- Your Excellency Mrs. Arya Ali, First Lady of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana;
- Representatives of Regional and International Organisations;
- Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
- Young People of the Region.
It is always such a pleasure to interact with the youth of the Region, and doubly so in a Forum that is so important to our Community and to our future in the Caribbean.
The ability to feed ourselves and to do so nutritiously is one which determines, in large measure, what kind of future we have as a people. Ensuring our food and nutrition security is a critical component of building a resilient CARICOM.
But, I am not here to lecture you today. I am here to tell you the Region needs you, and needs you now. This is not the usual cliché that you are the future. Your immediate involvement and action are integral to how this Community could achieve the goal of ensuring its food and nutrition security in the future.
You have a fine example from Ms. Citerina Atkins who was chosen as the CARICOM/CDB Young Farmer of the Year. I congratulate Ms. Atkins, and look forward to many of you striving to emulate her and win this prestigious award.
Agriculture goes well beyond farming and is one of the areas which involves a wide variety of employment opportunities, including some of the highest paid jobs in the world. There are almost 20 million direct and indirect jobs that are related to agriculture across the globe.
It also lends itself to self-employment and becoming your own boss. With the correct planning, support and effort, you can reap rewards within a reasonable timeframe. Like any endeavour, it will take many hours of dedication, determination and a whole lot of commitment.
Agriculture today is built on technology. It involves data, artificial intelligence, digital technology, drone technologies, applied science and market intelligence. It, therefore, provides high value jobs that cut across all aspects of the economy. The affinity of young people with technology, having grown up in the technological age, creates opportunities in all aspects of agro-industry.
There is an absence of the skills needed to move the sector forward, and for which our young people, all of you, must rise and answer this call. These new professions are at the very heart of the type of developments which we want for our agriculture in CARICOM. These include Food Technologists, Programmers, Software Engineers, Artificial Intelligence specialists, Veterinarians, Social Media Marketers, Communication Specialists, Agricultural Economists, Food Safety Specialists, Rural and Infrastructural Development Specialists, Bio-chemists, and the list goes on. All of these are opportunities linked to developing agriculture.
Your country, our Region, CARICOM, is calling on you. This is your time to contribute to the Region. There is no need to leave the Region for economic prosperity and opportunity. It is right here! Your role in agriculture is one of massive possibility, not only to grow more food, but to transform local food systems with all the available technologies and build economies that can help lift entire communities out of poverty.
We have done the research and the data is clear, there is an abundance of opportunities for you here in the Region. We have now taken this step within CARICOM Secretariat in placing the highest priority on agriculture and the development of the Region’s food systems. We are now inviting you to take the journey with us and play your part in achieving food security for yourselves, your families, your communities, your countries and your Region, through the realization of the 25 by 2025 targets.
I look forward to hearing from you, interacting with you, learning from you, and developing polices and projects with you that will fulfil your dreams and ambitions.
Your voices must be more than heard, they must count.
I thank you and look forward to a great dialogue.