Yesterday, the first Ago Tech and Science Extravaganza was declared open at the Multipurpose Cultural Centre. The event, the first of its kind in Antigua and Barbuda was created to encourage the acknowledgement and growth of youth in the field of Agriculture. It was acknowledged that most individuals are of the opinion that agriculture only entailed farming. The need for more attention in educating the youth about agriculture and the great possibilities outside of farming was stressed by the head table.
As made clear by the student presentations that were made at the opening there are many facets to the agricultural industry and one which was stressed by some students and will be a profile to keep an eye on in the Caribbean is that of the “Agriculture Lawyer”
The Honourable Samantha Marshall, Junior Minister of Agriculture, expressed that “the Ministry of Agriculture Lands and Fisheries acknowledges that Agriculture is no longer just the hoe and the fork. Agriculture has evolved into what we call “Climate Smart Practices, Green Houses, Hydroponics, and Aquaponics…” She admitted that Agriculture plays a pivotal role in the country’s sustainability and that the opportunity was present for further development and diversification using technology to enhance the interaction with Agriculture. She used greenhouses controlled by smartphones as an example. She indicated that a lot of work has to be done to not only secure the current farmers, but future farmers and provide the level of support that is necessary to guarantee food sustainability and food sovereignty.
Mr. Craig Cole, Education Officer with responsibility for Agriculture within the Ministry of Education made compelling remarks about the need for a paradigm shift where the current national perception of Agriculture is concerned. He expressed his pride in the progress that was made after a long hard battle to improve the agriculture programs in Antigua and Barbuda. Cole indicated that it is expected that 1 million dollars will be invested to further improvements to the school’s Agricultural Science programs across the nation. He spoke from the heart specifically because his passion demanded that he did not write a structured speech, but instead that he dig deep and speak from the love of Agriculture and the true understanding the shortcomings that we experience in Antigua and Barbuda.
He remarked that after travelling to China recently for the Forum on Food Security along with 22 countries and 75 participants and presenting on the education program in Antigua and Barbuda and the initiatives, because of how well received the presentation was received, Antigua and Barbuda was asked to take a leadership role and to make the final presentation at the end of the forum.
Speaking to Caribbean Times, Cole expressed his gratitude to the Minister of Education, the Honourable Michael Browne, who has been actively involved in and is one of the largest supporters of Agricultural Science within the schools and the improvement thereof in Antigua and Barbuda.
Honourable Arthur Nibbs, Minister of Agriculture gave brief remarks supporting previous remarks that Agriculture has not been giving the attention that it deserves. He expressed hope that 2017 will give rise to greater support for Agriculture financially.
Sir Rodney Williams, Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda declared the Extravaganza open and congratulated the organizers of the event and the schools that made presentations.