Hi-Pro's youth in agriculture rehab programme

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

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The Rio Cobre Juvenile Correctional Centre, based in St Catherine, is on the way to self-sufficiency in vegetables and poultry meat with the recent partnering of the Hi-Pro brand of the Jamaica Broilers Group with the institution.

On Labour Day this year, lettuce, callaloo, tomatoes, sweet peppers, and Scotch bonnet pepper seedlings were handed over to the juvenile centre for its crop programme.

Hi-Pro also contributed 250 baby chicks, and the six-week supply of Hi-Pro feed required for the birds, feed pans, vitamins, and heat bulbs for the chicken house, which was also refurbished by the Hi-Pro team that made the presentations to the centre. Almost two months later, the centre has reaped its first vegetable harvest and the then day-old chicks are now fully matured broilers.

In order to ensure success, an automated water system was installed by Hi-Pro, while the brand's technical and vet teams conducted demonstrations for the wards on how to care for the chicks. The agronomy team also made a presentation on the best methods for preparing soil, planting seedlings and monitoring the growth of the vegetables for maximum yield. The Hi-Pro technical teams have since made weekly visits to the institution to provide advice.

According to the centre's superintendent, Martin Dryden, the project has encouraged camaraderie among the 25 male inmates, aged 12 to 17, as well as instilled discipline, time management and purpose to their everyday lives.

He noted that the agricultural projects have become a part of the young men's daily routine. At 6:30 am, after completing their domestic chores each day, the young men are rostered to tend to the vegetable gardens and the chickens, three times a day. In between, they are expected to attend academic classes.

Superintendent Dryden noted that upon harvesting the chickens and produce, the centre will determine if the excess items can be sold to staff as an income-generating exercise. At the same time he said the availability of these fresh ingredients on location will not only ensure the preparation of healthy meals, but will also reduce the spend on food for the institution.

Tricia Jackson, store operations manager, Hi-Pro, said the brand is committed to the success of this project. “We see this as a critical way of helping in the rehabilitation of the youth at the centre, by giving them options for how to generate a livelihood through farming and hope for the future.”

In response, Superintendent Dryden noted that the programme was a welcomed long-term investment in the lives of the wards, preparing them to return to their communities at the end of their time at the institution.

The project, which has the endorsement of the Ministry of National Security's We Transform project, saw a contingent of Hi-Pro brand representatives, led by the chairman of the Jamaica Broilers Group Robert Levy, mMinister of state in the Ministry of National Security Rudyard Spencer, and commissioner of Corrections Lt Col Gary Rowe, participating in the launch on Labour Day.

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