Young farmers clamour for more support
Farming enthusiasts in western Jamaica have appealed for increased investment in agriculture to attract youths to the industry and for greater emphasis on innovation and technology.
Fabian Williams, the first-place winner of the Youth in Agriculture category during Monday’s staging of the 2022 Montpelier Agricultural Show in St James, told The Gleaner that stakeholders should help to tap sustainable markets for aspiring farmers.
“Agriculture is a good investment, but you have to have the passion for it. Nowadays, three-quarters of people do not want to do farming, or even want to work, and that is our downfall right now; but agriculture is a good thing if you have the market for your stuff,” said 36-year-old Williams, who has been farming since he was 20.
“Marketing is very important, because if you cannot get the stuff sold, it is a problem. We need more marketing for our things, and the cost of fertiliser and other chemicals are going up,” Williams added.
That position is shared by 28-year-old Samantha Thomas-Myrie, a student of the Montego Bay Community College and the 2018 National Farm Queen, who is lobbying for more opportunities for agricultural education for young farmers.
“Having youth in agriculture is one of the major pulling forces of a country. So once we can get our youths involved in agriculture, we are expecting that the young people will be able to feed the country, and to feed themselves and their households as well,” Thomas-Myrie explained.
REVOLUTION IN FARMING VISION AND PRACTICES
She has called for a revolution in farming vision and practices – a clear appeal for innovation and technology as the defining factors in achieving food security.
“I believe that once we get the input, education, and knowledge about whatever venture or enterprise that we are going into, we will do well,” said Thomas-Myrie.
“We as young people are very innovative, and we find very technical ways to do things and to get things done; and that is the way the world is going now, through technology.”
That’s a departure from the traditional image of the Jamaican farmer – a middle-aged or old tiller wielding a machete or hoe in sweltering sunshine.
Both Williams’ and Thomas-Myrie’s viewpoints represent a changing mindset stakeholders have been seeking to promote in a bid to make farming an attractive vocation for Jamaica’s emerging generation.
It’s a concern for rural communities that have lost much of the youth population to urban drift – and for even those who remain, precious few have ventured into agriculture.
That development has come with grave complications for rustic districts, some of which have become nascent dens of crime, particularly for get-rich-quick schemes like lottery scams.
Among the 4-H Clubs’ initiatives to encourage youth involvement in agriculture are the National Youth in Agriculture Committee; the Rural Youth Economic Empowerment Programme, which provides entrepreneurship and best-practice training; and the provision of Youth in Agriculture Scholarships for students attending agricultural institutions.
Richard Vernon, acting mayor of Montego Bay, has called for young people to leverage every available opportunity to make the most out of farming.
“Every developed country across the world has a thriving agricultural sector, and the basis of a society is agriculture. We must be able to feed our people first and foremost, and then, from a business perspective, have enough to export,” Vernon said during his address at Monday’s staging of the Montpelier Agricultural Show.