Two establishments in the Western Region, with a focus to promote innovative, social inclusive and sustainable agriculture in Ghana, have strategically partnered the Australian Embassy in Ghana to whip up interest in agriculture among students.
This they have done by reintroducing the concept of farming in schools, which was in the past given critical attention at the basic level of education.
The NGO, Tractor-Transforming Rural Agricultural Communities Through Organic Re-engineering in partnership with B-BOVID- a social enterprise in Agri-business, with support from the Australian High Commission Direct Aid Programme, trained the students on the fundamentals in agriculture and its significance to sustainable development.
The project, dubbed ‘Youth School Garden and Sustainable Agriculture’, is carried out in three stages of classroom introduction to agriculture at Tractor and B-Bovid’s premises, practical demonstration and an opportunity for selected schools to nurture their own school farms starting with vegetable production on half an acre land.
The one year project being funded and implemented by the partners is to help the youth consider agriculture as a viable and attractive career path. The project will assist students understand the dynamics of the agricultural sector and what ought to be done to promote agriculture.
The primary ultimate goal is to assist present and future generations to promote food security, safe environment and sustainable agriculture. The first phase of the project, ended on Friday with a total number of four hundred pupils benefiting from the training.
The project has been largely endorsed by teachers, pupils and officials of Ministry of Food and Agriculture. A teacher from the Beahu DA Junior High School in the Ahanta West District, Lydia Amoako, said the initiative was making great impact in the lives of students in the area.
The Science Tutor said all along, the perception of many people, including students, had been that only poor people without alternative livelihoods engage in agriculture. She admitted the training has enlightened students and teachers about the potential of agriculture in developing communities and the nation at large.
She thus called on corporate organizations to assist the NGO to expand the training programme to cover many more schools in the country.
"One cannot quantify the impact the training has made in the lives of many of the students. Even some of us the teachers can now see how important it is to invest in agriculture" she emphasized.
On his part, the Ahanta West District Coordinator on Agriculture, Collins Antwi, described the initiative as unique and laudable. He proposed that the training programme be adopted by either local authorities or central government and replicated across the country.
He also suggested its adoption by management of Ghana's School Feeding Programme to assist basic schools in the country with knowledge to farm, produce and feed themselves.
"Managers can even apply the same concept in the management of the school feeding programme, in order to guarantee sustainable supply of nutritional food to pupils.”
He was however worried that agriculture was no longer a subject on its own and called for its decoupling from Integrated Science to ensure that children get the needed benefits.
One of the beneficiary pupils, 13 year old Gabriel Koomson from Beahu DA JHS, said his mindset about agriculture had changed for the better with the new knowledge.
"We had the opportunity to see some of the things that we learn in school. We were also taught how to manage simple gardens. In addition, we watched the impact of agriculture on our lives, our environment and society through power point presentation. I now see agriculture not as the poor man’s job but a professional business that I can do after school”.
The Ahanta West District Agricultural Development Officer Akua Afriyie Fosu Obeng, also described the project as a good one to increase the youth’s participation in agriculture.
“It’s a huge step taken by Tractor to develop the agric sector. How I wish such a project could be implemented in all ten regions of the country” she noted.
Executive Director of Tractor, Issa Ouedraogo, was excited about the enthusiasm exhibited by the participating schools and was hopeful the impact would be massive if the programme is supported.
"So far, some significant change stories have started emerging and beneficiary schools have shown interest of starting their own vegetable farms. Some of the students are also contemplating establishing backyard gardens at home and others are desirous to become best farmers within their respective districts…Our overall objective is to help basic schools and if possible second cycle schools to establish their own school gardens to promote sustainable agriculture".
Addressing pupils of Ankyenyin, one of the ten beneficiary public schools which was the last batch of the first phase, Mr. Ouedraogo noted that the second phase of the project will support the schools effort and guide them establish their own gardens.
Explaining the commercial aspects of agriculture to the pupils, Mr. Ouedraogo elaborated on the influence of agric to impact greatly on the development of society.
"Looking at the level of enthusiasm shown among the pupils during the first phase of the project, in fact, the organization wishes that corporate entities will support the project to increase the number of schools to benefit from the training in the Western Region and possibly other parts of the country".
In addition to the Youth School Garden and Sustainable Agriculture Project, the organization is also implementing a climate smart agriculture, food security programmes and agro forestry project in partnership with Coastal Sustainable Landscape Project (CSLP) under USAID sponsorship".