Junior Achievement (JA) Dominica has benefited from a EC$72,000 commitment from the government of Dominica which will go towards its garden based Grow Project.
Agriculture Minister, Reginald Austrie made the announcement during the official signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between JA Dominica and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Fisheries at the Botanical Gardens conference room on Monday.
This is the first pilot project and will be implemented in 10 primary schools across the island, with the first being the Newtown Primary.
The additional 9 schools are Grandbay Primary, Grand Fond Primary, Berean Christian Academy, Achievement Learning Centre, Massacre Primary, St John’s Primary, Savanne Paille Primary, Salybia Primary and North East Comprehensive School.
Two thousand (2000) students across the 10 schools are expected to benefit from that project.
“Our initial commitment would be EC$72,000 to start with and like I said that does not include human resource capacity, that does not include the extension officer that we wish to hire, that does not include access to our libraries and the literature we have in the ministry,” Austrie said. “We are going to be very conscious of pests and disease; that is going to be another major focus for us in partnership with the programme.”
Austrie went on to say that when he became the Minister for Agriculture, based on the challenges he met at the Ministry in terms of an aging farmer population and a lack of interest in the subject matter, “we noticed that there is still a very serious shortage.”
“But more importantly, I recognized there was a lack of passion for agriculture,” he remarked.
He indicated that to be good at anything one has to have a passion for it, “because you love to do it and you want to do it, not because there is nothing else to do, not because you probably didn’t have a choice.”
He said when decisions are made based on one not having a choice, “you never put out your 100 percent towards it.”
The minister said that he was not happy with the country’s involvement, particularly the young people in agriculture, given its potential.
However, he indicated that there are in fact some young persons who are interested and doing very well in agriculture
From the Ministry standpoint, with the technical skills and capacities Austrie believes there is a lot that can be offered to expand the programme to the various schools.
He revealed that the government will also be looking at the provision of inputs, mentorship, training in various aspects of agriculture, business, labour force management, environmental education, technology development and to work with the school feeding programme…”
JA Dominica board member, Natasha Yeeloy-Labad said plans for the project began after the passage of Hurricane Maria when the organization realized the importance of food security on island.
“In that regard in early February, the Newtown Primary School was identified as the first site to implement the Grow Project,” she revealed. “We are very pleased to see that in May 2018 the Honourable Reginald Austrie shared the very same sentiment.”
She noted that from now on, JA Dominica will be better positioned to obtain more support from the ministry to implement a successful Grow Project and other youth in agriculture initiatives throughout Dominica.
Yeeloy-Labad said the Grow Project is a vehicle for empowering young people to appreciate and enter the field of agriculture in a modern and climate resilient context.