KINGSTON, Jamaica —The Jamaica 4-H Clubs is celebrating 79 years of engaging young Jamaicans in the business of agriculture.
Established in 1940, the organisation, which falls under the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, is mandated to provide skills training for young people aged five to 25.
Areas of training include agriculture, home economics, leadership, social skills, entrepreneurship, healthy lifestyles, and environmental awareness.
Today, the 4-H movement has more than 100,000 members, and is considered to be the leading youth organisation in the island.
“It was the 4-H Clubs which utilised school gardens to transmit best practices to farming families at home. So children would learn the latest techniques, whether it was in budding and grafting, lining and planting… and they would take these skills home to their parents. The students would also improve the level of technology utilised in agriculture, and that served us well,” he said.
Dr Blake said that over time, the activities of the organisation evolved into home economics, which later had a significant impact on Jamaica's agro-processing sector.
“So today, we are known as the organisation of samples. It's the organisation you can come to and see samples in just about anything. Hopefully, if you have the resources to start your own business, you can come and get ideas during the staging of the parish and national achievement days,” he pointed out.
The executive director noted that the organisation has a significant population of volunteers, who have helped to bring to the public critical issues such as environmental awareness, especially as it relates to agriculture.
“This was promulgated in the '80s and '90s … (and included) tree planting, recycling, among other things. That also laid the foundation for the work that the 4-H is presently doing as it relates to climate change,” he added.
Dr Blake added that the movement has been placing emphasis on entrepreneurship, through its Rural Youth Economic Empowerment Programme (RYEEP).
The initiative engages the youth in personal development and life skills sessions. It also offers opportunity for them to access funding to purchase inputs, including small tools/equipment, to start agriculture-based businesses.
Young people also receive business coaching aimed at guiding them in establishing, nurturing and growing microbusinesses.
“This is working extremely well. So the 4-H Clubs is significantly responsible for keeping the agriculture sector alive. It has also shored up a lot of the persons who have gone to further their studies in agriculture and come back to work in the sector,” the executive director said.
The Jamaica 4-H Clubs 79th anniversary included the staging of its annual national achievement expo at the Denbigh showground in Clarendon from April 3 – 5.