The Government has launched a $10-million agricultural aid programme to train more than 80 young people in technical agricultural skills and provide services to hundreds of farmers across the island.
Participants in the programme will be recruited through the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment programme and trained by HEART/National Service Training Agency Trust, and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).
The programme will last for three years and will engage people under 35 with training for six months at different intervals. They will be paid $11,000 weekly from funds set aside by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
The participants will be certified as agricultural assistants after they complete the training.
Addressing the virtual launch of the programme today, portfolio minister Floyd Green said it is crucial to ensure that there is a “nexus between our young people and agriculture” and for the farming sector to thrive.
“We have crafted a programme that will allow us to extend our extension services while training our young people in the fundamentals of agriculture, to ensure that the sector goes forward,” the minister said.
He said that the participants will be helping with data gathering, as the ministry wants to be driven by the best data available for its decision-making, and they will get the up-to-date technical training to identify issues faced by farmers and “feed them to the extension officers”.
Green said that at the end of the programme, the ministry intends to create a pool of “preferred applicants” from which RADA can choose future extension officers.
“We expect that some of them will transition into using that technical expertise to set up their own farms, or to expand their farms. The agricultural aid programme is really a springboard for our young people, to boost farming,” the minister said.