The Ottos Comprehensive School’s Agricultural programme continues to make a positive impact on food nutrition and security among the school population.
Head of the Department of Agricultural Science, Ms. Meritt Keizer spoke of the advantages of farming in schools, the support which they’ve received from other agencies and institutions and the challenges they face in maintaining the farm.
The school currently has two (2) Gardens, a Shade House which is in need of repair, a Broiler House and a Slaughter Pen.
The Agriculture Science Department is facilitated by four (4) other teachers and three (3) Farm Hands who assist in taking care of the garden.
The school currently grows a variety of crops such as eggplants, beans, sweet pepper, cherry tomatoes, okra, sweet potato, pumpkins and cabbage and according to Ms. Keizer, they can’t grow enough for the favorable markets which they’ve developed both from in-house and neighbouring educational institutions.
The Broiler House raises broilers, a type of chicken (meat birds) which are currently six (6) weeks old. They were bought at one (1) week old and are used to assist students in their SBAs According to Ms. Keizer.
Ms. Keizer also stated that after six to seven weeks when the chicks reach full maturity, they are slaughtered at the school by students at the slaughtering area. She emphasized that the farming practices at the school are environmentally-friendly.
“They (Broilers) are given no chemicals or injections and these are the best chickens for locals to eat.” As a natural fertilizer, the school uses the pen manure, hence the poultry farm, so when the litter is changed, it is put to rot and then mixed into the soil as a fertilizer. “
Teachers, as well as parents support the school’s agricultural farm with teachers being the biggest supporter by always buying the crops produced and the school canteen also purchases commodities to prepare the school meals.
Although the garden continues to play an important role, Ms Keizer noted that the agricultural programme faces a number of challenges including vandalism.
Theft of a number of crops and 168 chickens and the occasional intrusion of roaming animals have impaired the programme from time to time but efforts are being made to address these are other concerns.
We spoke to a Farm Hand, Phillip Auguiste who
stated although the lack of tools and other supplies affect the handling of the
farm sometimes, he is proud to see the commitment and interest that the
students continue to show in the management of the school farm.
“Every morning they will feed the chickens and water their crops often, they are very excited about the programme” stated Mr. Auguiste.
In terms of future plans for agricultural development at Ottos Comprehensive, Ms. Keizer noted that the farm hands are currently being trained in the farming technology of hydroponics so that more crops can be produced using the system. She said she also hopes to implement a drip irrigation system on the farm.
Ms. Keizer said that she hopes to get the necessary assistance to improve the programme as the students are very much interested in seeing it grow. She said quite a number of them have already expressed a keen interest in careers in the Agriculture Sector.