Agriculture is an important, but some would say, underdeveloped part of TT’s economy.
However, since the start of the pandemic, the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries has seen an increased interest in the sector, especially among young people. As such, the ministry has decided to give a helping hand to youths between the ages of 18 to 35 to assist them in developing their agriculture businesses.
Deanne Ramroop, deputy director of research at the ministry and chairperson of the agro-incentive committee, told Sunday Newsday the Youth Fast Track Agricultural Finance Support Programme is being done in collaboration with the Ministry of Youth Development and National Service.
She explained that the Agriculture Ministry has a general incentive programme open to all and, based on consultation with youths, this programme was implemented to alleviate delays experienced by young food producers in accessing grants, incentives, and subsidies offered by the ministry.
“There is a need to unlock the potential of the agriculture sector and our innovative thinking in the ministry and other state agencies is centred around jobs in sectors where these youths could be absorbed.”
She stressed that agriculture is critical to strengthening the local food system, feeding communities and providing gainful employment opportunities for the youth population.
“We all know that the covid19 pandemic has destroyed jobs and disrupted food systems. Even the ways we trade and conduct or business has changed. Because of this, the pandemic has contributed to global hunger and increase food prices.
“With young people being encouraged to participate in agriculture with this particular programme, and with the right support, it will help in terms of accessibility and improving livelihoods of, not just those engaged in agriculture, but the nation.”
The programme, which has a December 15 submission deadline, provides grants up to $100,000, depending on the results of the assessment, to farmers, fishermen, woodcutters, and sawmillers covering plants, livestock and forestry.
Ramroop said the ministry hoped it would encourage youths from existing farming families who may not farming to get involved in the industry.
“We have also recognised there are significant challenges in converting young persons with formal training and no history of agriculture into the sector. So, to bridge this gap, and to provide support for the youth, this mechanism will provide technical support and specialised sector funding as well as for opportunities for the elevation of collaboration among major food consumers such as school feeding programme, the regional health authorities and others.”
Applicants can meet a combination of criteria but each criterion will be assessed individually and weighed differently.