While the number of registrants for the new course is small, it will be carried, the Minister said.
He was at the time speaking at the institution’s 49th graduation ceremony which saw 125 young men and women, the largest batch of students, officially completing the first stage of their studies in the field of agriculture.
To date, about 3,160 people have received training at GSA located at Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara in the Diploma and Certificate programmes which include animal health and veterinary public health, forestry and fisheries studies.
The Chairman’s Prize was presented to Alwyn Seegolam from the Essequibo campus while the Chief Executive Officer’s prize was copped by Vishan Persaud from the Mon Repos campus. Both of the awardees achieved distinctions in the Diploma in Agriculture. Seegolam also achieved the Gold Medal; an award that has not been given out for a number of years. The Gold Medal is awarded to a person who performs academic and practical work, in addition to campus community service.
Several of the other outstanding performers include Ceciley Lonke and Shivram Ramdeen for their efforts on the farm; Tyrone Austin, Denesha Henry and Elroy Thomas (forestry), and Safraz Persaud, Padmini Luckram, Rondecia Cozier and Larenzo Richards (animal health and veterinary public health).
Recognised as Guyana’s primary school of agriculture, GSA over the years has provided many Guyanese, and even people from other countries, the opportunity to be schooled in agriculture. Two of this year’s graduates hail from Barbados and St. Kitts and Nevis.
Minister Ramsammy noted that many of them are now teachers at the GSA and even hold high positions in institutions around the world. In this regard, he is of the view that the institution has lived up to its expectations.
“As a Guyanese and as a Member of Parliament I stand in front of you proud, yes there is a level of boasting, but I stand here with genuine pride…but there were many naysayers 50 years ago who said it couldn’t be done that we were making a mistake…50 years later as we graduate 125 students from this school I think we can look back and say our then visionaries were right and we are grateful that they had the will and courage to follow their dreams,” he said.
In light of the possibilities, the Minister highlighted that the students (past/present), and the new batch belong to an institution with national and international reputation and significance, and it must be treated with the respect it deserves.
“We have been working with the new Vice Chancellor of the University of Guyana to ensure greater collaboration…I want to see more graduates from the Guyana School of Agriculture completing their Degree in Agriculture at the University of Guyana,” Minister Ramsammy pointed out.
He further acknowledged that there are many observable skills among the citizens of Guyana, and in this regard, he stressed that in 2013/2014 one specific skill the school will ensure its students have is the ability to carry out hybridisation so as to improve the genetics of plants and in the long -run, yield.
Over the next year, the Ministry of Agriculture will be developing land within the GSA compound and other land owned by sister Ministries, such as the Culture Ministry’s New Opportunity Corps (NOC), which will be put to good use.
The Minister was referring to the introduction of incubator plots where students can be formed into entrepreneurial groups and develop commercial projects.
“Some of these integrator plots will continue to be available to the graduates for between one and two years after they graduate…by the time our students leave here they must not only know agriculture science by the book, they must not only have some farm experience, but they must be able to translate this knowledge into a commercial venture…this is the new agriculture for Guyana,” he emphasised.
Minister Ramsammy also called for the harmonising of agriculture science training opportunities and the teaching of sanitary standards. He explained that assistance has been solicited of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, (FAO) and the Inter American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) to work with the GSA to develop a curriculum for new and current students on sanitary standards.
In his report, GSA’s Chief Executive Officer, Brian Greenidge spoke on the school’s mission, vision, personnel, staff development, public relations, financing and maintenance.
With regards to the academic aspect, Greenidge noted that the school currently has over 250 students in training and remedial classes in Maths and English were offered for those who needed an extra push.
He noted that the school garners about 60 percent of its revenue from the livestock farm, and the students were also able to develop two new products – a porridge mix and chicken ham both of which are available for sale at the Guyana Shop.
The CEO indicated that this year 50 students from the Mon Repos campus were graduating with the Diploma in Agriculture, 14 from the Certificate in Agriculture, 12 from the Diploma in Animal Health and Veterinary Public Health, 24 from the Certificate in Forestry and 1 from Fisheries Studies.
Meanwhile, 19 students from the Essequibo campus graduated with the Diploma in Agriculture and 5 with the Certificate in Forestry.