Duplicating the Forest Garden model from a Cayo School


As primary schools open on distance learning platforms nationwide this week, the Santa Familia Primary School in the Cayo District is considered fortunate in having its own garden. The curriculum at the primary school integrates with what happens at the garden located just a few meters away.
We have visited the school garden in Santa Familia with Narcisso Torres, acting as a guide. Torres also has his private plot of land in the village where he sustains his family with a variety of rooter crops.
The school garden at the Santa Familia Primary School is as a result of a unique partnership between the California non-profit, Exploring Solutions Past and the El Pilar Forest Garden Network. Now featured in the new book, Transforming Heritage Practice in the 21st Century, the Kanan K’aax School garden is being overseen by Mrs. Cynthia Ellis-Topsey, a widow of Harriot Topsey Sr. one of Belize’s first Archaeological Commissioners. Topsey-Ellis is also carrying forward her father’s vision and legacy.
It is hoped that the educational practices at the Santa Familia Primary School can be duplicated in other parts of Belize so that students can learn about health, the environment and science based on the Education Curriculum.
Ellis-Topsey tells The Guardian that their focus now is to look at the impact of the [COVID-19] pandemic “…in the context of what [El] Pilar is offering.”
As mentioned by the Minister of Agriculture the Hon. Sen. Godwin Hulse last Thursday, agriculture is also being promoted in the school curriculum.
The school garden in Santa Familia is in response to trends in acting locally but considering events in the global community.
Conservation of scarce cultural and natural resources is the challenge facing the twenty-first century. Tropical research on ecology and botany of the Maya Forest of Meso-America demonstrates that it is dominated by useful plants (Ford 2008).
Experts have underlined that population growth in the tropics could overwhelm the conservation agenda if we do not seek an understanding of these remarkable and biodiverse landscapes. The Belize National Library Service and the Mexican Institute have recognized the valuable by-products of these biodiverse landscapes in Belize and have sponsored a nationwide exhibit on useful plants.