Minister of Youth Development and National Service Foster Cummings speaks with participants of the Youth Agriculture Homestead Programme at the orientation on Friday at the Government Campus Plaza Auditorium in Port of Spain. – PHOTO COURTESY THE MINISTRY OF YOUTH DEVELOPMENT AND NATIONAL SERVICE
Minister of Youth Development and National Service Foster Cummings said the ministry has launched a Youth Agriculture Homestead Programme (YAHP) for people aged 18-35 to improve the country’s self sufficiency in terms of producing food.
At the programme’s orientation on Friday, at the Government Campus Plaza Auditorium, Richmond Street, Port of Spain, Cummings said it received 1,400 applications but, because of space, it could only accommodate 200.
He added that YAHP will become an annual programme and hopes it will grow to give more interested people a chance.
He said the ministry’s aims are to provide job and housing security, since candidates will also be given a starter home on “two acres of fertile land” if they complete the two-year programme.
For the first year, Cummings explained, YAHP candidates will be required to attend classes facilitated by the University of TT (UTT), and urged them to be at all classes, since their progress will be monitored and evaluated by the ministry.
In the second year, the students will have a practical assessment on the land and, on completion, they will be given a leasehold arrangement so they can access land, a house, a shed to sell their produce and a grant of $20,000.
The ministry’s legal research officer Brian Garcia said if students are unable to continue with the programme for “unjustifiable reasons” they will have to pay $8,000 in tuition fees.
Cummings said entities such as UTT and the ministries of Housing and Urban Development (Land Settlement Agency), Agriculture, Land and Fisheries and Education contributed to making the programme a reality.
Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly congratulated the participants and told them the opportunity they have been given is an important one, since it offers entrepreneurial skills in a career that is “renewable and honourable.” She said she hopes no applicants give up and that they will see the programme through to the end.
Minister in the Agriculture Ministry Nigel De Freitas added he has no doubt that candidates will leave the programme as successful business owners and will continue to work with the other partners to guarantee it.
Minister in the Housing Ministry Adrian Leonce said the trainees should learn as much as possible and put their futures and the future of the country first.
Cummings also said his ministry is committed to creating safe spaces in communities and peaceful communities and environments, and is reopening youth apprenticeship and development centres and national service complexes and non-residential youth development centres to make sure wherever young people wish to improve themselves in a safe and reliable environment, they can.
Speaking to the media, Cummings said the ministries of Education, Youth Development and National Service, Social Development, Gender and Child Affairs and National Security are working on solutions to eradicate violence in schools.