Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Pearnel Charles Jr says that the sector needs the energy and innovation of the youth to be stronger, more sustainable and globally competitive. Additionally, he shared that students must appreciate their value beyond the institutions of learning, noting that they should “think outside the box and start to create and innovate”.
He was addressing students of the Knockalva Polytechnic College on April 27 at the second staging of the Farm Fest Agricultural and Educational Show.
The event was held under the theme, ‘Re-Imaging Agriculture for Sustainable Development.’
“I want more Jamaicans, more youngsters from Knockalva Polytechnic College and others to become inventors, designers, innovators. Start thinking about the challenges we are having in agriculture and challenge yourself to resolve them. Create pathways for new technologies,” he urged.
“We must introduce, and not just talk about the different types of drone technology, remote sensing, water efficiency, soil fertility mapping, and other things that are going to cause us to produce more,” he added.
Charles Jr. said the Government recognises that engagement of the youth is fundamental in re-imaging agriculture for sustainable development, and measures have been put in place in this regard.
“Government has policies that dictate that we must include our youth in at least 20 per cent… of what we are doing. So, if we are giving out leases, we ensure that the youth … are among at least 20 per cent or more of beneficiaries. If we are divesting… if we are building out other programmes, we want our youth involved,” he noted.
“It is a smart policy (as) it acknowledges that the only way for us to go forward is to …have the (future) generation trained, excited, motivated and energised to transform our agriculture sector into what it must be in 2030 and beyond,” he pointed out.
He further charged the students to make use of the training opportunity to prepare themselves for leadership in the sector.
Farm Fest was held as part of Knockalva Polytechnic College’s 83rd anniversary celebrations and in recognition of Farmers’ Month in April.
The first staging of Farm Fest in 2019 was well received, but the event was cancelled in the following years due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Principal of the college, Natalie Thompson, said that among the objectives of the event were to advance interest in agriculture, encourage the acquisition of knowledge about agricultural practices, and challenge trainees and staff at the institution to embrace their role in the attainment of the national goals for sustainable development.
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