The Australian High Commission in Ghana, in collaboration with two establishments in the Western Region, has launched a partnership to whip up interest in agriculture among schools.
This has been made possible by reintroducing the concept of farming in schools, which was in the past given critical attention at the basic level of education.
TRACTOR (Transforming Rural Agricultural Communities Through Organic Re-engineering), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), in partnership with B-BOVID, a social enterprise in Agribusiness, with support from the Australian High Commission, under its Direct Aid Programme, train the students in the fundamentals in agriculture and its significance to sustainable development.
The project, dubbed ‘Youth School Garden and Sustainable Agriculture’, is being carried out in three stages of classroom introduction to agriculture on the TRACTOR and B-BOVID’s premises.
There is 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, in its first phase, assisted students to understand the dynamics of the agricultural sector and what ought to be done to promote agriculture.
The 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 last Friday with a total number of 400 pupils benefiting from it.
The project has been largely endorsed by teachers, pupils and officials of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture.
A teacher from the Beahu D-A Junior High School (JHS) in the Ahanta West District, Ms Lydia Amoako, said the initiative was making great impact in the lives of students in the area.
She, thus, called on corporate organisations to assist the NGO to expand the 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 emphasised.
The Ahanta West District Co-ordinator of Agriculture, Mr Collins Antwi, described the initiative as unique and laudable. He proposed that the training programme be adopted by either local authorities or the central government and replicated across the country.
He also suggested its adoption by the 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 PowerPoint 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 remarked.
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 was supported.
"So far, some significant change stories have started emerging and beneficiary schools have shown interest in starting their own vegetable farms’’.