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Thinking outside the box in Harry Watch

BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-Large South/Central Bureau myersg@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, December 30, 2013    

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Fitzroy Francis principal of the Harry Watch All Age School sees himself in a much wider role as community builder.

Francis says that is the reason he recently decided to broaden his school's end of term fun day to include a modest community food festival.

There was plenty of the traditional chicken and rice and peas when the Jamaica Observer Central visited the school in the remote, picturesque mountain district of Harry Watch in mid-December.

But also, the food festival included a variety of dishes long associated with Jamaican folk culture including potato pudding, toto, coconut drops, grater cake, gizzada, fritters, ackee and saltfish, run dung and roasted yam.

Francis said he hoped some of the fare on sale would help farmers to recognise how "simple value added" such as goes into the making of potato pudding, fritters or roast yam can help them to earn more.

"Over the three years I have been here (Harry Watch), what I have noticed is that they (residents) plant a lot of food but there is not much value added," said Francis.

"They produce a lot of yam, potatoes and other tubers and vegetables but persons are not aware of the processes that could be used to add value to their products. My idea is to try to get the community in general to appreciate the value of value added, using simple processes...," said Francis.

Crucially too, Francis wants the 309 children who attend the school from 15 communities in the highly mountainous area of north eastern and north western Manchester, to recognise the importance of their traditional culture and how a 'good living' could be made from innovative thinking, linked to that culture.

"I am trying to highlight the value of culture in general and also to highlight the potential of a related food industry," he said.

Member of Parliament for North East Manchester Audley Shaw was among those full of praises for Francis' initiative.

"The idea being gotten across to people, especially our children, that first of all you can grow things and feed yourself, that's fundamental," said a delighted Shaw.

The potential of Jamaican food "not just for domestic use but for export should be encouraged," said Shaw, a former finance minister who recently failed in a bid to lead the opposition Jamaica Labour Party.

"I congratulate teacher Francis for recognising that our children from the earliest stage can be encouraged to be creative ... because this can become an export industry, it can be part of their livelihood for the future, the whole food industry in Jamaica is an area that needs much more development," said Shaw.

Kerry-Ann Green, one of the many parents who turned out for the food fair and fun day, hailed the initiative.

"We have nothing like this for a long time, its very good for the community," she said.

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