While agriculture remains the mainstay of Dominica’s economy, growth forecast remain slow partly due to a lack of investment in agricultural production and low perception among the young people of the island.
Food security remain paramount to meeting the growing needs of the island population, in a region where price instability, high production and transportation costs compounded with the vagaries of the weather, make agricultural production a huge challenge. At the local level, these challenges must be met by robust leadership and scientific know how for growing food crops with the understanding of utilizing locally available raw material to keep production cost low and providing good quality food, free from contaminants.
The Isaiah Thomas Secondary School Farm Development Program was conceptualize with this in mind as both a learning centre and model farm enterprise aimed at producing fresh fruits and vegetables for supply to the school community and major supermarket chains on the island. By harnessing components of the local environment blended with student skills, new opportunities have evolved over the last two years, where an array of production techniques are being refined and experimental designs are ongoing. The longer term goals are to refine these techniques with the aim of engaging the wider Dominican community in growing vegetable crops at low cost to meet their local needs and for supply of local markets. Despite the challenges that have retarded our progress, there has been a strong response from students and willingness to be connected to their food systems both as a leisure and pass time activity, but with the growing recognition that there are prospects for self employment and income generation.
Keys to Success
Success of the program will depend on the following –
- Ability to attract funding and technical support to grow the enterprise
- Ability to consistently produce high quality food crops for sale at affordable price
To make the Isaiah Thomas Secondary School Farm Development Program a leading centre and model farm for vegetable crop production and research on the island.
To produce healthy vegetable crops for local consumption and supply to local food stores across the island utilizing ecological responsible techniques in a way that foster creativity. Our approach is geared towards creating a strong knowledge base in sustainable food production technologies and developing a model centre of agricultural excellence.
OBJECTIVES OF THE PROGRAM
- To provide members of the school community with locally produced fresh vegetable for purchase
- To generate a viable income stream for the school
- To blend theories with practice in order to reinforce student learning and to get a firsthand knowledge of the science of food production.
- To establish a model farm as a learning centre to practice sustainable agriculture.
- To teach students how to practice sustainable agriculture e.g. converting organic waste from school kitchen into compost
This has been a very successful exercise overall. I was able however to preserve and contain some of the samples to use in teaching and demonstration labs to reinforce the theory component of the program.