Over one hundred rural youth graduated from the School of Agricultural Leaders co-founded by Costa Rica’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock and IICA
San Jose, 16 December 2022 (IICA) – One hundred and three Costa Rican rural youth successfully completed training in digital and resilient agriculture, leadership, communication and entrepreneurship from the School of Agricultural Leaders, launched earlier this year by the country’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).
The graduation ceremony was held at IICA Headquarters in San Jose, in the presence of authorities from MAG; the Ministry of Science, Innovation, Technology and Telecommunications (MICITT) and IICA, as well as the Head of Political Affairs and First Counsellor of the Delegation of the European Union to Costa Rica, Katja de Sedeleer.
The students acquired skills in electronic prototyping; 3D printing; drone operation; sensors and the programming of digital solutions for agriculture; sustainable natural resource management; analysis of models for climate smart solutions applied in the field; analysis and creation of businesses based on the concept of Agriculture 4.0; commercial skills development and marketing, among others.
The graduates are students from professional technical schools (CTPs), such as 27 de abril, Liberia, Cartagena, Nicoya, Hojancha and Nandayure, in the province of Guanacaste; la Suiza de Turrialba and Pacayas, in the province of Cartago; and Pococí and Siquirres, in the province of Limón. Still others are members of the local livestock association – Cámara de Ganaderos Unidos del Caribe.
The students are in the seventh to the twelfth grade of the CTPs, specializing in agricultural careers or information technology or are involved in Costa Rican agriculture.
The School of Agricultural Leaders’ training program—New Farmers of the Millennium—includes three modules: digital agriculture, agricultural resilience and entrepreneurship. The course followed the learning by doing methodology, given its capacity for replication and scaling up, which is a proven approach that IICA has applied for several years.
Other entities that collaborated with MAG and IICA in establishing the school include the National Council of 4.S Clubs; women and youth leaders from 4S groups; the EU, which provided financial and technical assistance, via the AGRO-INNOVA project; the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE), which lent technical support; the Regional Directorate for Agricultural Development in the Caribbean Region; the aforementioned Cámara de Ganaderos Unidos del Caribe and a group of young livestock farmers that are members of this Chamber.
IICA Director General, Manuel Otero, stressed that, “This new knowledge will equip you with the basic tools to devise approaches that will make agriculture a more sustainable, productive and competitive sector. The challenges that we face in agriculture require the renewed vision and leadership of young people – men and women who can offer innovative solutions to deepen the process of sustainable development in our sector”.
Katja de Sadeleer pointed out that, “Young people are important agents of change and they play a fundamental role in building and transforming society in a positive way. The EU is throwing our support behind the Costa Rican School of Agricultural Leaders, which is demonstrating that youth are building a better future, which is more environmentally responsible, inclusive and digital. You are setting an example for other Costa Rican youth and are a success story that AGRO-INNOVA will be sharing with the Central America region and other international partners”.
“People are the most valuable aspect of agriculture and therefore it is imperative that we invest in our new leaders, who will soon become the decision makers. We must make this effort, as a matter of urgency, in partnership with the EU, the Government of Costa Rica and a number of institutions that can come on board and continue to support technical schools”, said the IICA Representative in Costa Rica, Miguel Ángel Arvelo.
“The knowledge shared has been extremely valuable to students. We hope that this will mark the beginning of long-term joint work, and that we can continue to implement the initiative with even more young people, who are the future of agriculture. This will enable us to make changes and to innovate together with youth, so that we can truly foster wealth in the countryside, in rural areas”, said the Executive Director of 4S, Robin Almendares, who participated on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture and Livestock of Costa Rica, Victor Carvajal.
“Costa Rica deserves new agricultural leaders who can truly transform our country’s rural regions through technology, knowledge and innovations”, said Federico Torres, Director of Innovation at MICITT.
“As rural dwellers, we are profoundly grateful for the trust being placed in us. We are becoming agents of change, and this process must be promoted in our communities. Agriculture is crucial for the younger generations; we are the future of agriculture and food security. We must not forget that agriculture is a primary sector and that, without it, we would be at a major disadvantage; it provides well-being for everyone”, remarked student Gustavo Alvarado of the Liberia CTP.
The School of Agricultural Leaders was developed based on the experiences of IICA and MICITT projects and initiatives, such as the Digital Fabrication Laboratory (Fab-Lab) and the Adapted Agroforestry Systems for the Central American Dry Corridor (AGRO-INNOVA) project. Students received training at IICA’s facilities, CATIE’s commercial and research farms, the AGRO-INNOVA validation plots at that center, as well as the project’s eight demonstration plots in Nandayure, Nicoya, Hojancha, Santa Cruz, San Ramón, Grecia and Naranjo.
Funded by the EU and executed by IICA, the AGRO-INNOVA initiative was launched in 2019 with a view to improving the climate resilience and food security of more than 3,000 small-scale farmers. Through the use of technologies in the production of staple crops and livestock farming, the initiative seeks to preserve biodiversity, increase productivity and improve the quality of life of highly vulnerable families in the Central American Dry Corridor.
Within the framework of the graduation, MICITT upgraded the status of IICA’s Fab-Lab digital fabrication laboratory to Community Innovation Lab (CIL).
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