Sustainable Housing Project

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Vocational Agriculture Education

Last week two young men stopped at the vocational school entrance gate and asked when we were going to start a vocational agriculture course. It seems that some of our dreams just take too long to develop. Presently, we have over 120 students at the Choluteca vocational school. There are classes in auto-mechanics, sewing, welding and computer. We hope to add agriculture, nursing, cosmetology, and construction systems management in the next couple of years.We want to get started teaching VoAg classes soon, but want to be cautious and avoid beginning a project before we are able to do it well and to sustain its operation in the future.

vocational garden

Upper Left-Heber getting ready to milk one of our goats.
Upper Rt.-We are experimenting with hoop houses to protect the plants.
Bottom Left-Our Georgia friends will love our pea crop.
Bottom Rt.-Sesame plants prosper in the land of the iguana, okra doesn't.
At the school, we have goats, rabbits, chickens, and a garden. We have started a small earthworm farm and make our own soil compost. Our biggest battle has been against the wild animals that absolutely love the new experimental crops. In one night, the wild rabbits finished off all but six of our prize soy bean plants. The iguanas came after the Crimson Sweet watermelon plants. So, we built the hoop house to help protect from small animals as well as insects.

Larry spends as much time as possible in the agriculture project at the vocational school. He is preparing Heber to become an extension worker and agriculture teacher who will some day take what he is learning and share that knowledge with others. Right now we have several of our students from the other existing courses who work with Heber in our work-study program.

Our small agricultural model has several purposes.

1. Even though we do not yet have a formal vocational agriculture program started, we are using the small farm model to stimulate interest among our students. We charge a very small fee for each of our students to attend the vocational school but many are not able to pay. It is a struggle for many of them to even get the bus fare together to travel back and forth from classes each day. When students are not able to pay the monthly fee, we give them the opportunity for a work scholarship where we waive the monthly fees, but we require them to work on the agriculture project. In the future we hope to offer something similar to 4-H for our students where we can help them set up projects in their homes. This will also give us an opportunity to get into the communities where our students come from.

2. We want to build an agriculture extension model so that we can also bring people in to see what can really be done on a very small area. Many of the people in the rural areas find seasonal work in the large agricultural production areas, such as sugar cane, cantaloupe and watermelon, and shrimp farming. They are often without work during the months of June-December. Most of these workers have access to small parcels of land for agricultural use but have not been taught how to grow food for themselves or do not have access to the needed resources for starting small agriculture projects.

3. The farm model serves as a type of experimental station where we try out our ideas before we promote them outside the school. It is a harsh environment here in southern Honduras and we want to make sure that anything we teach is able to be duplicated in actual community situations. We have established several small aquaponics projects in a couple of villages, but we are having to go back and train extension workers to be able to work closer with the owners. We hope to build a large aquaponics project at the vocational school.

Our challenges with the garden and our experience with the people of southern Honduras help us realize how difficult life is for many people. Around Choluteca, people struggle to grow a little bit of food at their homes. They make very little income at seasonal work. I have been wondering, how would I feed a family if I were in their situation? 

This Easter season. I can’t get away from the dual application of Jesus’ words when he spoke to Peter saying: “‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep.’” (John 21:17 NIV) We are attempting to “feed His sheep” as we continue to minister here in southern Honduras.

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