Encouraging and Supporting Black and People of Colour in Agriculture
The agricultural sector is the least diverse sector in the UK, especially when it comes to people who identify as Black or a Person of Colour (BPOC). Estimates of the numbers of BPOC people vary between 0.8-1.2% in UK agriculture, in a country where we are estimated to make up 17% of the general population and 33% of all children. We are not attracting a large population of the public and, wanting people to support us and join us, means we must represent them more.
The objective of the study was to travel and learn how we can understand the barriers and create solutions to encourage BPOC people to enter and thrive in the UK agricultural sector.
Initially I spent time understanding the situation in the UK and then travelled to the US as it has a large BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) population, a shared history with the UK and very similar issues with regards to recruiting BPOC people into the agricultural sector. Visits included museums, speaking to farmers, ranchers, cowboys, growers, vets and educators and exploring other sectors like baseball and the military.
In US agriculture there is a current drive to highlight the social justice movement and history of BIPOC people. They are also actively celebrating difference including other faiths and cultures. This is something the UK agricultural sector should embrace. Engaging with more diverse groups and people and connecting with them, can only help increase understanding and highlight the similarities we share and break down negative biases which holds back so much progress. We need to do this at both an individual level and organisational level. We all have a responsibility to create a culture of making sure that everyone can feel like they belong.
Many barriers are systemic and were created in the past but are still very relevant and active today. Creating equity and inclusion is crucial. Equity means creating a more level playing field and inclusion is making people feel like they belong. From acknowledging and accepting the past, creating positive opportunities for marginalised people, platforming and promoting BPOC people, and creating support networks and systems to help BPOC people be an equal part of the sector is key to making any programme a success. BPOC people need to be included in the process to create effective solutions for them. There are plenty of inspiring BPOC who want to be or are in the agricultural sector, despite the barriers laid out in front of them. The belief that BPOC people do not want to work in agriculture is false.
By increasing the diversity of people in our sector and inspiring the next generation, we will help create ideas, innovation and talent plus making the sector more representative of the country we serve. To achieve this, we need to start investing more time, money and effort into working for positive change.
As Jesse Jackson said: “When everyone is included, everyone wins.”
Theeb's report summary video can be viewed on the Nuffield Farming YouTube Channel.
Navaratnam (Theeb) Partheeban
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