Kingston – Some 650 young and jobless women and men in four impoverished areas of Jamaica have received training in cultivation and food production skills to boost their job opportunities in local farming and agro-industries.
Through a three-year programme started in January 2010 by the Government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the young people have learned how to process fruit and vegetable juice, herbs and ginger powder to produce dried fruit, jams, sorrel, meat and honey.

“This project provides not only technical knowledge and training, but facilities and equipment that would have been difficult or impossible for them to do otherwise,” said Machel Stewart, UNDP Poverty Programme Advisor.

The Rural Youth Employment Project also involves workshops and career days with presentations by farmers and agribusiness professionals from around the country where nearly one third of Jamaicans aged 15-29 are unemployed.

“Agriculture is beneficial to my family and to the whole world,” said a 15 year-old high school student who dreams to own a farm in Saint Thomas, one of the most underdeveloped parishes in the island, with high levels of unemployment, poverty and early pregnancy cases. “It helps us spend less money because we grow what we eat,” she added.

More than 360 high-school students – 60 percent of them women – have been involved in agriculture career days. In addition, 114 young community leaders attended workshops on leadership, team building and management, fund-raising and event planning, community safety and security.

The project – a US$1,000,000 partnership with the National Centre for Youth Development, the Rural Agricultural Development Authority and national youth organizations – is implemented by Jamaica’s Scientific Research Council and funded by UNDP and the United States Agency for International Development.

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