"Getting a Start in Life.":The Rural Youth Employment Program
“I get a few stings, but I have to be patient,” says Fabian Williams as he demonstrates the practice of honey collection over beehives in St. Thomas. Though it is hard work, Williams works diligently and continuously, starting early. He explains, “Once you get a start in life, you have to put your heart and mind into it.”
Williams is one of a group of youngsters benefitting from the Rural Youth Employment Project (RUYE), an initiative launched by the Scientific Research Council and the Planning Institute of Jamaica, backed by USAID and the UNDP. The island’s poverty rates are particularly high in rural areas; around 71% of the nation’s poor live and work outside urban centres. The problem was only exacerbated by the global economic crises, seeing a spike in unemployment rates and consequently, more crime and violence. Most affected by the conditions were young boys and men.
In response, the Scientific Research Council engineered the Rural Youth Employment Project, which aims to provide young men with the resources necessary to create sustainable businesses. A group in St. Thomas was supplied with bee hives as well as entrepreneurial training. The training is not only focused on the direct practices of bee-keeping but also in business development, human and social skills and mentorship.
Focused on the provision of a long term solution, the RUYE hopes that by providing young men with the tools to begin their own businesses, they will expand and create business opportunities for themselves and their communities. Eight months into the project, Williams has done exactly that, multiplying his number of hives from 4 to 25 and collecting twenty-five gallons of honey. Other members of the group are seeing success with their hives as well, set to profit at the end of the year.
Beekeeping in St. Thomas is only one of the initiatives established under RUYE; simultaneously, over over 400 young men and women received training in areas as diverse as human relations and business development, agriculture, cash crop production, horticulture, poultry production, goat rearing and agro processing. RUYE is a two year long project, set to end in December 2012.