–Agriculture Minister says change needed to better equip youths for careers in agriculture
THE Dr. Irfaan Ali-led administration has signaled its intention to make agriculture in Guyana more youth-oriented as part of its plan to further develop the sector and maintain food security.
According to a press release from the Agriculture Ministry, the government has called on youths and women to be actively involved in agriculture, as systems are being put in place to make the sector more attractive to the country’s youth.
In the past, many young people with agriculture-related qualifications did not pursue agriculture as a profession due to it being categorised as a labour-intensive sector. Despite this, President Ali and Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha have been engaging youths across the country to develop initiatives that would see more youths actively involved in agriculture.
Earlier this year, the Head of State launched the Agriculture and Innovation Entrepreneurship Programme, which saw the government through the National Agriculture Research and Extension Institute (NAREI), constructing shade houses and offering technical support to youths for the cultivation of high-value crops such as carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower.
Additionally, President Ali, while at the launch of the Black Belly Sheep initiative, said that some 35 per cent of the farms must have youth involvement; that is, people below the age of 35.
Minister Mustapha met recently with a team from the South Carolina State University, which is in Guyana meeting with various academic bodies with the hope of establishing international institutional linkages within the local agriculture sector.
During the meeting, Minister Mustapha indicated that the government was working to better equip young individuals who wish to pursue a career in agriculture. He also said that the government was working to make the sector less labour-intensive and more profitable.
Keeping in line with the government’s plans for the sector, Minister Mustapha said that the ministry was looking to revamp the curriculum of the Guyana School of Agriculture.
“The Guyana School of Agriculture is one of Guyana’s premiere agricultural learning institutions. As a government, we want to make the curriculum more relatable to our policies and the direction agriculture is heading regionally and globally.
“I think there is room for improvement and that some collaborative effort should be put forward to achieve this goal. We need to ensure our young people are taught that agriculture is a business and are given the necessary tools to thrive as budding agripreneurs,” Minister Mustapha said.
Highlighting that the University’s Agribusiness Programme focuses on the marketing and distribution of food and fiber products and the unique characteristics of the food and fiber sector of the U.S. economy, Minister Mustapha said that GSA’s curriculum should also focus on similar areas in the context of Guyana’s agriculture sector.
Since its establishment in 1963, GSA has produced some of the Caribbean’s most outstanding leaders in the area of agriculture such as the current Premier of Montserrat, Easton Taylor-Farrell.
The team, which comprised Dr. Williams Whitaker, Acting Dean, and Dr. Haile Selassie, Professor of Agribusiness and Economics at South Carolina State University, are also scheduled to meet with the head and other officials of GSA.
Other officials who are part of the delegation are Dr. Maria James, Acting Chair for the Department of Family and Consumer Science; Dr. Moreen Joseph, Assistant Professor of Nutrition; Dr. Learie Lukc, Associate Professor and Director within the Office of International and National Student Exchange Programmes, and Ms. Odeidra Williams, Director of Public Relations for the College of Agriculture and Family and Consumer Affairs.