By George Henry, Gleaner Writer
Fitz-Donald Shaw, technical co-ordinator at Ebony Park HEART Academy. - George Henry
SITUATED JUST outside of the peaceful South West Clarendon town of Toll Gate, is the Ebony Park HEART Academy - one of Jamaica's most successful agricultural training institutions.
It was established in 1987 by the Human Employment and Resource Training (HEART) Trust, the National Training Agency to competently train individuals for the agricultural industry, through the use of modern technology.
"We deliver skills in Agri-production by imparting best practises in an effort to sustain our commitment towards the national drive for self-sufficiency and the development of human resources, by facilitating matriculation, throughout the training continuum," reads part of the institution's mission statement.
The main agricultural activities at Ebony Park are related to livestock rearing including pigs, poultry, goats, bee, cows and fish. However, the cultivation of a variety of crops is also widely practised.
Fitz-Donald Shaw, is the technical co-ordinator at the institution, which enrols just over 400 trainees.
He told Farmers Weekly that the academy has not only accomplished its mission in general agricultural training but that it has also established a new business module which allows the certification of training in specific disciplines such as budding and pig rearing.
"In former years each (agricultural) programme was made up of a number of modules and you had to do all the modules to be certified as being competent in general agriculture. However, the new business module sees to the certification of trainees as being competent in different skills," he said.
The general agriculture programmes are conducted over an 18-month period.
Ebony Park boasts orchards in citrus, avocado and mango and has had significant success in producing agro-processed foods, marketed under its 'Ebony Pride' label.
More recently, the academy entered a partnership with the Jamaica Agricultural Foundation, to produce cotton and currently, the institution is undertaking an Agro-processing project to provide training in this discipline to add to existing programmes in biotechnology and commercial production.