“Our school has changed significantly. We managed to reactivate animal and plant production. Today we are producing chicken eggs, fruits and vegetables in flowerbeds and on a large scale on the school farm”.
This is how Juan José Galicia López expresses it. For five and a half years, he has been the director of the Jesús Antonio Chávez Flores Agricultural Technical School (ETA), located in the arid zone of Falcón state, in western Venezuela, in a community known as Las Carmelitas.
This technical school, which serves 135 students, is one of the participants in a pilot program that seeks to strengthen the resilience of communities through the establishment of local production models and short distribution chains linked to school feeding programs in two municipalities of the state of Falcón, northwest of Venezuela and which was implemented jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Program (WFP). The program was financed by the UN Joint Fund for the Sustainable Development Goals (Joint SDG Fund).
The ETA Jesús Antonio Chávez Flores received support to take advantage of the productive potential of the agricultural school in the form of seeds, agricultural tools and irrigation equipment, fruit tree seedlings, laying hens, incubators and different technical training. In addition, he received support to establish a quality control and food safety system, consisting of the construction and equipment of a quality room and training in the necessary protocols for its operation, which will allow him to access to introduce them in new markets.
“To date, we have a production of 600 eggs per day. With this production, we have managed to provide protein of animal origin to the school menu. We share part of our production with 6 other nearby primary and initial education schools. We deliver eggs and vegetables such as tomatoes, coriander, chili peppers, and paprika to these schools and other items that we are harvesting little by little”, explains director Galicia.
Support for the little ones
Rita Álvarez, for her part, is a specialist teacher of the government program “All hands to the planting”, at the Simoncito Initial Education Center (CEIS) Coto Paúl, located in the La Inmaculada sector, in the Falcón municipality.
Referring to the cooperation established with the ETA, she describes that “the project was linked to and strengthened our activities through equipment and training in nutritional education. That helped us improve the school menu. At the school, which serves children under 6 years of age, we have animal protein (eggs) and we promote the school conduct. In it, we sow and harvest celery, lettuce, chilli, chives, eggplant, beans, corn, tomato and fruit plants. The production will allow us to have healthy, happy and strong children”.
Once the ETA Jesús Chávez Flores restarted its production activities, the sale of surplus eggs began almost simultaneously. "This activity enabled us to help nearby schools with 30% of plant and animal production," adds the director. “With the remaining 70% we supply the community that surrounds the local school, giving them a priority for the purchase of eggs at affordable prices. We also sell part of the production to WFP and take it to local supplies”.
The ETA sells the package of 30 eggs to the community for a price of $5, while the current commercial price varies from $6.5 to $7 per package. With this, they also provide neighbouring families with access to proteins of animal origin.
The sale of eggs allows ETA to acquire specialized feed for poultry, and the surplus, as explained by the ETA director, "we invest in infrastructure improvements at the school, such as repairs to the unit that serves as transportation for students and without which, many of them would not have access to school.
In the opinion of the director of the ETA, one of the first impacts of these productive activities has been "the inclusion and increase in school enrollment, thanks to the fact that we guarantee students a more varied and balanced menu that includes the protein of animal origin and the traditional arepas, but complemented with vegetables in the dough, star arepas. This serves as financial aid to many families. It is a guaranteed meal a day for your children.”
The sale of eggs in local supplies made it possible for the school to increase its herd of goats, pigs and rabbits which, as the director, Galicia indicates, "will provide animal protein in the short term to strengthen the diet of our students and to sell in the area close. This will make it possible to sustain the production of ETA”.
Specifically, Galicia adds, "we were able to help the school canteens of educational institutions close to the ETA, we promoted the academic activities of the students, also the neighbours of the community, selling them products at low cost or exchanging food for jobs that they gave us." help to do at school. It is gratifying to see how this project helped us to overcome 90% since the school was in very bad condition”.
“From now on”, says Galicia, “we have a point of support that will allow us to continue producing. We are on the way to having a self-sustaining school. Academically, we have also had impacts. We achieve the interdisciplinarity of the training areas around the project activities. Now we imagine that this push will allow us to have a sustainable school. We have grown and we want to continue growing.