News Article – La Prensa: Agricultural graduates go to the countryside

Source: La Prensa, June 7th 2019

The pilot plan will begin next September with 40 students from four agricultural IPTs in Coclé and Veraguas.
 Panama City, Panama. One of the factors that have aggravated the crisis in the agricultural sector is the lack of qualified labor. There is no generational renewal.
 The average age of farmers and professionals in the primary sector exceeds 50 years and some of the children of these producers prefer to sell their land and engage in more profitable activities.
 On an effort to reverse this trend, four IPT (Professional and Technical Institutes for its Spanish acronyms) of the agricultural sector will be part of a training program for high school students from the agricultural sector.
 Through an agreement with the Ministry of Education, Simply Natural, an organic production farming company will train senior year students from the La Pintada IPT, the IPT José de los Reyes Vásquez, and the IPT Omar Torrijos, at the province of Coclé.
 They will also work with the IPT Agroforestal Calobre, in San Francisco de Veraguas.
 Modern agriculture requires efficient use of resources, less use of water, eliminating the use of agrochemicals and improving the use of land.
 The students selected to participate in the program will be able to train at the farm which is located in the area of El Caño, Natá in the province of Coclé, said, Verónica Rocha Gómez, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Simply Natural Farms.
 “The training program was born due to the lack of skilled labor in the agricultural sector. Much of the required workforce is imported from Israel, Costa Rica, Peru or Mexico. Even though there is potential in Panama; there is just a lack of proper training, “she said.
 Before selecting the students who will participate in the program they have attended to didactic tours at the farm. 
 There, the students will learn in detail how the irrigation system is operated with remote control and the savings that this technology generates. They will also learn to graft saplings with a method that guarantees a 98% bond.
 In this agricultural enclosure, an Israeli sowing model was implemented. The model is based on the technification and efficiency of the use of resources from water, human capital, and land.
 In each IPT a call for scholarships application will be opened and 10 graduate students will be chosen per educational center, explained Rocha.
 The selected students will receive scholarships for six weeks and will rotate through all the production, and development areas of the farm.
 At the end of the internship, an evaluation will take place and the best students would receive a job offer. The goal is for senior years to graduate and already have a job in line for January, said Rocha.
 Simply Natural also has an agreement with the Technological University OTEIMA Santiago, so that these students can continue their studies.
 The organic production project is developed in 10 hectares. Three in greenhouses that are dedicated to the planting of melons and cucumbers for export, and the other seven hectares  
 for the production of mango, avocado and citrus saplings, such as the Persian lime.
 Regarding mangos they produce six varieties, some of them patented through strategic partnerships with research and development centers in South Africa, Florida, United States, and Israel. 

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