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Education ministry launches Trees That Feed initiative in schools

Published:Saturday | September 27, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Paul Virtue of Trees That Feed Foundation.
Joni-Dale Morgan, president of Rotary Club of Ocho Rios East, presents a breadfruit plant to Custos of St Ann Norma Walters.
Breadfruit plants that will be distributed to schools under the Trees That Feed in Schools programme.

Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer


THE MINISTRY of Education is spearheading a tree planting initiative in schools that is aimed at providing nutritional and economic benefits to students and institutions.

Collaborating with Trees That Feed Foundation (TTFF), the Ministry of Agriculture, and several branches of the Rotary Club, the ministry recently launched Trees That Feed in Schools, in a ceremony at the Ocho Rios High School.

Education Minister Ronald Thwaites, in a message read by Custos Norma Walters, said the project is a good example of sustainable development in that planting trees is healthy for the environment, and there is the benefit of increasing food supply for the Jamaican population while promoting national food security.

He said the launching of the programme was timely as it coincides with the Ministry of Education's revamped school feeding programme and its mandate to increase school attendance and enrolment.

The programme will see the Rotary Club of Ocho Rios East leading the charge by getting Rotary clubs across the island distributing trees to schools for planting.

Paul Virtue, who, along with his sister Mary McLaughlin, and her husband Mike founded TTFF in late 2008, said the objective was to "blanket the country with breadfruit trees" in order to preserve the environment.

The premise was that people would not cut down trees that give them food. The programme was later tweaked to include economic benefits from the plants.

In the end, several varieties of breadfruit were obtained, including some that were drought resistant, and distribution began across the island.

Now the programme will target schools.

"We are going to target at all levels from primary school. TTFF will supply them through the Ministry of Agriculture. They have planted in over 70 schools already," Virtue said.

In Portland, a processor uses breadfruit from the project to make flour.

"We're buying the flour from him and donating it to a school in Port Antonio. They use it to make porridge, cupcakes and so on. It contains more protein than regular flour or cornmeal."

To encourage the making of flour, the TTFF has donated processing machines to Mango Valley Co-operative, the Rastafarian Indigenous Village in Montego Bay, and the Jeffrey Town Farmers' Association. And there are more to come.

Virtue said the project could eventually produce enough flour to substitute the 350,000 tonnes of flour and cornmeal imported into Jamaica each year.

The launch means the beginning of a partnership with the Rotary Club of Ocho Rios East and several other branches of the club, including from St Catharines South in Ontario, Canada, which was represented at the launch.

In fact, the Ocho Rios club was presented with cheques of US$11,200 from St Catharines South and US$2,300 from Port Alberni - Arrowsmith and Port Alberni and Alberni and Family Mediation.

There was also a donation from JMMB, Ocho Rios.

The money will go towards the tree planting project.

President of the Rotary Club of Ocho Rios East, Joni-Dale Morgan, told Rural Xpress: "It's a project that we have been doing for the past four to five years and we know that this is something that we definitely want to do islandwide. The role that we play is actually getting trees to all rotary clubs islandwide so the clubs can integrate it into the schools."

She said the long-term effect would be that no student would be hungry and they will all gain nutritional benefits.

"So everyone will learn," Morgan said.