Excitement in the inner city as JSIF builds out greenhouses

Monday, November 26, 2018

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IT was hard to tell who was more excited: The children of seven pioneering inner-city schools or Dr Milton Clarke, the environmental specialist at the highly regarded development agency, Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF).

JSIF has been building out a futuristic School's Environmental Programme, constructing greenhouses in the seven selected schools, as part of its Integrated Community Development Project (ICDP), and Clarke recently toured the sites to get a feel of what progress was being made.

With funding support from the World Bank, JSIF will spend $34 million to establish state-of-the-art greenhouses in 23 Jamaican schools in vulnerable communities to produce crops such as sweet peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce, pak choy, and callaloo.

The project will bring money into the schools from sales of the produce in the community and to nearby schools, and will multiply its impact through linkages with several State agencies and programmes, such as the “eat what you grow, grow what you eat” initiative of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries; the Ministry of Education and Youth's school-feeding programme; and the Ministry of Health's drive to improve nutrition in schools.

What Dr Clarke found on his tour was most encouraging. The students and principals were equally enthusiastic about the project, and he could not help getting caught up in euphoria evident at the first seven schools: Denham Town All-Age, Trench Town Primary, Greenwich Town All-Age, Central Branch All-Age, St Andrew Primary, Boys Town Primary; and North Street Congregational Primary.

President of the Denham Town Primary Environmental Club, Shakeil Clarke described the greenhouse concept as a science that would allow him to plant crops that would give off oxygen and help to clean up the environment.

His counterpart at the St Andrew Primary School, Natalia Williamson, said: “This project is very important to the children as eating vegetables will allow us to have a healthier lifestyle. We also plan to sell the produce, which would in turn help us to earn funds for other school projects.”

Principal Eugelie Brown declared: “I am elated to start this project, and appreciative to the JSIF and its funding partner for this great initiative, because most of our children are not exposed to this type of innovation based on their dwellings.”

Principal of the Trench Town Primary, Merline Sewell Sullivan, welcomed the project as a “long-awaited gift, as we have tried for years, through the regular farming process, and were unsuccessful. We now see this as a business venture and we plan to make it sustainable by supplying the produce to our canteen as well as the community”.

“I had a sensitisation meeting with the parents' group and they are equally excited and yearning to get on board,” Sullivan said, noting that the initiative will be managed through their Environmental Club.

The construction of the school facilities are being supervised by farmers who had previously benefitted from training in greenhouse technology under the successfully concluded Rural Economic Development Initiative, also a World Bank-funded project implemented by JSIF.

Dr Clarke also believes that the project should help in capacity development, hence the beneficiaries are being engaged in a series of training workshops as well as sensitisation meetings across the parishes of Kingston, St Andrew, St Catherine, Clarendon, Westmoreland, St James, and St Ann to be facilitated by the JSIF team.

Endorsing the programme also were: principal of the St Andrew Primary School, Clover Clarke Bailey; principal of the Central Branch All-Age, Michael Sutherland; and science and environment teacher, Jody-Ann McKoy.

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