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Secretary-General Dr Carla Barnett
Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary-General Dr Carla Barnett is encouraging the region’s youth to get involved in agriculture. The region is hosting an Agri-Investment Forum and Expo in Trinidad and Tobago, which runs from August 19-21, under the theme “Transforming agriculture through innovation and investment.”
Speaking Friday at the opening of the Expo, the Secretary-General said there are excellent opportunities in this new agriculture, i.e., smart agriculture.
“Smart agriculture goes beyond planting and growing systems that incorporate new technologies. There is a growing demand for online platforms, extension apps, agriculture marketing apps, drone operators, data analytics and crop forecasting apps just to name a few,” she explained in an effort to make the techno savvy generation understand there is a place for them in this sector.
It is CARICOM’s ambition to reduce the region’s Food Import Bill by 25 per cent by 2025. Barnett said the adoption of smart agricultural practices will allow Caribbean youth to utilise their skills and knowledge to help modernise the sector. “The opportunities in the agricultural sector are there to be taken up and there are gaps which you as young people can bring your new thinking to in order to create new further opportunities for yourselves.”
Whereas a CARICOM study found agriculture is a key source of employment in many Caribbean countries, accounting for approximately 16 per cent of the overall employment in the region, it is correspondingly found there is a deficit in human resource capital across the region to work in the sector.
Given the challenges the region faces and the goals heads of government have set themselves, Barnett expressed appreciation that regional leaders are taking steps to remove barriers that prevent the cross-border employment of agricultural workers.