Schools 'growing what they eat, eating what they grow'
Agriculture is being fingered as the key to development, and in a bid to have it structured in order to maximise its full potential, State Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture J.C. Hutchinson has relaunched the school-gardening programme. According to him, school gardens have been up and running for some time, but he has taken it a step further to ensure its sustainability.
"It goes up and comes down and is not monitored properly, so we intend to see how we can, within the next two years, have a school garden up and running in all the schools."
It costs approximately $300,000 to get an average one-acre school garden into production, and the ministry is seeking sponsors to fund the venture and to assist with fencing, fertilisers, irrigation, and other tools essential to the upkeep of the garden.
Hutchinson has established several purposes for the school-gardening programme. "They will be used to train students in farming and help them understand that money is there to be made out of farming. We are saying to the children. "We want you to take the lessons you will learn in agriculture because there are profits to be made. The school gardens will also be used as demonstration plots by RADA for training farmers and providing them with technical advice where necessary," he said.
A major part of the school-gardening programme is to have all the produce going to the school's breakfast programme. "Thirty per cent of students in Jamaica go to school without breakfast, and that hampers their learning abilities. I have realised that through the breakfast programme in my constituency because school attendance has improved and so has the students' academic performance," the minister said.
A system will be set up to put the unused produce into processing. Partnering with 4H to ensure the school garden programme is sustained, school gardens will be established in every parish.
Robert Miller, senior adviser to Education Minister Ruel Reid said food security was no joke. "I'm extremely happy for the reintroduction of the school farming programme and the Ministry of Education pledges its full support within the limits of its resources to this programme," he noted.
Managing Director of Newport Fersan Dennis Valdez said food security and nation building were part of his company's responsibility, and so partnering with the Ministry of Agriculture on the school-gardening programme was just a continuation of its 'youth in agriculture programme'.
Expert advice and analysis will be provided to 196 schools to assist with developing their school gardens. The company will also adopt 13 schools, which they will be monitoring closely. In addition, Newport Fersan will be sponsoring the prizes for the school garden competition at a cost of over $2 million.
Layers and broilers are expected to be added to the programme in short order.
The school-gardening programme was launched at the Mocho Primary School in Clarendon last week under the theme 'Grow what you eat, eat what you can, can what you can't'.