Texas A&M Initiative Plants Interest in Horticulture in Central America

December 12, 2008 - 09:10

As part of an initiative by Texas A&M University to expand the horticultural education program in Latin America, the university successfully presented its first Junior Master Gardener training program in Chimaltenango, Guatemala.

Master Gardener volunteer Nora Santos of Edinburg, Texas, and Texas A&M University student Anais Carrillo provided training for about 35 local teachers and community leaders. The pilot training session, the first of many train-the-trainer presentations to be made in Central America, was also attended by more than 20 children.

The program will be exported to other Latin American countries.

“We will present the training to teachers and area leaders who will in turn share the information with young people in their classes or communities,” Santos said. “Children in Central America are eager to learn about nature and things related to horticulture. The Junior Master Gardener program not only teaches about horticulture, but also about science and math through practical applications.”

Santos learned about the initiative to bring the Junior Master Gardener program to Central America through her participation in the Master Gardener program in Hidalgo County in South Texas. The Hidalgo County Master Gardener volunteer horticulture program is one of several such programs throughout Texas administered by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, an educational agency of Texas A&M.

“While the JMG program is ultimately targeted at elementary and middle school
youth, adults involved in the program also benefit,” she said.

Santos noted that during the training, one community leader picked up tips about planting coffee bean seeds in small containers, while another learned about how to plant sunflowers as a potential cash crop for a nearby village.

For the next step in the program’s expansion into Central America, administrators have arranged for a similar training program in February in Honduras. They also are firming up plans for bringing the program to Panama. Both efforts are being coordinated with the support of former Texas A&M students in those countries.

Junior Master Gardener materials, including a guide for teachers and community leaders, have been translated into Spanish for this initiative. Program presentations will be conducted in Spanish and, when necessary, indigenous regional dialects.

Program materials were produced by horticultural experts within the Texas A&M system. Some of the topics covered include plant growth and development, soils and water, ecology and environmental horticulture, insects and diseases, landscaping, fruits and nuts, vegetables and herbs, and learning about life skills and possible careers.

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