Agri opportunities, challenges discussed at NOW Nestlé Caribbean Youth Summit

GREEN HANDS: Agripreneur and founder of NGO WhyFarm Alpha Sennon, centre, who spoke at the NOW Nestlé Caribbean Youth Summit held on October 5-6. FILE PHOTO –

FOOD security challenges in the Caribbean can be alleviated by getting more young people involved in agriculture.

This burning issue which touches on aspects of gainful employment of young people, harnessing the vast potential of young people and youth-oriented agripreneurship as a means of reducing TT’s annual food import bill took centre stage at the NOW Nestlé Caribbean Youth Summit held on October 5-6.

Food security – challenges and opportunities – was looked at in detail during a panel discussion titled: How Agripreneurship is transforming the Caribbean, which focused on the steps young people should take to become entrepreneurs in agriculture and how to deal with and overcome challenges in this field of endeavour.

Agripreneur and founder and executive director of WhyFarm, Alpha Sennon, said the motivation behind him starting this NGO (non-governmental organisation) was to give a facility to the country’s youth to learn more about agriculture, food and nutrition and ways the youth can contribute towards TT’s food security.

He said people often view agriculture as unappealing which was why many young people no longer gravitate towards this field as a career. He said WhyFarm is dedicated to helping change the negative stereotypes surrounding agriculture and help young people become aware this is is a viable career option.

NESTLÉ READY TO HELP YOUTH

Nestle TT Ltd manager, Agricultural Services, Herzen Graham, advised young people wishing to enter agriculture, to map-out the resources available and have a clear end goal.

He said people have issues with acquiring funding for start-up agri-businesses but added that Nestlé stands ready to assist with a series of programmes tailor made towards bringing intent and dreams into reality.

“Nestlé helps new entrants by offering pre-packaged solutions. We achieve this through having strategic partnerships with financial institutions within the market,” Graham said.

He said the company offers a dairy development programme geared towards developing the agripreneur.

“The programme is built on helping farmers through four pillars, feeding and forage, animal fertility, animal health and the farmer’s financial management capacity.”

University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) Professor of Biosciences, agriculture and food technology, Marvin Knights, advised young people interested in new farming methods, to speak to people already engaged in greenhouse, hydroponics and aquaponics industries.

Knights said addressing food security issues, maintaining bio-diversity and helping one’s neighbours are good motives for youth to get involved in agriculture.

STUDY THE PROS & CONS

“We have to appreciate that agriculture is more than just the fork in the land, you have so many different roles and responsibilities when you get into this field,” he said.

He said agripreneurs provide food and nutrition but also have a responsibility towards the environment and the welfare of animals.

Agriprenuer, youth advocate and CEO of Acato Farms, Bevon Chadel Charles, advised on the importance of sustainable farming since it helps the ecosystem. Charles said as a sustainable farmer she is mindful of her profit and production but also of the environment.

“The diversity of our ecosystem here can be damaged just by the different crops we plant. Research and know the type of operation you want to get involved with including the pros and cons.”

Minister of Youth Development and National Service Foster Cummings said as the global economy evolves and entrepreneurship becomes a new normal, young people are becoming adept at non-traditional forms of employment.

He said the Government has channelled through the ministry significant financial resources towards advancing youth development particularly in the field of agriculture. “It would not only boost the economy but also enhance food security.”