Involve youth in mission for food securityMonday, June 14, 2021
The international community must offer short-term emergency measures to meet critical needs. But it must also make longer-term investments to promote food production and agricultural development, enhance food security, and maintain and accelerate momentum towards the MDGs. — Ban Ki-moon
Most of us fondly remember the glory days of the 4-H Club. The Jamaica 4-H Club was established in 1940 as a merger between the youth arm of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) and the Jamaica Welfare Limited, now known as the Social Development Commission (SDC). The Jamaica 4-H Clubs is the leading youth training organisation with over 105,000 members across Jamaica. It provides various training opportunities to young individuals. Clubs are found in schools, churches, communities, and special youth facilities.
The 4-H's core function is to provide training to individuals between the ages of five to 25 in agriculture, home economics, social skills, entrepreneurship, environmental awareness, and healthy lifestyle. The National School Garden Programme, which is also managed by the 4-H Clubs, teaches clubbites agricultural and environmental practices and contributes to the National School Feeding Programme.
Unfortunately, the 4-H Club movement is not as vibrant today as it once was. Agriculture as a profession, and particularly technical and vocational education and training (TVET) are both unattractive to young people. According to UNESCO's definition, “Technical and vocational education and training (TVET) is understood as comprising education, training, and skills development relating to a wide range of occupational fields, production, services, and livelihoods. TVET, as part of lifelong learning, can take place at secondary, post-secondary, and tertiary levels and includes work-based learning and continuing training and professional development which may lead to qualifications.
“Agricultural technical vocational education and training (ATVET) can be defined as the educational process involving the study of technologies and related sciences and the acquisition of practical skills, attitudes, understanding, and knowledge relating to occupations in agriculture, in addition to general education (Jones 2013). ATVET is a subset of technical vocational education and training (TVET). ATVET has a potentially large impact beyond the individual level. For example, in the agri-food sector, higher productivity can lead to a higher supply of food, improved food quality, and lower prices due to larger production volumes, less waste, and more efficient use of resources (Kehl, et al. 2013).” These outcomes, in turn, affect the food security of a country. Food security, along with higher incomes in the agri-food sector, may lead to better nutrition and even higher productivity in the long run. A well-developed curriculum for ATVET based learning on the current needs of the agri-food sector can provide a further boost to the whole economy. A few years ago Jamaica established two agricultural high schools — the Sydney Pagon Agricultural High School and Knockalva Agricultural Schools, which is now a polytechnic college. Both high schools are considered feeder schools to the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE). The unattractiveness of agriculture to youth has led to many turning their backs on a career in ATVET.
Sustainable development goals
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #2 addresses zero hungry. According to the United Nations, after decades of steady decline, the number of people who suffer from hunger, as measured by the prevalence of undernourishment, began to slowly increase again in 2015.
Current estimates show that nearly 690 million people are hungry, or 8.9 per cent of the world population up by 10 million people in one year and by nearly 60 million in five years. The world is not on track to achieve zero hunger by 2030. If recent trends continue the number of people affected by hunger would surpass 840 million by 2030.
The World Food Programme (WFP) states that 135 million suffer from acute hunger largely due to man-made conflicts, climate change, and economic downturns. It is estimated that the novel coronavirus pandemic could now double that number, putting an additional 130 million people at risk of suffering acute hunger by the end of 2020. With more than a quarter of a billion people potentially at the brink of starvation, swift action needs to be taken to provide food and humanitarian relief to the most at-risk regions. At the same time, a profound change of the global food and agriculture system is needed if we are to nourish the more than 690 million people who are hungry today and the additional two billion people the world will have by 2050. Increasing agricultural productivity and sustainable food production are crucial to help alleviate the perils of hunger.
Every year, around nine million people die of hunger, according to the international relief agency Mercy Corps. That's more than the death toll of AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. The UN's humanitarian chief has warned that, without global cooperation and financial assistance, the number of people dying from hunger or hunger-related diseases could double this year due to the economic fallout of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“The effect of that is going to be, for the first time in probably in 30 years, a big increase in the number of people in extreme poverty, people living on less than US$2 a day,” said Mark Lowcock, UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator.
Food security, as defined by the United Nations' Committee on World Food Security, means that all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious foods that meet their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life. A family is food secure when its members do not live in hunger or fear of hunger.
The 4-H Club movement in Jamaica can and should play a critical role in ensuring that food security remains a concern for our youth in general, and for the country in particular. There needs to be revitalisation of the 4-H Club movement in the society. A closer working relationship between the ministries of agriculture and fisheries, as well as education, youth and information needs to be forged in order to coordinate youth activities, especially in the area of agriculture. The Government needs to revisit the National Standards Curriculum (NSC) to ensure that, where possible, ATVET is part of the offering to our students. Many of our schools have enough land in order to revitalise school gardens. In fact, school gardening should be part of the curriculum. Recently, we witnessed the launch of the backyard Vegetable Garden in Residential Child Care Facilities. In recent times we have seen an increase in basic food prices, especially on flour-based items. Additionally, chicken meat and pork have also increased. As consumers, we are told to brace for more increases in basic food items. The time is now for us to realise the importance of being self sufficient regarding growing what we eat.
We need to find create ways to attract the youth to agriculture. The promotion of ATVET is a critical component in securing the nation's food security. Many youth do not have access to affordable agricultural land — which is problematic. Additionally, there needs to a public private partnership which will ensure that interested individuals have access to adequate financing to ensure that agriculture is viewed as a viable career option. The Government could provide State lands in a land-leasing programme as a way of encouraging younger folks into agriculture in order to guarantee the nation's food security and safety.
In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, food security is an authentically human requirement. Guaranteeing it for present and future generations also means safeguarding ourselves against the uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources.
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org, @WayneCamo.
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