Tue | Sep 28, 2021

REAPing big rewards

Published:Friday | February 1, 2019 | 12:00 AMSyranno Baines/Gleaner Writer

With 30,000-plus trees planted and close to 3.5 million PET bottles removed from the natural environment in less than seven years, the LASCO Releaf Environmental Awareness Programme (REAP) has enviable success.

But Programme Director Stephen Newland is not resting on his laurels and has set his sights on expanding the garden-farming component, which could feed into sustainable breakfast programmes across all participating schools.

Since it began in 2012, REAP has started more than 200 gardens in primary and prep schools and enhanced another 200 through cash prizes.

“We’re not encouraging just flowers planting, we’re encouraging functionality, growing produce that can be used to offset your costs in breakfast feeding. So the next phase is to really step it into entrepreneurship through agriculture,” Newland shared at a Gleaner Editors’ Forum on Thursday.

Newland highlighted participating institutions such as New Forrest, Highgate, and Bath primary schools as beneficiaries that have, over the past few years, sold in excess of $1 million combined in produce like sweet pepper, Scotch bonnet pepper, tomato, and callaloo.

“Therefore, by supporting that aspect of it, what I would love to see is where a school can not only give the free breakfast based on what they’ve earned from their garden, but also subsidize the fresh produce for their students so they can get a more nutritional product basket each day, which will also assist the learning process and the education system,” added Newland, further heaping praise on participating schools for opting to farm to defray costs.

“I am happy with the recycling aspect of the programme, but I also really want to see the earning portion of the programme coming to the fore also,” he stressed.

Conceived by Newland, REAP seeks to educate children about the value of the natural environment and the enjoyment associated with outdoor activity and teamwork. It encourages students to participate in sustainable environmental practices, including tree planting, recycling, energy conservation, and upkeep of school and community environs.