KINGSTON — The Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) plans to engage at least three Government ministries and agencies in dialogue, to increase the use of locally produced foods in schools.
Chairman of the Denbigh Planning Committee and First Vice President of the JAS, Senator Norman Grant, made the disclosure at a JIS Think Tank on Tuesday (July 26), while giving an update on this year's staging of the annual Denbigh Agricultural Show.
Senator Grant stated that an inter-ministry/inter-agency collaboration was a fundamental 'game changer', and is ideal for promulgating the benefits of the 'Eat What We Grow' campaign in schools and the wider society. He added that this collaboration will go to the core of the development of the agriculture and agro-processing sector.
"That requires a fundamental shift of policy which the JAS would be advocating decisively, because we think it is a fundamental pillar of development and transformation for not only the agricultural sector, but for the economy going forward," he noted
"I would like to see a working Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health, that speaks to all the positives in our children in schools consuming locally grown products, including juices, milk products and eggs, and I will be putting this on the table to the new Minister [of Agriculture]" he said.
Senator Grant pointed out that this was a solid move going forward, as it would engage students, at an early stage, in understanding the importance and the direct benefits of agriculture. A further benefit to farmers would be the guaranteed use of their surplus produce.
Turning his attention to increasing the role of youth in agriculture, Senator Grant said there was a need to upgrade the roles of the Farm Queen and Young Champion Farmers. He acknowledged that there has been a shift in their roles to becoming youth ambassadors for agriculture in Jamaica.
"What we're going to do is develop a structured programme for them to get involved in schools, on speaking engagements with the youth; how they can get involved in an active programme to educate and inform and, if possible, try and attract more appetite and young persons to the sector," Senator Grant said.
Denbigh 2011, the 59th staging of the event, will be at the Denbigh showground, May Pen Clarendon, July 30 to August1.
By O. Rodger Hutchinson, JIS PRO