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Grooming future farmers

Agriculture must be seen as an important means to helping this country overcome the current economic challenges it is experiencing.

This was the assertion of Education Officer for Technical and Vocational Education at the Ministry of Education, Henderson Wiltshire, when he recently addressed students and officials of the IICA Youth Farm Programme at the headquarters of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture at Baobab Towers in Warrens, St. Michael.

“Farming is still a viable option in Barbados. It is even more critical at this juncture with our high import bill. So it is definitely important that it is seen by all, not only students, but by all of us, as a way to help our country overcome these harsh economic times,” he stressed.

He said the initiative was a collaborative effort of the IICA, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Council.

Fifteen students from the Grantley Adams Memorial School, the St. Lucy Secondary School and the St. George Secondary School are participating in the inaugural IICA Youth Farm Programme. Over the summer vacation, the students will receive practical training in Ornamental Horticulture, Sustainable Farming, Animal Husbandry, Pest Identification, Soil Fertility Management and Starting an Agri-Business.

During the programme, the students would be assessed against occupational standards for a National Vocational Qualification and IICA certification.

Wiltshire added that the IICA Youth Farm Programme was designed to get more young people intimately involved in agriculture.

“Through this project, along with technical and vocational education and training, we can overcome these economic challenges successfully,” he said.

Moreover, the education official praised the students for participating in the initiative.

“It is important as young people in this programme that you see agriculture, whether it is crop production or animal rearing, as a career. The exposure you will receive will give you great [hands-on] experience on farms and that is priceless. The IICA Youth Farm Programme gives you the opportunity to acquire knowledge, skills and more importantly attitude,” he advised.

According to him, many employed persons did not possess attitudes that are up to standard.

He continued: “You now have the opportunity to practice employability skills, those soft skills that are so important to functioning effectively on the worksite because you will learn to be punctual, problem-solving and how to work as a team.”

He maintained that the students should feel privileged to be part of the IICA Youth Farm Programme because they were gaining not only experience but NVQ certification as well.

“There can only be one first, so we hope you students will be empowered to move onto higher grounds,” Wiltshire said. (SP)

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