Harris in relation to the potential and role of youth in the development of agriculture. He said the rationale for the upkeep of the school farm was in accordance with his ministry’s belief that Agriculture is key.

The Ministry of Education has expended much by the way of bus transport, supplies, equipment and other resources to facilitate success of the Needsmust School Farm because we acknowledge the central role it plays in securing financially sound futures for young people.”

Minister Carty added that despite challenges the school farm at Needsmust has had “enviable bouts of success in training many young people who have made a successful transition as practical farmers.

Also making contributions at the handing over in support of youth potential in revolutionizing Agriculture were Ms. Jamella Frazer, representative of the Agriculture Youth Forum (SKNAYF) as well as Mr. Augustine Merchant Coordinator at the Inter American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and Ms. Uma Gordon, Representative of IICA offices in the Eastern Caribbean.

Ms. Gordon emphasized the critical need for interventions that attract youth to pursue careers in Agriculture to be crafted. She said that it was not that youth have an aversion to Agriculture but that persons were not sufficiently creative to exposing the merits of such involvement.

Ms. Frazer of the Agriculture Youth Forum revealed progressive plans for youth in Agriculture in addition to managing the Shade House including the construction of an interactive website for agricultural research. She also revealed a proposal to place one semi-greenhouse at all high school locations in the Federation.

In 2010 and 2011, 279 students from High Schools throughout the Federation sat CXC exams in Agriculture. Over 100 are expected to sit the examination in 2012.

The Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives was specially commended for funding the Shade House Project to the tune of US $22,000 as well as a number of other projects that would facilitate the development of Agriculture.

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