Jamaica’s Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, JC Hutchinson, says the active engagement of young people in agriculture can turn them away from a life of crime.
Relating his own experience, Hutchinson informed that 20 unattached and vulnerable youth in his north west St. Elizabeth constituency, whom he provided with supplies to start their own ventures, have now become successful farmers and entrepreneurs.
“I provided them with seeds, fertiliser and spraying material and they had land beside the Black River, and I provided them with a small pump and I asked, ‘will you go and cultivate and they said ‘yes’. They started cultivating and today, it is the most peaceful area in my constituency,” he noted.
“Not only that, but these 20 young people, for the last four years, they have been having a cook-out where they provide food for the shut-ins and the underprivileged within their community,” he said.
Hutchinson said support is available for vulnerable youth, who want the opportunity to become farmers, and they can start on small plots of land available in their communities.
“Crops like Irish potato, ginger and pepper can be grown on small acres and so we encourage young people to look to farming such crops for employment and income generation,” he pointed out.
The 4-H movement, with more than 110,000 clubbites, has provided over 273,000 training opportunities to 105,000 youths in the 2016-2017 period and established about 568 school gardens. Hutchinson noted that through the National Irish Potato Programme grant assistance has been provided to youth up to 35 years old and women, who have shown interest in planting the crop.
The forum was hosted by the Canadian Government-funded Promotion of Regional Opportunities for Produce through Enterprises and Linkages (PROPEL) project.
The CAD $100 million initiative, which is being implemented by World University Service of Canada (WUSC) over six years, aims to increase the value of Caribbean fresh produce accessing high-value markets in the Caribbean and internationally.