Saba is attempting to resuscitate agriculture as part of a broad drive to enhance self-sustainability and minimize dependency on imports. The “Organoponic” garden at The Level is at the heart of that drive. The project, run by Foundation Social Workplace Saba (FSW Saba) is developed in partnership with the Cuban government, who sends agricultural engineers for technical assistance. In addition to its educational impact, this project is paving the way for other areas in which Cuban expertise in self-sufficiency may assist in addressing local needs.
Cuban Organoponic garden project coordinator Otto Manuel Andérez Ramos explained the importance of the educational session on sustainable agriculture, held at the garden November 13-20. “It is important for the youth to realize Saba’s agricultural potential to understand that Saba is more than a rock,” he said.
The sessions were part of the ongoing Second Chance Education classes, which are also implemented by FSW Saba. Similar sessions were also given to two Saba Comprehensive School (SCS) classes; the “Pro Class” led by teacher Madelyn Johnson and the form-4 class led by geography teacher Mark Dodds. The latter conducted a lab experiment on Saba’s volcanic soil characteristics. Otto explained to the youth the history of the agricultural programme, and its goals and achievements, made possible through the hard work of employees like Malvin Simmons, who has been working on the garden for the last five years. Garden workers Alexander Hassell, Alexter Roger, Angeline Wilson, Domiana Leverock and Akin Winton also assisted in the student sessions.
Otto spoke of the nutrient content and the challenging composition of the shallow soil hardened by rocks. He spoke of the solubility of minerals and the various processes resulting in different soil structures and textures as well, as the role of microorganisms, and the air and water filled pores. Students experimented with various compositions of soil with the help of biodynamic horticulture expert Michel
The student discussion on organic matter continued with a tour of the estate by Lloyd Simmons. The group was shown various sources of organic fertilizers used in the Organoponic farm, such as cow, rabbit, chicken, sheep and geese manure. The sessions raised the youth’s interest in agriculture and follow-up sessions are planned in January 2013.
Based on the youth’s inquiries, those sessions will focus on sustainable farming systems and livelihood and will be an integral part of the agriculture geography course given by SCS teacher Mark Dodds. These educational efforts are the hoped for seedlings in Saba’s agricultural revival, Otto explained.