A future in agriculture

sheepskinFor agriculture in Barbados to prosper it is a must that young people get involved in the business.

In an interview with Barbados TODAY at the unveiling of the Barbados Blackbelly Sheep logo held at the Pelican Craft Village this morning, Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Lennox Chandler, emphasised though that he believed more public education must be done for this to occur.

He said that while there were now far more opportunities for young people to find rewarding careers in the food and farming sector, these possibilities were being under utilised. He noted that not even the “youth in agriculture” programme established by the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation was being exploited by young people and he was convinced that this was as a result of them believing the sector was only about “fork and hoe” and not something they should aspire to.

“I wish to state here that the Ministry of Agriculture … is very conscious of the importance of engaging our young people in agriculture and promoting agriculture as a viable career choice… The problem, however, with agriculture and farming is that people think it is for stupid people,” he said.

“I had a number of career choices when I was young. I worked at the [Barbados] Central Bank, I studied accounting but I always had an interest in the outdoors plus I came from the countryside… To study agriculture at university you have to have certain qualifications which include advance level chemistry and biology, that is not something the average person walks around with.

“There is a future in agriculture, people have to eat food all day and everyday…, but because of the link, the throwback to slavery, where African slaves were used as tools in agriculture, that is why people believe that is what it is all about, but really it goes way beyond that.

“Agriculture is not about slavery. There is a link, but they are two different things. There are slaves working in mines, drilling for oil, slaves making clothes, so slavery could be a part of any industry. It is not synonymous with agriculture,” said Chandler.

He also advised that there be more of a focus in meshing technology with agriculture in Barbados to grow the sector since “nobody is going out there with any fork or hoe”.

“It is amazing that way back in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries people were talking about the removal of the hoe and fork from agriculture — people were focussed on technology. Here in 2013 we are still talking about the use of technology, but we haven’t been able to make that transition.

“If you look at trades, for example, like carpentry and masonry we have developed tools for carpenters; nail guns, power saws, power drills, but in agriculture there is nothing like that … to remove the drudgery from agriculture. If you don’t, the young people will not come on board to take on agriculture as any serious career choice.” (KC)

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