I am Agriculture Youth in Agriculture
What do you want to be when you grow up? How often do we hear the response farmer? How often do we encourage others to become farmers, agri-technicians, agri-entreprenuears?
Global population is expected to increase to 9 billion by 2050, with youth (aged 15–24) accounting for about 14 percent of this total. While the world’s youth cohort is expected to grow, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for youth – particularly those living in developing countries’ economically stagnant rural areas is expected to remain limited, poorly remunerated and of poor quality
United Nation 2011 Regional Overview reported that there were 106 million young people between 15 and 24 years of age living in Latin America and the Caribbean , 20% of the total population. It is the largest proportion of young people ever in the region’s history. • While employment indices for young people have improved over the last decade, the unemployment rate for the 15-29 age group is three times as high as it is for the population between 30-64 years of age.

The average age of farmers in the region is estimated to average between 50 years to 60 years with young farmer replacement being limited. While so in today’s date the youth constitute a large section of the persons who are affected by unemployment and food insecurity. 

The agriculture sector however possesses significant development potential which can generate ample decent and gainful employment opportunities for the youth. However, like the agriculture sector the youth themselves also possesses untapped potential. Their capacities for creativity and economic innovation are squandered when they are blocked from actively participating in economic activities. As a result, facilitating youth participation in the agriculture sector would not only provide much needed employment opportunities for youth themselves, but will also help drive the innovation and growth needed to reduce poverty among youths and adults alike.
A coordinated response to increase youth’s access to the agricultural sector is more important now than ever, as a rising global population and decreasing agricultural productivity gains imply that young people must play a pivotal role in ensuring a food-secure future for themselves, and for future generations.

Youth need to be seen as a collective group of people who have the potential to change the world. Despite their age, gender, and geographic location, the youths’ unique way of approaching life with fresh perspectives and with zeal need to be encourage and included. They can no longer be left out of the equation for development and change. We can no longer leave young people sitting at the fringe of society looking on as others define their potential.
 In order to effect a true change to youth engagement in agriculture a rethinking, a paradigm shift in how we view youth is required. Youth must now be seen as viable individuals who can meaningfully contribute to the fabric of society. We must acknowledge that they have the ability to think, develop and act in a way that can cause serious change. They must not be treated as outcasts of the society, but rather as individuals who, when given the opportunity along with the correct tools and resources, and with sincere, meaningful support and guidance, can make a difference. They can, if their potential is properly directed, add tremendous value to agriculture not only digitizing traditional agriculture but also in a plethora of new high demand and highly paid agriculture professions  in areas such as smart agriculture, online platforms, extension and marketing applications, GIS and drone technology,  and agriculture data analytics just to name a few.

Challenges faced by young women and men trying to engage in agriculture and earn a living in rural areas are many. The solutions will not come easily. There are no silver bullets. But we most first start the conversion of policy to action, it will require young people to be given the resources to become fully empowered for productivity; when there is a supportive environment – youth can find innovative ways to create a future for themselves, and also contribute to the societies and communities in which they live.

Youths involvement in policy dialogue is key. Too often young people’s voices are not heard during the policy process, and so their complex and multifaceted needs are not met. Policies often fail to account for the heterogeneity of youth, and so do not provide them with effective support. To remedy this, youth need the requisite skills and capacities for collective action to ensure that their voices are heard.
CARICOM is committed to putting action to policy. It is the regions mission to change the landscape of Agriculture and food systems through Climate action, technology, de-risking, financing, investment and youth engagement. Our actions are deliberate, targeted and focused. This I am Agriculture, Youth in Agriculture Initiative is on such deliberate move. This launch commences the commitment from the region to support youth participation in food systems from farm to table.

The recommendations from the Youth Advisory Committee, which is currently being formed with youth representatives from across the region, is hoped to assist in giving policy direction in how to empower youth and thus enable them to utilize modern technology in a business-like manner to achieve economic independence. While at the same time, supporting them in becoming vested citizens in society helping to address societal issues such as criminal activity, poverty and economic destabilization.

We place the highest priority on agriculture, unlocking its potential and the development of the Region’s food systems. The role of youth in agriculture is, in fact, that of immense possibility — to grow more food, transform local food systems and build economies that lift entire communities out of poverty. The time to invest in youth and capitalize on their potential to serve as agents of transformation in the region is now.

CARICOM Youth Advisory Body

At the 33rd Inter-sessional Conference of Heads of Government Meeting held from the 1st to the 2nd of March 2022, Heads of Government discussed plans to advance the commercialization of the agri-food sector and the acceleration of the Vision 25 by 2025 agenda.
An outcome of the Heads meeting led to the hosting of the Regional Agri-Investment Forum and Expo held on the 19th to and 21st of May 2022 in Guyana under the theme “Investing in Vision 25 by 2025.” The Forum severed a space for decision-making makers, policymakers and agriculture stakeholders to share and develop active solutions to address critical matters within the agri-food system. During the Forum a Youth in Agriculture Dialogue was held.
The Youth dialogue recommended, to the Special Ministerial Taskforce on Food Production and Food Security (MTF), an Agriculture Ministerial taskforce responsible for the implementation of the 25 by 2025 Agenda, for the creation of a CARICOM Youth Advisory Body (YAB) to promote and articulate strategies towards greater youth involvement in the sector.     
As a result of this recommendation, the YAB was established on 16th of May 2023. The Body provides advice and recommendations to the Special Ministerial Taskforce on Food Production and Food Security (MTF) on regional youth involvement to support the achievement of the reduction of imports by 25% by the year 2025.
Furthermore, the Body provides guidance and advice to the MTF on the following matters:
Implementation of a Regional and National Youth in Agriculture Strategy
Provision of youth-centered solutions towards access to finance, training, agri-business, digitalization and technological advancement
Promotion of the food security strategy among young people
Promotion and assistance in accelerating youth involvement in agriculture
The YAB is Chaired by Jamaica and Co-Chaired by Guyana. The YAB meets at minimum 4 times per year and consists of the following representatives.
Antigua and Barbuda
Mr. Ika Gergus

The Bahamas
Mr. Jerad Darville

Ms. Keriah Scantlebury

Mr. Winaldo Burrowes

Mr. Abimael Puck

Dr. Natalia Lugay
Mrs. Teesha Mangra-Singh
Mr. Fractyl Mertilus

Ms. Chenille Humes 

Saint Kitts and Nevis
Ms. Kadian Banton

Saint Lucia
Mr. Jeshrun Andrew

Mr. Raveen Ramtahalsing
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