Speech delivered by The Hon. Roger Clarke, Minister of Agriculture And Fisheries

4-H National Achievement Expo 2012 under the Theme – ‘Youth Involvement in Agriculture’

April 27, 2012
Denbigh, Clarendon

I was present for the media launch of this National Expo and I am back again for the culmination of the event. Let it not be said that we do not support our youths. The National Achievement Expo is the  result of 14 parish achievement expos usually held during the period of March and early April.

This year’s theme is “Youth involvement in agriculture for economic growth & development” which brings into sharp focus the need to engage or in our case re-engage our young people in agriculture through specific activities as well as to encourage participants to see agriculture as a viable career choice.

Each year, a particular produce is chosen and this forms the basis of the agro-processing displays. This year’s produce is yellow yam. This year’s event takes on special significance as we celebrate 50 years of independence – which calls us to focus on the agricultural sector to produce more, but not just that, to diversify our offerings in value-added activities and increased investments in the sector.

Our young people have to become a part of the industry, so that we can renew the age profile of the sector and introduce modern ways of practising agriculture.

Our young people have to become a part of the industry, so that we can renew the age profile of the sector and introduce modern ways of practicing agriculture.

The time has come for farming not to be seen purely as an occupation for those who have been in it for over 50 years. Consequently, we must re-double our efforts and extend farming and agricultural education in all our educational institutions, as well as to urban and rural youths (who are) out of school.

Organisations like the 4-H clubs and the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), will have to play an integral role in the promotion of agriculture and introduce new technology to draw attention and the Jamaica 4-H clubs is doing just that through their training programmes which provide the valuable springboard into careers in agriculture and its associated ventures

Events such as goat care management, apiculture, circumposing and potting along with those in home economics, environmental awareness and leadership skills make for future well-rounded agricultural practitioners.

The success of the revamped School Garden Programme which surpassed its target of 322 gardens in its first year tells the successful tale of our young people paving the way for food security, an issue which is of paramount importance not only as it relates to feeding ourselves, but also to reduce the nagging food import bill.

I am happy that Minister Hanna is here today to witness the fantastic things that the 4-H youth is doing with our agriculture. It is my hope that this will serve to strengthen the ties between both ministries as it relates to developing solid and workable policies for our youth. They are the ones with the ideas and we have to see how best we can make provisions for these ideas to bear fruit. I commend her Ministry for endorsing this event as part of the Jamaica 50 celebrations and I can see that by way of the Jamaica 50 village, the 4-H clubs did not disappoint.

It is my hope that the 4-H clubs will not only continue to increase its membership, but also translate its training activities into viable small business ventures for its members. I also charge the 4-H to continue to find innovative ways to create additional products. Your honey, clover peanuts and jams and jellies are well noted. Let us find ways of making them readily available to the average consumer

While your reputation is intact at 72 years, your marketability should be able to take you further beyond. I wish for you a successful expo and that as most of you will shortly exit the school system that you will make agriculture your profession of choice.