By Rehanna Ramsay
In observance of its 50th anniversary, the Guyana School of Agriculture (GSA) has launched a magazine celebrating its numerous achievements and highlights the vision for propelling the institution in the next 50 years.
Under the theme “Proud of our Past Preparing for our Future” the Magazine underscores the positive and significant contribution of the GSA to Guyana’s economy.
GSA is Guyana’s premier institution in agricultural education. The school came into existence in September 9th 1963 under the command of then, Premier Dr. Cheddi Jagan and Minister of Forest and Lands, Brindley Benn, with the objective of satisfying a need for a national agricultural training institute.
The Guyana School of Agriculture opened its doors at Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara at the Central Agriculture Station (CAS) which supplied the dwelling houses to accommodate the first classes.
Mr. Harry Mandramootoo, the school’s first Principal, crafted the original curriculum. Back then, GSA offered two programmes- two year certificate and diploma programmes- to its all male student body.
“Throughout the years, more programmes have been added to the curriculum and the school has expanded. GSA has been established as the premier agricultural institution in Guyana and the Caribbean. Through our graduates, our work has been recognized locally, regionally and in the wider world.” Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the school Brian Greenidge stated.
Contributing to Guyana’s economy
Over the years, the Guyana School of Agriculture has spearheaded training which has led to the development of the local economy. The school’s curriculum changes to suit the demands of the sector and challenges of climate change.
The school has encouraged the involvement of students in agricultural research. GSA collaborates with NAREI and the Guyana Livestock Development Board (GLDA) for students to undergo practical work.
“Students of GSA have for a number of years, been involved in research and agro-processing, seed technology and aquaculture … in relation to agro -processing, we have produced a line of GSA branded products. These include GSA porridge, pepper sauce, green seasoning, chicken/ham and cheese all made from scratch at the GSA base, some of which are supplied to the local market. We are currently working on producing a mauby drink from Plantain skin,” Greenidge said
In addition, GSA has provided training for members of Community Based Organizations, (CBO) in the areas of food science and technology aimed at satisfying the requirements of the Agro- Processing sector.
He explained that the proceeds from the sale of the products are utilized to facilitate the school.
“Although GSA has a budget allocation of approximately GYD $160 million from the Central Government each year, we are a self sufficient unit, we teach our students the art of enterprise, we want to foster a spirit of entrepreneurship in our graduates that they will go out there and contribute to the generation of wealth in society.”
Incorporating the Caribbean and the wider world.
The Guyana School of Agriculture has produced more than 3000 graduates in a plethora of fields, from Agriculture to Forestry, who serve in various capacities locally, regionally and internationally.
Since 1975 GSA has accepted over 100 students from across the Caribbean and subsequently extended its programme to students from Africa.
“GSA has had graduates who came from the Bahamas, Barbados, St Vincent, Dominica, St Vincent, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Nigeria, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Angola. We will continue to support the development of the human capacity in advancing the sector’s development in the region and worldwide,” Greenidge noted.
GSA Mon Repos’ Campus currently facilitates a student body of 217 students, five of which are natives of St Vincent.
It was not all smooth sailing for the institution, but Greenidge explains that despite the challenges, GSA has sufficed in achieving its mandate to provide quality agricultural education to the nation.
“We have had our glitches but we stayed on course and today, we have much to celebrate.”
Today GSA offers more than five diploma and certification courses and is currently negotiating with the University of Guyana to have a reduction in the degree programme from four to two years. GSA currently has two campuses, the main site at Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara and another at Cotton Field Essequibo.
The school at Mon Repos has five separate dormitories and several units including a pre-fab building, food processing unit, new canteen, plant science building and the National Agricultural Research Extension Institute, (NAREI).
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