“Even when I’m asleep I’m dreaming about farming”
As a young, unemployed mum, Semone knew she needed to make some big life changes in order to support her family; she just wasn’t sure where to start.
After losing her low-paid job, she had been unable to pay her rent and was forced to move back in with her parents. Unable to find more work, she spiralled into a depression and often felt like life was not worth living.
“I was just at home all day, living with my mother, father and two sisters,” she explains. “I had a new baby and it was very hard having two children and having to depend on my parents for support. I was really depressed and stressed and often felt like life wasn’t worth it.”
Luckily Semone was introduced to the Jamaican Youth Business Trust (JYBT), which is supported by a Queen’s Young Leaders Grant. The project helps young people build a brighter future for themselves by providing opportunities for them to learn new skills and find employment within the agricultural sector. Through training programmes like Its Youth in Agriculture programme, it provides financial support and practical tuition, such as teaching young people how to plant and tend different crops, to help aspiring farmers achieve their dream of creating their own start-ups.
Tanesha Patterson, the JYBT programme manager, explains: “I think more young people are starting to see the benefits of farming, especially in rural communities. They see other people benefitting from it and it sparks a bit of interest in them. Farming is also moving away from the traditional techniques and young people are keen to embrace smart technology and new practices.”
Despite the fact that her family were farmers, Semone had never imagined that she would do the same.
“At first, I could never see myself doing farming, even though my family does it. Even though it was farming that paid me through primary school and high school, I never thought about it. At school I always went to every class except agriculture.”
However despite her initial reservations, Semone was surprised to discover that she enjoyed learning the new farming techniques and thinking about how she could improve her yields. She began farming a small area of land and is already producing thousands of Jamaican Scotch Bonnet peppers. Her efforts have been so successful she is now trying out new crops such as pumpkins, melons and corn.
“The training I received from JYBT changed my views about farming completely,” she explains. “At first, I thought farming was just planting something in the ground and hoping that it grows, but it is so much more than that. Some people don’t realise that farming can be done at a different level now thanks to technology. “Old farming methods involved doing everything manually, but now it is becoming more technologically advanced and more people are opening up to new techniques now. I use my mobile phone to check the weather, monitor crop prices and speak to buyers.”
“Now I can’t think about anything else. When I’m at home I’m always searching on the internet for new farming techniques. Even when I’m asleep I’m dreaming about farming.”
This year’s World Food Day theme is #ZeroHunger and Semone is proud that she is now able to provide for her two daughters and has even been able to help out other members of her family.
“I see a very bright, uplifting future for me and my family,” she says. “I can see myself moving out of my mother’s house on my own and being able to provide for my daughters so that we can lead a better life than we ever had before. JYBT has done a great deal for me. I’m now in a position where I can financially assist my family with things. I can help them, which is very satisfying as they helped me when I was down.”