Look to agriculture to save 'Sav'
Ras Iyah V, chairman of the Westmoreland Hemp and Ganja Farmers' Association, says self-sufficiency could be achieved in Savanna-la-Mar if there was an infusion of agriculture in schools to equip students with additional skills.
In noting that lands are available to put into agriculture, the Rastafarfian leader, who was speaking at a Gleaner Job Creation, Investment and Growth Forum in Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland, said that for the most part, young people in the area are without marketable skills, unemployable, and feel marginalised.
"If we are really serious about growth and development, we have to find ways to engage the youth who are out there not doing anything productive," said Ras Iyah V. "We have a lot of underutilised land out there ... . We could channel the youth into agriculture through the school system."
According to him, the underutilised plots of land in and around the town could be donated to schools, which, in conjunction with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, could develop programmes to teach students agricultural skills, while creating a revenue stream from what is produced.
Dwayne Vaz, member of parliament for Central Westmore-land, who was one of the panellists at the forum, endorsed Ras Iyah V's sentiments, noting that agriculture should be an integral part of educating youngsters for the future.
"We need to feed our own nation, and agriculture is the way forward in this regard," said Vaz. "We have to change the perception that farming is about a man with a machete and a hoe. We must begin to see farming as a business. Farming is big business. Agriculture is what is going to spur economic growth and development in the future," he said.
"We need to get the youth to embrace agriculture. I will personally be lobbying the Ministry of Agriculture to see what can be done to assist the schools here in Westmoreland."
Suggesting that traditional career fields are saturated, Ras Iyah V called for greater emphasis to be placed on skills training, noting that the absence of training facilities in Savanna-la-Mar has a had a negative effect in terms of limiting the options available to young people.
"We need to put in some programmes at The Manning's School, Godfrey Stewart [High], and Frome [Technical High]. We could start with these three high schools. We need to go out and engage the professionals who are involved in machinery, plumbing and automechanics to come into the schools and engage the students. Expose them to new skills," said Ras Iyah V. "Those are skills that are important in agriculture."
In declaring an interest in projects that could benefit youngsters in Savanna-la-Mar, Vaz said he would be approaching the Myersfield Multi-purpose Cooperative, which has a programme to assist schools, to see what assistance could be garnered in the area of agriculture.
"Where schools already have an agricultural programme, we would seek to improve it, and where none exists, we would implement a programme. It is quite necessary," said Vaz.