Story and photos by Kaelanne Jordan,
On the National Day of Caring
A multifunctional outdoor green space to boost the morale of students and teachers was created at St Benedict’s RC Primary in collaboration with The University of the West Indies and other community partners in observance of National Day of Caring (May 26).
The May 24 event saw the handing over of new hydroponics technology by Dr Wayne Ganpat, Dean of the Faculty of Food and Agriculture, The UWI, to improve the sustainability of the school garden.
The project is supported by the Mt St Benedict Monastery, the Ministry of Agriculture Land and Fisheries (4 H Division), the Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service, CEPEP (Community-based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme) and root crop farmer Ramdeo Boondoo.
Other highlights included a planting exercise in the school garden with the students of the school and judging of plants nurtured by students over the past three weeks—patchoi, lettuce, sweet pepper, melongene, bodi.
In his address to those gathered, Dexter Samm, Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Marine Resources officially welcomed St Benedict’s RC into the 4 H movement of T&T.
He mentioned there are 128 active registered clubs locally with over 3,000 4 H’s and over 200 voluntary leaders. The 4 H movement: Head, Heart, Hands, Health, which began around the start of the 20th century in the United States, opened the door for young people to learn leadership skills and revolutionised how youth connected to practical, hands-on learning experiences outside the classroom.
Samm called on students to use their hearts and hands to care and make the Garden of Eden “a project of success”.
Also giving brief remarks, Boondoo said that his objective was to preach the gospel of food production and to empower students to see the joy in harvesting and the financial rewards.
He reminded students that though there were challenges in the project—limited space and the extreme heat, “don’t give up. A bad beginning makes for a good end”.
On the issue of food security, Boondoo added that the second-highest producer of petroleum in the world is also facing food shortages. “Are we learning anything from that?” he questioned.
Echoing similar sentiments, Dr Ganpat highlighted several reasons as to why citizens ought to have agriculture and food production “going”. He mentioned that by 2050 there will be an estimated 9.7 billion to feed.
“Where is this food going to come from? We have to produce this food. If we rely on the old systems of producing food in the hot sun and planting very far distances we are never going to produce enough food,” he said.
Ganpat spoke on the importance of applying intensive systems of crop and livestock production such as the grow-box system, hydroponics, aquaculture and vertical farming. “We don’t have enough land in Trinidad to produce food with the traditional horizontal farming… and I hope we put in a vertical system here very shortly on the walls …” he said.
Moreover Ganpat said that persons can no longer rely on 12 hours sunlight to produce food as food ought to be produced 24 hours daily.