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An Agriculture Community College


by Oscar Allen 18.MAY.07

The Farmers` Training Institute is coming up from the ground at Orange Hill. Some of the ideas for the institute are ‘old school’ and colonial ideas, like a place to pass on agriculture instruction from government agricultural officers to farmers and young people. Other ideas for the institute are more nation based, like packaging the instruction along with business support like land, credit, market guidance / linkages, for those who may enter and reproduce the farming sector and expand it. The name itself tells us what the focus is: it is about training to sustain farming and to meet the demands of the marketplace.{{more}}

If we were to think of an agriculture community college, we might see the agency in a broader light. It is to put agriculture on a new base, combining old and new knowledges, giving birth to a vigorous and conscious agriculture workers’ movement, and recapturing and upgrading strategic business learnings, practices and positioning for our agribusiness operators. And yes, this agriculture community college, this place of knowledge collection, knowledge creation, knowledge combination and application is a farmer friendly, agro confident, and sector building agency.

Three areas of interest are vitally important for the ACC as far as I am concerned as an agribusiness person. First of all, the college must help to rebuild an inspired, militant sector conscious and productive community of agricultural workers – the kind of workers who hit the scene in 1838 after emancipation. Without such a workforce for agriculture, there is little agriculture to talk about. The science and techniques of agriculture, the heroic ancestry of our agriculture labour, the passion for and potential of agriculture, and respect for the land and the agribusiness operator are some of the matters that make up the database / features of the new agriculture workers movement. Such are they who will push to take farmers back to the idle lands, the hotel lands and the greedy housing lots. This new workers’ movement calls for a new kind of farmer.

The second area which the agriculture community college needs to focus on is strategic business management in this agribusiness sector. From the single agribusiness / farm unit, to the commodity sub-sector and into the overall sector, the college must develop its teaching. Learning methodologies to meet this need, we only have to look at the frontline crops – banana, dasheen, arrowroot, and we will see the opposite of strategic organization and management in the industry organizations. It is WIBDECO, based in the UK which is now coming to the rescue of a minor dasheen processing project! The knowledge base at the college will refer operators to basic food security mechanisms, to organics, to ‘nutraceutical’ crops, brand promotion and agrolinkages and sustainable farming. Presently, we think only of Fairtrade as an elastic product or package type. How blind we are. The work of the college will help us.

Our agriculture community college will need to establish a network of partnerships in order to be effective. It cannot be a branch of the Taiwanese agro tech expert mission.

The college will not properly serve the agriculture community if the community is not thinking together, learning together and acting together. On the committees and on the Board of the College, our agribusiness representatives must not be chosen by the ruling party or any minister. The third focus of the college therefore, is to serve as a catalyst – to help the agriculture community, workers and operators, to become a community.

As we look at the present proposal for the Farmers’ Training Institute, it is unfolding, let us take hold of it and help to shape it into the best that it can be.