Deputy Mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Richard Vernon has made an impassioned plea for more young Jamaicans to get involved in the agricultural sector.
Addressing the opening ceremony of the Montpellier Agricultural and Industrial Show at the Montpellier Showground on Monday April 18, 2022, Councillor Vernon said young Jamaicans have over the years disinterested in agriculture, resulting in the farmers all growing old at once.
Councillor Vernon said “over the years, we have seen a large percentage of our farmers growing old, retiring or even giving up agriculture and there is very little interest from the younger generation to continue the legacy. Youths need to play a greater role in the sector. It is against this background that I encourage the youth to take up the government grants, land and capacity development offers, to bolster agriculture and fill the gaps in food production. For agriculture to be sustainable, youths must be fully engaged, not because they can’t find jobs, but because they take it as a primary business”.
In dispelling the myth that money cannot be made from agriculture, the Montego Bay Deputy Mayor said “Agriculture is no longer a pastime or domestic practice, it is a global business. In fact, with so much arable land in Jamaica, the unemployment rate should be very low and as a country, Jamaica has the capability of sustaining its agricultural needs and supplying produce to the Caribbean region. Great wealth to include generational wealth can be achieved from agriculture”.
He said the time has come for the Jamaica Agricultural Society to “change gear” and return to basics where the youth are engaged through 4-H Clubs and for unattached youth to seek out and make good use of the various financial support that are available to the sector.
Councillor Vernon said “I urge the JAS to change gear; we need to have at least 80% of our agricultural sector in the 3rd revolution. I urge our youths to get involved in 4-H clubs and especially those who are dubbed as unattached, to take up the government grants and farming opportunities. Chopping some produce is safer and more sustainable than chopping the line. Our schools need to get serious about agriculture. It should be taught as a science course, but also as a business course. I call upon the youngsters of our wonderful country to roll-up their sleeves and get involved in the agriculture sector which is critical to safeguarding the country’s food security and increasing growth in the sector.”
Meanwhile, Councillor Vernon said the time has come for Jamaican farmers to become climate-smart if they want to ensure that the sector becomes sustainable. This against the background of Jamaica being very susceptible to the effects of climate change.
He said “the agriculture sector is very vulnerable to climatic shocks, especially flood and drought, and in many cases, it is the hardest sector to recover from negative impacts. Therefore, in making the sector resilient, I encourage farmers, especially those here in St. James, to utilize more climate-smart technologies and practices to minimize crop loss as we continue to experience more frequent and extreme weather events. Get with the government’s capacity building programmes, be smart in the way you prepare land, plant and grow crops and the manner in which you rear animals.
Councillor Vernon said through its Local Economic Development, LED programme and working with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, RADA, the St. James Municipal Corporation is moving to give support to residents of the parish who are interested in agriculture.
He said “agriculture can create and build generational wealth and will continue to play a major role in the government’s strategies aimed at protecting and strengthening the nation’s food security and our local economy. The STJMC will be dedicating a portion of its Local Economic Development Grants to developing the agricultural sector during this fiscal year.