Rebranding agriculture
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The farm has long been negatively viewed as a place for back-breaking labour, an image running antithetical to the ambitions of many young people who imagined less laborious working lives than the recorded history of their enslaved and indentured ancestors. Young people ran away from working the soil because it lacked prestige for many of them.
However, the barrier to young people’s entry into agriculture is not bound to negative perceptions alone. Recognising access to knowledge, land, finance, green jobs, markets and policy dialogue as some of the constraints faced by young people then, some of which may still be relevant now, the United Nation’s agriculture agency, FAO, said in a 2014 report: “In developing countries in particular, facilitating the youth cohort’s participation in agriculture has the potential to drive widespread rural poverty reduction among youths and adults alike.
“While these challenges are complex and interwoven, a number of key conclusions can be drawn from the case studies: ensuring that youth have access to the right information is crucial; integrated training approaches are required so that youth may respond to the needs of a more modern agricultural sector; modern information and communications technologies offer great potential; there is a distinct need to organise and bring youth together to improve their capacities for collective action; youth-specific projects and programmes can be effective in providing youth with the extra push needed to enter the agricultural sector, and a coherent and integrated response is needed from policymakers and development practitioners alike to ensure that the core challenges faced by youth are effectively addressed.”
During the opening ceremony of Guyana’s inaugural Agri-Investment Forum & Expo, Prime Minister Mottley of Barbados, who addressed the gathering, spoke to the recognition of the dignity of agriculture workers, especially women.
PM Mottley said the agriculture sector across the Caribbean is made up largely of an ageing population. She also underscored there is a high percentage of women working in the agriculture sector, making a call for decent work for women in agriculture. “We are not going to attract new people in agriculture if the conditions of work are not decent,” she championed.
Mottley commended her agriculture minister, Indar Weir for working along with that country’s workers’ union to ensure that “after centuries of indignity and exploitation, we now have in our larger plantations and farms mobile facilities and sanitary and kitchen facilities for our women who are working in the field so they do not have to suffer the indignity that has been theirs for centuries.”
Mottley drove home the point that the ambitious agriculture sector envisioned by the region cannot be done with an ageing population. She recognised that young people are driven to technology and called for not only the infusion of technology and capital in the sector, but also for this infusion, and the potential increased entry of young people, to shift the historical experience of Caribbean agriculture into one that is satisfying so that the Caribbean region can meet not only its own food demands but also the demands of the rest of the Americas.
Luckily, Guyana is making the right steps to restructure the public view of agricultural work, build partnerships regionally and internationally for the marketing of local produce, and create avenues for young people to be build their lives and livelihoods through agricultural work.

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