Add agri to CXC exams, says RADA manager

HAUGHTON COURT, Hanover – A Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) official has suggested including crop cultivation in exams as a way to get more youngsters interested in agriculture.

“I personally would like to see where a student who is doing CXC, for argument’s sake, starts a crop like bok choy. In six weeks they can reap that crop. They start from site selection, land preparation, sowing the seeds and taking it from the seed stage right up to the table in terms of their practical experience,” stated RADA parish manager for Hanover, Raymond Reid.

“I think they would appreciate agriculture better watching a seed that you plant from start to finish,” he added.

If he had his way, agriculture would be taught from the early childhood level up to high school.

“We have to find a way to get the younger generation involved in farming. I am seeing where we have to do a lot more outreach. Maybe we have to start introducing agriculture on a more rigorous scale in the schools because right now we are not seeing where the youngsters are gravitating towards it,” Reid told the Jamaica Observer.

His comments came on the heels of concerns expressed by state minister for agriculture, Franklin Witter, that Hanover has seen production decline over the last 10 years. Witter included climate change among the various factors that have contributed to this decrease but he also spoke of the need to tap into the “significant potential” that exists for agricultural expansion in the parish.

“That will see greater sustainability for farmers and their families,” he stated.

Witter was addressing the opening ceremony of the Hanover Agricultural Show, held at the Bioprist Complex last Friday.

Citing data provided to him by the National Land Agency and the RADA extension office, the state minister said there are approximately 4,500 hectares of arable land that are not being utilised. He noted that some of these lands have access to both good road networks and water.

“This is why Hanover is looking to undertake a structured agricultural development programme to drive sustainable production and productivity,” said Witter. “As an industry, we remain committed to providing our farmers and fishers with the tools, training and resources that are necessary for them to do what they do best.”

While the issue is being looked at Reid, who took charge of RADA operations for Hanover in 2019, strongly believes youngsters can make a change. He pointed out that it is the older residents who are keeping the industry alive in the parish.

Reid pointed to the variety of employment opportunities in agriculture including farm managers, teachers, engineers, soil and plant scientists, economists and sales professionals, to name a few. He stressed that the sector is a lot more than the stereotypical view of manual, hands in the soil labour.

The 4-H Club has also been doing its part to encourage the residents aged five to 35 to look at agriculture as a viable career choice.

“Throughout the year we have exposed 16,836 young persons to training in agriculture, agro-processing, leadership and other skills. We have 39 school gardens and through our rural youth economic empowerment programme, we have engaged young persons to start 23 agricultural businesses,” said 4-H Club Regional Manager Sandra Ramsay.

She added that there are other projects such as livestock and urban gardens from which young people are benefiting.

Then there is also the exposure the sector gets from the annual show. Jamaica Agricultural Society parish manager for Hanover, Kameil Scott, who launched the event in 2016, said the show aims to give people an incentive to go into and/or continue with farming.

Hanover, which now has 8,536 registered farmers, is known for the production of yam, ginger, turmeric, pimento, breadfruit, Scotch bonnet pepper, and livestock (cattle, poultry and small ruminants). The parish is known for the famous Lucea yam.