CARICOM SG announces establishment of Youth in Agriculture Council

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CARICOM Secretary-General, Dr. Carla Barnett, on Friday announced the establishment of a Youth in Agriculture Council that will comprise youth farmers from all Member States and Associate Members.

“We are … pleased to announce that we have just recently established a Youth in Agriculture Council, with the sole objective of providing a structured path for youth participation in the Region’s 25% by 2025 regional food bill reduction initiative. This Advisory Council is made up of young farmers from across all 15 Member States and five Associate Members. We are truly excited by this initiative and look forward to the Council being an active partner in the Region’s drive to achieving food and nutrition security” Dr. Barnett said. She said young people are the key to the total transformation of the Region’s agri-food system and added that the Council will provide opportunity and scope for youth to have an input into national policy that supports the agriculture sector in Member States.

The Secretary-General made the announcement as she launched a social media campaign on youth in agriculture during an hour-long virtual event anchored at the CARICOM Secretariat in Georgetown, Guyana.

The ‘I am Agriculture: Youth in Agriculture’ social media campaign comprises a series of videos showcasing the successes of youth agri-preneurs in the Region. The campaign is being conducted by the CARICOM Secretariat with support from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).

The campaign comes at an opportune time against the background of the renewed emphasis on sustainable agriculture in the Region; the acknowledgement of the importance of youth in the sector; the goal of reducing the food import bill by 25 percent by 2025; and the bleak results of a series of surveys the two organisations have undertaken on food security and livelihoods in the Region.

“Facilitating youth participation in the agriculture sector will provide much needed employment opportunities and will also help to drive innovation and growth.  And, of course, the resulting benefit to our individual countries and to our Community will also grow.

“We can be optimistic since the agri-food sector possesses significant development potential not only to generate ample, decent and gainful opportunities for our youth, but also as an avenue to unleash their entrepreneurial spirit,” Dr. Barnett said.

She pointed out that fundamental to the transformation of the sector is the embrace of digital innovation which can lead to a range of new high-demand and highly paid agriculture professions in areas such as smart agriculture, online platforms, extension and marketing applications, GIS and drone technology, and agriculture data analytics.

“These are areas that are calling on our youth, who already have an easy affinity with technology, to take advantage of the opportunities presented. I urge you, the youth, to become involved in this dynamic new agriculture in our Community,” the Secretary-General said.

Ambassador David Prendergast, Director, Sectoral Programmes, Directorate of Economic Integration, Innovation and Development at the CARICOM Secretariat, welcomed the participants to the launch. He pointed out that the campaign is aimed at showcasing exciting testimonials of youth in agribusiness, farming and the agri-food sector, and is part of the efforts to achieve the 25 x 25 goal.

Amb. Prendergast extended appreciation to the WFP adding that the Community places high value on its support.

In his remarks at the launch, Mr. Regis Chapman, WFP Representative and Country Director, said the campaign is part of the efforts to not only reduce food imports, but to “develop and expand creative initiatives to increase demand for local foods to encourage healthy diets and combat non-communicable diseases and obesity, while supporting local and sustainable agricultural production.”

Noting that the interest of youth in agriculture and agro-processing in the Caribbean is a “positive”, he encouraged young people to continue to be ambassadors for the agriculture sector in the Caribbean. “You hold the key to food security in the region and you have the support of the World Food Programme moving forward,” he said.

Mr. Chapman added: “The young farmers and agripreneurs featured in this campaign are a signal that there is an interest in agriculture, and I call on regional leaders and development partners to develop that enthusiasm and support youth like you to embrace agriculture as a viable career.”

Four young agri-preneurs – Amber Turner of The Bahamas, Dr. Vikas Gobin of Guyana, Kyle Nicholas of Saint Lucia and Anastasha Elliot of St. Kitts and Nevis – who are featured in the campaign, shared their views during the launch on how the sector can grow and become more attractive to young people, highlighting the need to project agriculture in a more appealing way, and emphasising the ways in which innovation and technology can be used in the sector.

The I Am Agriculture; Youth in Agriculture videos are being posted weekly on CARICOM’s social media platforms as well as those of partner organisations.

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