- A number of students and officials are hailing the renewed thrust of agriculture in schools, with the relaunch of the National School Garden Programme in November.
- The Programme seeks to demonstrate the importance of agriculture to students, while boosting the provision of breakfast in educational institutions across the island.
- The initiative has as its main aim to create a positive environment for students to learn and cultivate.
A number of students and officials are hailing the renewed thrust of agriculture in schools, with the relaunch of the National School Garden Programme in November.
The Programme seeks to demonstrate the importance of agriculture to students, while boosting the provision of breakfast in educational institutions across the island.
Some 196 schools have been selected for the first phase of the programme, with schools benefiting from the provision of seeds, fertiliser, agricultural tools and irrigation systems, for the sustainability of the farms.
Participating schools are being provided with small hand tools, chemicals, knapsack sprayers, fencing, water storage tanks, and livestock in some instances.
The programme is managed by the Jamaica 4-H Clubs, in collaboration with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), which will provide technical support in the form of training and technology transfer.
Merl Grove High School is a participating institution and student, Javene Whyte, says the school’s farm currently has produce such as potato, cabbage and pak choi.
“This is a good opportunity for us to grow more stuff, like yam and banana. And we will take the opportunity and do the best that we can to further it,” she states in an interview with JIS News.
She says the tools received by the institution will be taken care of so as to enable future students to benefit from the programme.
Head Girl at the Clarendon-based institution, Mocho Primary and Infant School, Zackiah Buckley, who has a passion for flowers, says she is excited that additional plants will be at her school.
She also welcomes the fact that the initiative will result in the produce being used to make breakfast for students.
Zackiah further encourages her fellow students to care for the resources that they receive because “we are lucky to get them”.
Each garden will cost about $300,000 to develop, and the Ministry will be working with RADA to ensure the sustainability of the programme.
The initiative has as its main aim to create a positive environment for students to learn and cultivate.
Through experimental learning, they are able to get practical experience, while gaining exposure to water cycles, and participate in the design and preparation of agricultural spaces.
The gardens will also serve as demonstration plots for the training of farmers as well as for providing them with technical advice. It will also be used to sensitise students to the earning potential of agriculture and the importance of choosing agriculture as a career.
Areas of training will include site selection, land preparation, plant and animal husbandry, record-keeping, small-business development and management and marketing.
Meanwhile, Custos of Clarendon, Hon. William Shagoury, who was speaking at the relaunch held at the Mocho Primary School, notes that he was able to develop “good” work ethics from involvement in agriculture while he was a child.
“Students, take this school-garden programme serious; it could be a gateway to a better life,” the Custos reasons.
Principal of the Mocho Primary and Infant School, Tina Reid, says the programme should be embraced, as it is a crucial help in the new National Standard Curriculum, which places emphasis on practical learning, and will also be filling the nutritional needs of children.
“This development project will, unquestionably, improve the lives of students through our breakfast and lunch programmes,” the Principal states, adding that with the garden, the meal programmes at her school will be expanded for more students.
For his part, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. J.C. Hutchinson, says a major objective of the programme is to teach children that agriculture is a business, and profits can be made from it.
“We want you to take the lessons, as a lot can be earned from farming,” the Minister states.
Acting Chief Executive Officer of RADA, Peter Thompson says the programme provides an opportunity to rebuild agriculture, and the agency will be involved with the various teams to ensure improved production and productivity.
“We are keen on nutritional and food security, and we will ensure that all the scientific principles are applied, so that we can ensure the country has enough food,” Mr. Thompson asserts.
Newport Fersan has adopted 13 school gardens and is providing nutrient management. The fertiliser manufacturer and supplier will also provide more than $2 million for a school-garden competition that the Ministry will be organising.