Gov’t’s shade house initiative expanding in schools

Several learning institutions across Guyana will benefit from government’s rapidly expanding shade house initiative, through the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI).

The shade house is a design which is covered by a woven material to allow sunlight, air and moisture to flow through the gaps in the material.

While farming technology is not new to Guyana, shaded cultivation is one way in which crops can be protected from the effects of climate change.

Crops cultivated by students of the Cummings Lodge Secondary School, East Coast Demerara

During a recent interview with the Department of Public Information (DPI), NAREI’s Chief Executive Officer, Jagnarine Singh underscored that one of the agency’s present mandates is to ensure the agriculture sector is developed in a scientific way, and through this, production and productivity are increased.

He said the move to introduce the technique into schools will expose students to climate smart technology that requires less labour, and promotes year-round food production.

“We want our youths to experience modern agriculture. There are many opportunities in agriculture, and they do not have to be labour intensive. Agriculture is not a punishment but a rewarding venture. Gone are the days where a farmer has to be bending over for hours and then count losses during a flood,” he relayed.

The shade house initiative established in schools complements government’s Agriculture and Innovation Entrepreneurship Programme (AIEP) that targets youths.

Shade house constructed and is being utilised by students of the Cummings Lodge Secondary School, East Coast Demerara

President, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, who launched the AIEP flagship programme in January, asserted that the project will stimulate and promote significant economic growth in the lives of young agriculturists.

Meanwhile, Cummings Lodge Secondary School, East Coast Demerara is one of several learning facilities already benefitting from this initiative.

Head of the agriculture science department, Sharon Isurdeen reached out to NAREI in 2020, to construct a shade house at the school.

With an affirmative response, the shade house was erected and equipped with raised beds and drip irrigation system by NAREI, along with assistance from the Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF). NAREI also provided seedlings and technical support.

“When I came to Cummings Lodge Secondary School in 2019, the garden became flooded during the rainy season. All the hard work of the students were destroyed. This dampened their spirits, and of course made agriculture look like a disaster. I knew the solution was shaded cultivation,” Isurdeen stated.

Head of Department, Sharon Isurdeen

The shade house is managed by the students who plant crops including lettuce, cauliflower, tomatoes, peppers, and pak choi. The crops are sold to students, teachers and members of the community.  

“The money we earn from selling the produce is used to purchase seedlings and feed for our poultry. The litter from the poultry is also used to add to the soil for our crops,” the agriculture teacher said.

Fourth form student, Kayla Alleyne, who is expected to sit the Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC) next year, is among the scores that will use the project to successfully complete her School Based Assessment. “Before agriculture was backbreaking, now we have raised beds. We do not have to deal with flooding. Previously, our crops on the ground would be flooded when the rain falls. But now our crops are not exposed to the rainfall. I enjoy watching my seedlings grow into plants,” Alleyne told DPI.

Fourth form agriculture science student, Kayla Alleyne