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4-H Clubs uses pandemic to repurpose training programmes


THE Jamaica 4-H Clubs, which has been significantly impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic, says it is using the opportunity to repurpose its training programmes to online modality, while a number of its usual face-to-face events are also now utilising a virtual platform.

The organisation’s 81st anniversary celebrations and National Achievement Expo from June 30 to July 2, 2021 will be held virtually under the theme ‘Food Diversification, Combatting Climate Change’.

Leading up to the national expo, the Jamaica 4-H Clubs has been holding parish achievement days online across the island. The parish achievement days, it said, is the flagship event which invites young Jamaicans from across the island to create innovative ideas based on a particular theme.

“This has been a modified version of what we have had in the face-to-face reality. But what is true is that the organisation, the participation and the energy that the young people express during these virtual achievement days are very warming to see,” said Executive Director Dr Ronald Blake.

He said there has been a strong emphasis on climate resilience agriculture, and young people have been encouraged to come up with creative ways in which they can overcome or coexist with the realities of climate change.

“One of the things we are seeing this year is a greater individual effort. Because there has been significant scale down in our communal club setting, a lot of our clubs are in schools and for the most part, these youngsters are learning from home. A lot of their training and demonstrations take place within the home environment. So, we are seeing individual efforts and also efforts that include the family,” Dr Blake said.

He said one of the biggest highlights is the creative use of space to do home gardening.

“People are doing some creative things with composting. People are also using some creative space and mediums in which to plant. I’ve seen where people are using old fridges in the back of their yards to make seed beds. People are on their roofs (concrete) and they are making use of those spaces, and I see people using their fence lines for vines [for crops such as] pumpkin and cucumber,” the executive director said.

Dr Blake told JIS News that youth farmers are also being innovative in how they undertake pest control management and utilise water harvesting.

“I think where it is going to be a big show is our National Achievement Day, which will be held over three days. We are going to see the best of what we are now seeing at the parish level, in terms of innovation and technology in agriculture,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Jamaica 4-H Clubs said it is moving ahead with some strategic projects to increase support for young Jamaicans interested in entering the agricultural sector.

Dr Blake said that this year, for the first time, the organisation will have a major training programme to involve youths in fisheries.

“This is the first time the 4-H Clubs will be implementing such a programme. We are presently rolling that out,” he said.

In addition, the organisation is set to increase scholarship offerings to assist more young Jamaicans to study agriculture.

“I am very happy to announce that this year, in partnership with the Development Bank of Jamaica and Rio Tinto Alcan, we have made out 342 agricultural scholarships and bursaries. It is one of our major commitments to improving the education levels of our farmers. It is one of the statistics that as a ministry and as a sector we are trying to improve. Because we think it is going to be at the heart of increased productivity,” said Dr Blake.

The Jamaica 4-H Clubs will also be providing venture capital inputs to 500 youth entrepreneurs under the Rural Youth Economic Empowerment Programme (RYEEP) 1000.

The executive director said this the move will provide support to youth-led agricultural enterprises to make up for the loss of earnings caused by the pandemic.

He added that RYEEP is part of the agency’s suite of educational programmes geared at helping young entrepreneurs start sustainable agricultural businesses.

“We are saying, come on, we will provide you with the venture capital inputs. And we will coach you and guide you over the rocky parts. We will assist you with marketing, planning and technical support. One of the things we want to do is to get more and more of our idle youth hands on the land doing farming,” he said.

— JIS

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