(by Kwesi Isles)
Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy says Guyana is retooling its agriculture curricula to include entrepreneurship as a necessary component.
He made the remark on Tuesday at a youth workshop at the Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA) being hosted ta the Guyana International Conference Centre.
The minister in his usual passionate manner decried negative perceptions of agriculture saying that it must be treated like all other entrepreneurial pursuits. He even rejected the label of “agri-preneurs” used by his Permanent Secretary earlier saying it contributed to the poor perception of the sector.
“Young people, you and I must say no, we ain’t want them to put us always in a separate corner, entrepreneurship is about business and agriculture is the biggest business in the world,” he declared to applause.
Perception of agriculture was not the only thing troubling Dr. Ramsammy. He added that said there was also need for policy changes within agriculture that would facilitate it getting to where it needed to be.
“We can’t talk about educating and training people without also empowering young people. We have to ensure we develop programmes with loans, and so you come out trained … there is no land policy in our countries for young people. If you don’t inherit the land from your parents chances are you’ll never get it.”
The minister added that his ministry is designing a programme with 100 one-acre plots at Mon Repos, located on the East Coast Demerara corridor, which will see students form teams to develop an enterprise with their lots.
“It will be a money-generating enterprise that in addition to learning agriculture you will practice agriculture from the entrepreneurial side. By the time you leave GSA (Guyana School of Agriculture) you would not only have your diploma but you would have had practical experience in developing and implementing a business enterprise,” Dr. Ramsammy said.
The new component, he added, would be a requirement for graduation. The University of Guyana would also be brought on board. The students would be involved in a project in Region Nine to add value and market a cassava crop Dr. Ramsammy said. Another project involves the students working with residents to grow and package rice in the same region.
According to the minister, students will also be assigned to Region One to solve the transportation and distribution problems faced by turmeric farmers there.
Dr. Ramsammy further announced that five students from St. Vincent and the Grenadines would be joining the GSA this week while another five from Barbados would do so subsequently.
“We’re going to invite students from other countries, it’s Guyana’s way of promoting the partnership between our countries to improve human resources for agriculture and to improve agriculture. If our people are learning together and practising together we might finally be able to make the common economy work in the Caribbean.”
The CWA continues until Friday with CARICOM’s ministerial Council for Trade and Economic Development set to meet during the proceedings.