Tuesday 12 March, 9 month after its inception, the Minister of Agriculture, Dr.
Leslie Ramsammy and the Minister within the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Baksh,
handed over the integrated school farm at the St. Ignatius Secondary School
(SISS) to the principal, Ms. Yvette Archer.
model school farm project at the dorm school in Lethem, Region 9, Southern
Guyana, was conceived by Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, who is also the former Minister
of Health. The successful implementation was the result of close collaboration
between the Ministries of Agriculture, Health, Education, Local Government
& Regional Development, and Amerindian Affairs and the UN Agencies:
PAHO/WHO (funding agency), FAO and UNICEF.
SISS serves the Amerindian communities in and around Lethem and has an
enrollment of more than 700 pupils with a dormitory to accommodate 200
Amerindian students. The establishment of this model school farm aims to
provide vegetables and fruits for the school feeding program and the daily
meals served at the school’s dormitory.
studies by FAO (Food Security Assessment, 2004) and Ministry of Health/PAHO
(Global School-Based Student Health Survey 2010-2011) identified Amerindians as
vulnerable and food insecure groups with poor nutritional habits and lack of
physical exercise as high risk factors for Non-Communicable Diseases.
Due to limited agriculture production by subsistence
farming in the isolated hinterland, Amerindian communities spend an estimated
50-60% of their disposable income on mostly imported foodstuff. As a result
these communities have limited nutritional intake.
After consultative meetings with the school and the St.
Ignatius community on 11 June 2012, the project started by conducting a
Youth Health Survey (YHS), which provided a useful baseline to measure the
impact of improved nutrition on the school youth. This survey, carried
out by a Canadian intern (recruited through PAHO’s SDE Area as part of the
Faces, Voices, and Places initiative), established that 1 in 5 students at SISS aged 12-15
were stunted, eat less than the required amounts of fruits and vegetables while
3 out of 5 were either “sometimes”, “often”, or “always” hungry due to lack of
food at home.
Plowing and fencing (fence poles provided by the community)
of the half acre lot also commenced in June 2012, but due to inaccessibility
after heavy rains, the completion of the farm was delayed until
September. The National Agricultural Research and Expansion Institute
(NAREI) of the Ministry of Agriculture could finally commence planting on the
school farm by the end of September. The innovations at this farm consist
of drip irrigation, elevated beds of organically enriched soil and a shade
house covering 1/3 of the half acre farm. The drip irrigation system
significantly reduces the water demand but also reduces the vulnerability to
the impacts from climate change. These triple-adaptations of drip
irrigation, organically enriched soil and shading, allows not only for year
round growing of produce, but also for teaching the agricultural science
curriculum during all semesters. The planting, growing and harvesting of the
crops is part of the school’s science curriculum and the school can now give
double instead of single awards in agricultural science in which 90% of the
students up to grade 11 participate. FAO provided training in the integrated
farming curriculum and food security
through their school-based learning program.
existing water wells at the school, providing water to the school, the dorms
and the teachers homes, did not have enough yield to provide adequate water for
the drip irrigation system of the school farm and it was necessary to dig a new
20m (65ft) deep well.
Nutrition Department of the Ministry of Health surveyed the dietary practices
at the school and trained the staff of the school in planning and preparing
improved dietary menus, promoting the use of fruits and vegetables in the daily
diet and demonstrated the conservative method of preparing vegetables;
first crop from the school farm project was harvested in December and
harvesting of healthy produce of callaloo, pak choy, tomatoes, wiri wiri, bora
bora, okra, sweet peppers, tomatoes, citrus and guava’s continues. Ms.
Archer noted that not only were dormitory students already eating food from the
farm and developing a better appreciation and taste for vegetables, but also
that the school had made G$164,000 (US$ 820) in the last two months from the
sale of excess vegetables, and used some of the profits to prepare a poultry
farm and bought broilers. She emphasized the project’s contribution to
the integration of agricultural sciences with other subjects such as
mathematics, business and health education, and expressed her commitment to making
sure that the project “lives on”.
The Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC) is expected to
conduct training in business and marketing soon and will integrate marketing
into the school’s business studies curriculum.
on the experiences from this pilot project, the PAHO/WHO, FAO and UNICEF
developed a three year project proposal for the UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund to
expand this concept of innovative school farm and integrated science curriculum
and health promotion to the 10 hinterland dormitory schools in regions 1, 7, 8
project is already drawing much attention from other communities in the region
and the village of Parikwarunawa, about half an
hour’s drive south of St. Ignatius, is emulating this same innovative farming
method with technical support from NAREI.
funded the implementation of this project to the extent of about US$19,500 of
which 70% were generated through the CIDA project “Improved Health and
Increased protection from Communicable Diseases for Women, Children and
Excluded Populations in Latin America and the Caribbean”.
For more information on this project please contact:
Dr. Oudho Homenauth, Chief Executive Officer, NAREI: firstname.lastname@example.org
Natasha Beerjit, Senior Analyst, GMC: email@example.com
Adrianus Ton Vlugman, Senior Advisor, PAHO/WHO: firstname.lastname@example.org