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(Detail from the Career day in Agriculture; Paul Bogle High school, St. Thomas Parish, Jamaica; April 18, 2011. Photo UNDP Jamaica/Laura Raccio)
Kemisha, Nimroy, Shanique and Stanfred. Four teenagers, aged 15-18 years old, are High school students from Saint Thomas Parish, the south eastern end of Jamaica. They have different life stories, personalities, dreams but with one common interest: Agriculture.
They are part of the new generation of rural youth who soon will have to face the challenges and the obstacles of the Jamaican workforce: high unemployment which in the better case leads to migration to the capital city or abroad, while in the worst case generates criminality and other social problems. These Rural unemployment is especially high. According to the 2005 Jamaica Human Development Report approximately 95 % of the island's area has been classified as rural, about 72 % of Jamaican's poor lives in rural area, where their main source of employment is agriculture.
This data suggest easily why Stanfred, Nimrod, Shanique and Kanisha are well motivated in Agriculture. They all had the chance to take part in a Careers day in Agriculture held at the Paul Bogle High School, St. Thomas, Jamaica on 18 April 2011. The initiative was one of many other activities promoted by the UNDP-USAID supported Rural Youth Employment (RUYE) project.
Different factors and motivations have led to their common interest in Agriculture, including their family environment and examples of community members' keen interest in the business opportunities offered by Agriculture.
Stanfred, 18 years old, is from a coffee farming village and is a regular commuter to Kingston. He is attending the St. Thomas Technical High School, focusing on Agriculture and Physical Education. An athlete and also a farmer, he is already the owner of one acre of land. His family has a small farm devoted to goat and cow livestock, banana and coffee cultivations. "From I was a younger child, I have a passion for farming. Other than track and field, it is the next thing I do to keep me out of trouble. If I am at home and I have a negative vibe, I just go on the farm..."
Kemisha, 17 years old, in 11th grade at Paul Bogle High School, says Agriculture is her favorite subject. This year she is doing the subject in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams. She is also from a farming family which grows sugar cane, bananas, cassava and sweet potatoes. "You can do a lot of things with agriculture. As a youth growing up, I used to love the farm and its hands on."
Shanique is 15 years old, in 10th grade at Robert Lightbourne High School. Showing a strong determination, she views herself becoming a guidance counsellor and also wishes to own a farm. "Agriculture is very beneficial to my family and to the whole world. It helps us spend less money because we grow what we eat".
Nimroy, 17 years old, migrated to St. Thomas with his grandmother from Kingston; attending the St. Thomas Technical High School; Agriculture was his CSCE subject last year. He has a dual aspiration in athletics and in becoming an agriculture teacher and has clear ideas about multiple careers and the business prospects offered by agriculture. "You can become a teacher or a vet or a farmer".
These four teenagers break the general idea that youths are not interested in Agriculture and demonstrate how pragmatic and business oriented they are. They all believe Agriculture represents a big business opportunity and also a way to supplement themselves and their families.
St. Thomas is considered by many who live there as the 'forgotten parish', and it is among the most underdeveloped in the island, with high levels of unemployment, poverty and early pregnancy cases.
The four youths are quite aware of the problems affecting the parish they live in, but show strength and maturity. About unemployment among adults Stanfred underlined "That's what drives me to want more. I don't want to leave school and become like my friends. Most of them that leave school are smoking or drinking on the roadsides".
"Staying focused and working hard enough to get what you want. Think big-above". Is advice shared by Kanisha and Shanique talking about how they face the issues of St. Thomas region.
"Beneficial, interesting, very good, understandable, informative, and useful", with these words Kemisha, Nimroy, Shanique and Stanfred described the knowledge they gained thanks to the Careers in Agriculture day. Opportunities in Rabbit rearing seem to be what most impressed them and gave them a clearer sense of how they can get into the it as a business."I might ask my father to buy a pair and I got some knowledge. Something I learnt today that I did not really know about before. They broke it down into the simplest form so I understand it now" Stated Nimroy, while Stanfred added he never thought to sell the rabbits they own and pointed out "The self composting heap-I never used to practice that at home but now I see that I actually can rear the worms and sell them to other people ".
UNDP aims to change people's lives in a positive and sustainable way; we believe there is not development if it's not sustainable in time. In fact the final end of the Careers in Agriculture day was to enable the students to bring and cultivate what they learned in their life, directly applying the new skills received"said Machel Stewart, UNDP Poverty Programme Advisor.
Kemisha, Nimroy, Shanique and Stanfred are all already on the way to achieving great results in their lives with strengthened knowledge on options in Agriculture.
The Rural Youth Employment Project (RUYE) is a 3-year initiative being implemented by the Scientific Research Council (SRC) with funding from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The project which officially started in January 2010, will end in December 2012. It specifically targets young persons in the rural parishes of Manchester, Trelawny, St. Ann and St. Thomas aiming to improve the quality of life of disadvantaged youths aged 15-29 in rural Jamaica. The project seeks to strengthen rural youths' capacity to capitalize on income generation opportunities in a sustainable manner through profitable agricultural or agro-processing enterprises.
The Career day in Agriculture was one of the four such initiatives organized in the rural parishes targeted by the RUYE project during the month of April, 2011. A total of 364 students were involved, of which 135 were boys and 229 girls. They have been organized in collaboration with National Centre for Youth Development (NCYD), 4H Clubs and Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA). A total of 45 students from Saint Thomas Technical High School, Robert Light Bourne and Paul Bogle High school successfully attended the careers in Agriculture day on 18 April, 2011. The purpose of the activity was to offer the youths an overview on career opportunities in Agriculture listening to the voices of persons who are directly involved . Additionally the students were oriented in how to approach the work market to get a job through a Social and Life Skills Workshop focused on self esteem/confidence, resume writing, preparing for a job interview, averting/resolving conflict, social skills and professionalism. The Careers presentations included Rabbit Rearing and Apiculture business, Greenhouse production, Cocoa and Goat Rearing business.
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