UWI Appeal – Ivato Theological College

Ivato Theological College: Environmental Education

… I was inspired to protect the environment, and to plant fruit trees in particular.’
Since the days when the first missionaries set up schools on the island, Madagascar has always placed great emphasis on education as a means of escaping from poverty.  FJKM (Fiangonan’i Jesoa Kristy eto Madagasikara), which stands for the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar, has several schools, a training college for teachers and colleges where young men and women are trained for the ministry.
As well as studying the Bible and Theology, the theological students receive practical training, e.g. first aid, basic health care, legal knowledge etc.  Very often ministers have to fulfil a variety of roles, especially in far-flung communities!  One exciting development recently, therefore, is the environmental education provided at Ivato Theological College, in the city suburbs.  It costs around £33,500 a year to run the college.
The Environmental Education Programme is part of the FJKM Development Section, but it was the vision of Juliette Narijaona, director of the college, to create this innovative course at Ivato.  She explained a little of the background.  ‘I was fortunate enough to study in Taiwan, and I was inspired by what was happening there to protect the environment, in particular the planting of fruit trees.  I was determined to do something similar in Madagascar’.
The prospective ministers and their families come to the college for their final year.  There are around 50 there at present.  The college has vegetable gardens, an extensive orchard, and a plantation.  There is also a palm tree garden, containing several varieties which are under threat.
Practical education in the plantation takes place one morning a week.  Students are taught how to use the wormery and natural fertiliser on the land, as well as how to sow seed and care for the plants throughout the various stages of growth.  They are also trained in the techniques of transplanting and grafting.  Apparently there are over 20 different varieties of grafted mango trees growing in the orchard!
The college grows its own vegetables and is self-sufficient, with the long-term aim of growing enough vegetables to sell, thereby creating additional funds for the college.  Students are expected to work in the vegetable garden every day, and at harvest time all the families come to help.  They are allowed to take what they need, but according to Juliette, this happens under the eagle eye of the head gardener, who ensures that nobody takes too much!
Once a week they work in the orchard, which contains all kinds of fruit trees, e.g. apple, guava, mango, avocado, orange and peach.  They also experiment by growing non-native fruit such as lime, lemon, grapes, blackberries, bilberries, kiwi and canistel.  Any additional fruit is sold once the college’s requirements have been met.
In February, during the rainy season, the College’s Green Day is held, when everyone from the college, as well as additional volunteers, spends time preparing the land and sowing new seeds and plants.  Several of the young trees from the plantation were sent to a Fruit Tree Centre recently established by FJKM at the town of Mahatsinjo, north of the capital.  With the help of the local church 270 trees were planted there, on a site which covers more than 30 acres, and the long-term plan is to plant 4,000 trees.  The centre will be able to provide fruit trees of the highest quality to all parts of the island.
The centre is seen as a valuable addition to the work of the college, and students go there to work and further their learning.  It will also be open to visitors, and offer training on how to care for trees.  FJKM have plans to take members of their churches there, as well as pupils and teachers from their schools.  Nurturing environmental awareness amongst their people is a key element of FJKM plans.  Several regional school supervisors have already started their training, and new teachers in 35 schools are part of a trial programme.
When their time at Ivato College comes to an end, each student is allowed to choose 10 trees and young plants to take with them and plant wherever they minister.  They become a source of income for the new minister, and an inspiration for church members to do something similar and learn from their expertise.
The college is carrying out groundbreaking work as regards theological education in Madagascar, as a result of Juliette’s vision, enthusiasm and leadership, and she has exciting plans for the future, such as more workers becoming part of the project, more farming equipment, and extending the plantation.  But additional funding is needed to do so.
Ivato Theological College will receive a grant of approx. £32k from the appeal.  To find out more about how this will be spent click here {to follow}
Click here for a short video about Ivato Theological College
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