Agricultural school Pompilio Ortega in Santa Barbara, Honduras opened its doors to students in 1990. Since then more than 2,500 students have received technical agricultural degrees.
Beginning in 2002, USAID began working with the school through the CDA project – a relationship that has spanned more than a decade and continues today under the Feed the Future ACCESS to Markets activity. ACCESS to Markets provides training in good agricultural practices and the latest technologies to both students and instructors through regular technical assistance visits and field days.
“The difference between our school and others is our relationship with USAID. They’ve helped us improve the quality of our teaching and provided direct technical assistance to our students” said Carlos Rivera Charvarria, director of horticulture.
The school believes in the “learning by doing” method and as such, USAID/Feed the Future helped install a drip irrigation system so students can get hands-on practice in irrigation system management and maintenance, soil preparation, fertilization, and pest management.
As part of their “real world” curriculum, students manage 15 hectares of maize, yuca, papaya, and eggplant. They learn best practices in harvesting and postharvest techniques; how to sort and grade harvested crops; and work with local and international markets to sell their products. They are currently producing one hectare of oriental eggplant under contract with a local company who consolidates the produce with other oriental vegetables for export to the United States.
“Before our students didn’t know about irrigation, now they are able to install and operate a basic system” says instructor Luis Alfredo Gonzales. “We know our students leave prepared and many go on to have very successful businesses.”
Thanks to skills and technologies they learned at Pompilio Ortega, students graduate with a variety of employment opportunities awaiting them – many choose to apply their agricultural expertise to their own commercial farming ventures while others enter the private sector as extension or service providers. In this way, ACCESS to Markets is not just building the capacity of growers but also of actors along all points of the agricultural value chain.