JIS News

The preservation of the environment is being given added focus by the Jamaica 4-H Movement, as the 65-year old organisation has fully integrated a programme known as the Environmental Challenge into its curriculum of activities for members.
According to Public Relations Officer at the Jamaica 4-H Club, Karelle McCormack, the Environmental Challenge began as a pilot programme in 2003 and was first tested in seven parishes – St. Catherine, St. Mary, St. Thomas, St. Elizabeth, St. Ann, Clarendon and Hanover.
“It was started because we saw where the whole issue of environment was becoming more popular and we thought with 4-H trying to move with the times, it would be very appropriate to introduce it to the 4-H Club,” she tells JIS News.
Funding for the programme initially came from the Canada Green Fund and was in the region of $500,000. Subsequent monetary support has been given by the Ridge to Reef project, and currently, the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica assists the programme with funding.
Miss McCormack recalls that while there were teething pains in the pilot stage of the programme’s implementation, “I think that it was given a fairly good success rating, basically because of the interest that was generated at the time”.
Given the warm reception and positive feedback to the pilot programme by 4-H clubbites, the Public Relations Officer says that the environmental challenge project has since been extended to include the island’s other parishes and now forms a component of the 4-H Club’s overall plan.
The Environmental Challenge is operational in all 14 parishes. “We have about 10 groups per parish, in the senior and junior categories and they are asked to look at the six challenges, hence the name of the programme,” Miss McCormack tells JIS News.
The six challenges include ‘creative performance’, which means that clubbites are required to develop a skit or song looking at a particular theme; they are called on to conduct a research project; go out and tell others about what they have learnt; participate in a service project, especially in their particular communities; have an active project within their club; and go on a field trip.
The focus of this year’s challenge is on drought management. Giving a rationale for the selection of the theme, she says, “one of the reasons why we are doing this is because naturally at this time of the year, the time gets drier and we are more prone to bush fire and we had a lot of that happening last year, so this year we are concentrating on drought management”.
Environmental issues examined in previous years have included solid waste management and caring for trees. She notes that the programme is now fully integrated into the 4-H curriculum. This, she adds, is evident as the challenge is a featured component of such 4-H events as the parish symposia (also known as Parish Achievement Days), and the national symposium.
“Before we used to have separate events.now what we have done is that we have fully integrated (it) into our parish achievement days, which start this month and run until April, and our National Achievement Day, which we are going to have on April 28 at Denbigh, so you won’t see a general project display. Separate and apart from the environmental challenge display, everything will be under one display,” she explains.
It is expected that all clubs participating in their respective achievement days should also have an environmental challenge, she adds.
Miss McCormack tells JIS News that submissions are currently being made as all clubs are now undergoing intense training for their respective parish achievement days.
Entrants in this year’s environmental challenge competition will receive medals, certificates, trophies and prizes.
The Jamaica 4-H Club currently has 65,000 members on its records islandwide, but as the movement carries out a recruitment drive to boost its membership, this number is expected to be improved over time.
“We are trying our very best to increase that number.which should really be increased now but we haven’t had the figures in yet, because some registration might still be going on, but most of the registration was concluded about a month ago, so those figures are still coming on,” Miss McCormack says.
She points out that the Movement’s future plans include the introduction of training programmes that can be more appealing to the country’s young people.
“We look at our programmes and see how best we can customise them to make young persons more interested in them,” she notes, adding that the Club has its tractor training and operation programme at Denbigh as well as a food preparation programme in place. Miss McCormack is encouraging the public to support the 4-H Club’s activities by attending the parish achievement days to see what the organisation is doing.
“Usually we find that it is the clubbites who are involved, but we want to make this bigger appeal that members of the public are invited to come to look at the displays, talk to the clubbites, and hear what the 4-H is all about,” she notes.
The St. James 4-H Club is slated to host its parish achievement day at the Howard Cooke Primary School on Wednesday, March 8, while the Kingston Division will host its parish achievement day on Thursday, March 9.