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Local farmer, Lionel Stevens shares the importance of youth involvement in agriculture


by Eulana Weekes

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Youth in St. Kitts and Nevis don’t often see a future in Agriculture, but there are many pathways to economic advancement in the Agricultural sector, said Mr. Lionel Stevens a local farmer and President of the Sandy Point Agricultural Cooperative Society.

The farmer recalled a project where grade five and six students were engaged in gardening at their respective schools a few years ago. Steven said he was the officer assigned to the Sandy Point Primary School and began to see interest from the children; but to his disappointment, the programme was only a two year project and soon came to an end.

It’s against that backdrop that an idea was born; an agriculture summer programme. It’s not common to hear about an agricultural programme for the youth during the vacation, but it is a programme that the country needs to consider, explained Mr. Stevens.

“There’s a lot of talk about food security, reducing the food import bill, and non-communicable diseases, but we have a serious gap between present food producers, where most of them are between the ages of 50 to 60. You hardly have anybody in their 20’s and 30’s planting food. So, when we find that the present farmers can’t plant any more then we have nobody producing food for us. “What are we going to eat?” This is why we need to re-educate our next generation.”

Once an agriculture summer programme is actualised, youth could become involved in various activities that support agricultural production. The farmer suggested activities such as sewing of seeds, preparing land, transplanting of seedlings, harvesting, grafting, propagation, handling of food, food processing, value addition and bookkeeping. He said four weeks should be enough time to give the youth a great start up in key agricultural practices. Stevens added that the skills taught can be harnessed and mastered and the youth could then establish a livelihood.

“I try to tell young people that, as a farmer, this is one job that you don’t need to depend on anybody to pay you; because for example, you plant pumpkins, pumpkins come, when your pumpkins are ready, you can reap pumpkins and eat. A lot of people work so that we can generate money, so we can buy food to eat, to sustain ourselves; but as a farmer, your work is to produce food and you have food to sustain yourself and by extension, to supply to somebody and generate revenue to do other things. So I keep saying to people, if we are in a position where food production is sufficient and abundantly available, then it becomes cheaper and then naturally you spend less on food and you’ll have more to spend on other things.”

The Sandy Point Agriculture Cooperative Society (SPACS) made a decision to start a program called the “Youth Agriculture Movement” but according to Stevens, it has not been actualized because the Cooperative have not received the necessary support.

“We at SPACS we have already developed a program. The name of the programme is the Youth Agricultural Movement (YAM). This idea has been shared with several individuals. In terms of getting feedback, I haven’t received feedback from a lot of people and some of these people are agriculturally inclined. They are employed by Agricultural entities, but no feedback.” The idea is basically to try and establish an after-school initiative, just like there are after-school initiatives for music, netball, football, cricket, athletics etc “Why not there be an after-school program for agriculture?” When I say agriculture it’s not just going out in the garden and basically planting. We could do culinary things, cooking. We could do agro-processing; make jams, make juice, make jellies, make cakes, make tarts and show the children how to utilise agricultural produce. So, [it can include] those who may not want to actually go out in the sun, who may have a disability. they cannot physically perform, but they can sit at home and use their hands or a machine. We can teach them bookkeeping, how to keep track of their crops etc. It’s like a club- Youth Agricultural Movement. When their products come, they can do marketing. They can set up events to promote Agriculture. They can do sensitization campaigns. So, it’s all things agriculture. That’s the whole meditation about it, so that people could see Agriculture in a different light,” said Stevens.

Having the youth involved in Agriculture is a way to get labour and ensure the preservation of the Agricultural Sector. Steven suggested a whole of society approach where parents engage in agriculture, encourage their children and also attend the youth programs when they come to fruition. Likewise, interested people can donate to the programs, by supplying funding or physical resources. The resources include seeds, seedlings, gloves, garden tools for children, hoses, watering cans, seedling trays, potting soil and potting bags, etc.

Any person who wishes to support the youth agricultural initiatives may contact Mr. Lionel Stevens at 1-869-664-2732 or email: lionelstevens29@gmail.com.


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