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Bright future for farming - Sector reports 40 per cent increase in youth training

Published:Monday | August 7, 2017 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Not quite the young farmer but this little girl was caught on camera taking a ride on one of the sheep on display at the Denbigh Agricultural Show.

A 40 per cent increase in the number of youth being trained in areas of agriculture, signals that farming and other options in the sector, are no longer frowned upon, but are becoming a viable economic option for youth, according to Dr Ronald Blake, executive director of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs.

Speaking with The Gleaner following the 65th annual staging of the Denbigh Agricultural show in Clarendon, Blake indicated that the sector has seen tremendous improvement in business ventures and entrepreneurial options, which has become more evident in the last three years.

"The 4-H movement is growing by about eight per cent per year. What we have seen in terms of opting for agriculture at the tertiary level, is a 40 per cent increase and this is attributed to enrolment at CASE (College of Agriculture, Science and Education). What we have also seen is the constant increase, over the last three years, in the number of young people entering farming," he declared.


More youth entering


"This is data that we have derived from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority database, as well as the agricultural census. We are also seeing where the farming population of Jamaica is becoming more educated and that's because more and more youth are entering the profession, and these young people have at least a secondary education," he continued.

The executive director also noted that while more sensitisation is needed, the future presents exciting and new advances for the agricultural sector.

"We have seen an incremental increase in the number of farmers with tertiary training. But the macro indicator is the fact that the average age of the Jamaican farmer is no longer 60 years old. Based on the 4-H initiative, we are able to pull that down and we are now at 47. 8 per cent (of the 60-year-old age group). It is among the lowest in the world," Blake told The Gleaner

"There is no truth that young people are no longer interested in farming. The universities, they are now seeing tremendous business opportunities in the agricultural sector and the good thing is, we have a number of government-funded programmes that are now able to facilitate and support persons who wish to pursue these areas," he said.