Officials at Caribbean Week in Agriculture 2018 are convinced that agriculture can help to reduce the Region’s worrying youth unemployment rate.
Joblessness among young people in the Caribbean stands at 30%, compared to a global average of 13%. Youth need work and the agriculture sector needs all hands on deck, but those in charge of creating a sustainable industry concede that agriculture is simply not attractive for young people. CARICOM Secretary General Irwin Larocque says this must change. He says upcoming generations need to view agriculture as a viable option for a secure livelihood.
“CARICOM places great store on improving the technological and business foundation of the region’s agriculture. It is necessary that our agriculture food producers adopt modern technology and that new market opportunities are identified, along with appropriate incentives and policies, as we seek to ensure the viability of our agriculture sector,” he said.
Larocque says youth must never be left out of any dialogue on the future of agriculture.
“There must be incentives for our youth so that they can participate in agriculture in greater numbers, to help alleviate the challenge posed by the ageing farming population. There must be supportive mechanisms to foster innovation among the youth and to create an enabling environment for decent employment.”
Director of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) ACP-EU Michael Hailu told reporters in Barbados that the sector suffers from an image problem, with many young people viewing it as hard labour with little pay.
“While agriculture presents a great opportunity for youth, those trying to enter the sector face many barriers, ranging from limited access to land and credit, to lack of appropriate skills and supportive policies,” he said, adding that “the drive for innovation and the attraction of new technology that we see among the young, can be a catalyst for their engagement in the sector, Digital technologies can provide a potentially profitable entry point for youth, with the added benefits of boosting productivity, profitability and increasing food and nutrition security.”
The CTA Director says over the last several years the organization has supported more than 800 young Information Communications Technology entrepreneurs, particularly through the Pitch AgriHack competition, which provides business development training grants and access to investment for start-ups. Several young entrepreneurs from the Caribbean continue to benefit from this programme.
Caribbean Week in Agriculture 2018 took place in Barbados from October 8th to 12th, under the theme “Strengthening Agriculture for a Healthier Future in the Region.”
Those attending the premiere event on the region’s agriculture calendar say a more concerted push is needed to ensure that youth view the sector as attractive for employment.