A CASE for agriculture
There is a feeling that a career in agriculture is not glamorous, and one that the youngsters are not interested in, despite the fact that we need agriculture to stay alive.
Agricultural science has never been a popular GCE/CSEC subject for high school students. The subject is not even taught in many local high schools.
Further education, then, in agriculture, it seems, is not what many Jamaican students aspire to pursue. Then there is also the sentiment that people can learn agriculture without undertaking formal education. Whatever the thoughts are, it seems that the College of Agriculture Science and Education (CASE), located at Passley Gardens in Portland, is not affected by a fall-off in the number of students enrolled in its Faculty of Agriculture.
That faculty is one of three, the others being the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Education. The agriculture faculty offers a wide range of programmes, including the Bachelor of Science Degree in Agricultural Education, the Bachelor of Science Degree in Plant and Soil Science, the Associate of Science Degree in Veterinary Science, the Associate of Science Degree in General Agriculture, and the Bachelor of Technology degree in Agri-production and Food System Management.
Recently, Arts and Education spoke with Monique Oates, public relations and communication coordinator for CASE, which was showcasing items produced on the Passley Garden campus at Agri-Fest 2017, held on the grounds of Jamaica College, St Andrew. On show were breadfruits, breadfruit flour, green and ripe bananas, freshwater fish, and cassava, among other produce.
The cassava project at CASE is a serious one as the college is cognisant of the tuber's culinary versatility and its potential to earn money for the college.
"We are pushing out cassava. You know that Red Stripe is now using cassava in their production, and a lot of people are now moving from white flour and moving on to cassava flour, breadfruit flour, and so we are pushing the cassava," Oates said, pointing to massive pieces of cassava produced by the college.
The programmes in the faculty are principally residential as there is a high practical component in which students have to visit the farms twice a day at 4:30 a.m. and
2 p.m. They are fed three times per day, and meals include items grown on the farms. "That's a part of the practical regimen that's happening at CASE because there is no sense in us taking you to sit in [only] a classroom to tell you about agriculture," Oates said.
POPULAR WITH STUDENTS
In responding to a question about the relevance of the faculty in the context that agricultural education is not so popular, Oates said, "Last year, we increased our student intake by over 30 per cent, and a majority of that 30 per cent increase was in the Faculty of Agriculture."
There is a corresponding high demand for dormitory accommodation, but agriculture students get first considerations because of the nature of their programme.
Yet, students are not trained only for practical work. There is an administrative/supervisory element in their studies. "And I will tell you, if you look across RADA [Rural Agricultural Development Agency], if you look across the Ministry of Agriculture, if you just go down to 4-H and ask them how many of them are CASE graduates. If 10 people are in there, I can guarantee nine or all 10 are CASE graduates," Oates said.