Minister for Employment meets with youths for interactive session about agriculture
Minister for Employment and Social Affairs Patricia Francourt yesterday held an interactive session with a group of students who have recently graduated from the Seychelles Institute of Agriculture and Horticulture (SIAH).
The meeting follows a series of visits conducted by the minister and ministry officials to eleven farms over a six-week period, which ended at the educational institute.
With the aim of giving a much-needed boost to revive and develop the agricultural sector, the visits and meeting aim to give the ministry insight on the students’ experiences at the institute, the positives and challenges they faced during their studies, as well as the ‘My First Job’ programme, administered by the ministry.
Minister Francourt informed the students that the ministry is working in close collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment, as well as the Ministry of Education, who exercises oversight over SIAH, in sharing the findings and putting forth propositions in going forward.
The interactive session saw the students sharing their experiences at the SIAH, and their aspirations for the future.
Among the pertinent points that they highlighted is the lack of resources at the institution which is mandated to form the future agriculturalists and horticulturalists, with a shortage of lecturers, and some tools which are indispensable in the learning journeys.
In addition, they recommended that the work placements be better designed to enable students to get the most of them, and remain motivated to stay in the sector.
Graduate of the institution, Joel Zialor, developed a passion for agriculture from an early age. Since leaving the school, he has joined the sector and where he has livestock including goats and poultry, as well as crops.
“I’m really happy to have completed my studies as it opened doors for me to continue. I had already started since secondary school with my dad. In general, I am now registered and I am seeing the benefits of the registration in terms of cheaper food prices for animals. I wish that I can own my own land after three years as the school informed us we are entitled to continue and concentrate more in livestock and crop and help contribute towards the domestic economy,” he said.
“I already have 50 goats, 75 chickens and I have some cassava and Chinese cabbage crops, but the terrain is quite steep,” Joel informed the minister and his peers.
Sharon Bonne, who is still studying at the school at present, recommended that more technology be incorporated in the schools’ programmes and courses, towards encouraging youths to join the sector, and to better equip those going through formation at the institution.
Furthermore, the graduates proposed that the interest and passion to eventually venture into the sector should be spurred from the earliest of ages, having themselves developed their passions through exposure and the encouragement of family members engaged in the sector.
There was general consensus among them that more Seychellois be encouraged to join the sector towards the development of the sector, producing enough to sustain the local population, reduce dependency on importation, and improve food security in the country.
Some students however acknowledged that at present, non-Seychellois employees tend to be more disciplined than Seychellois counterparts.
“There is a large gap to be filled by the youths. At present, at the ex-BBC we have a laboratory but we are lacking about 80 percent of the staff. There are new projects we are working on, and we are still discussing how we are going to get things tested. For instance, if I want to develop a fertilizer, I need to get it tested by experts in the domain. But do we have any? We do not. So there is an open door to the youths. Agriculture is not just about hoeing and ploughing, but it has a scientific component,” self-taught professional Steven Roseline stated.
With regard to the ‘My First Job’ programme, the students conveyed satisfaction at the follow-ups and the pro-activeness of the department.
In concluding the session, Minister Francourt reiterated to the aspiring farmers government’s commitment towards working tightly with stakeholders to increase engagement in the sector, and to push forward in developing the sector for the health of the population, and the domestic economy.
Minister Francourt was joined by principal secretary for Employment Jules Baker and director general of Employment programme at the department of Employment, Letimie Dookley.