The Government is moving to expand the National School Garden Programme, with plans to establish a garden in every public school over the next five years.
Currently, 352 schools in Jamaica have gardens under the programme.
The announcement was made by Director of Field Services and Economic Development of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs, Ron Blake, as he addressed the St. Catherine 4-H Parish Achievement Day, held on March 13 at Greater Portmore High, St. Catherine.
Additionally, he said the movement will grow its entrepreneurial programme, and this, along with school gardening, will be drivers for the club over the coming two to three years.
“We believe that the food bill for rice and flour and the other things must be reduced by your initiative. The vegetables and the chickens that will be produced in your school garden, you can move that into your school canteens. This is better protein to consume and you would be playing your part in reducing the food bill,” Mr. Blake said, explaining the value of the school garden programme.
He said Minister of Education, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites, has asked the members to ensure that every single public school in Jamaica has a 4-H club, as he believes this will help with discipline and also complement the core curriculum.
Expressing pleasure at the announcement, Mayor of Portmore, George Lee, said it is a positive move towards addressing some of the economic challenges currently being experienced in Jamaica.
“You understand the price increases we face, you hear about the IMF (International Monetary Fund). If we, as a country, can be engaged in agriculture, then we can provide jobs, we can provide careers and we can make this country move forward,” the Mayor argued.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the 4-H Island Advisory Council, Candice Rochester, commended the young people for doing their part in ensuring food security and economic growth.
“I’m very excited about the school garden project because when you have your own garden you are feeding yourselves. Why are we importing when we can grow our own food?” she questioned.
The School Garden Programme is an initiative of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and is administered by the Jamaica 4-H Clubs.
The aims of the programme are: to develop gardens in schools that have the required facilities; to supply nutritious produce for school canteens; and to identify young agriculturalists across Jamaica.
Other objectives of the programme include: to encourage environmental awareness in sustainable agriculture; to get young people to accept the role they must play in food production; to select careers in agriculture; to integrate service learning into the formal education process; and to treat agriculture as a viable business option.
The National School Garden Programme was officially launched in October 2008, with an allocation of $108 million under the theme: ‘Youth Response to Food Security’.
By Andrine Davidson, JIS Reporter