EcoViva and the Mangrove Association provide scholarships, housing, mentoring and transportation for youth in the Bajo Lempa in the department of Usulután with the Viva Fund. Our goal is to generate a set of highly skilled leaders who have the means and the commitment to contribute meaningfully to positive change in their communities. This year, we are supporting 20 students; 15 of them are enrolled at Megatec.
The blog post below is a translation of an article published in El Diario de Hoy in March, which features the programs offered at Megatec. These programs help youth gain critical technical skills and paid experience in fields relevant to the development of local communities.
It is one of the newest career paths offered by the Megatec in La Unión. Its students are from various municipalities in the country’s eastern region.
Since the inauguration of the Instituto Teconológico Superior (Advanced Technical Institute) of La Unión, known as Megatec, the youth of the country’s eastern region have new options for scholarly pursuits, considered by some students as paths that will allow them to contribute to their families’ wellbeing without having to emigrate.
The advanced degree in Aquaculture (Técnico Superior en Acuicultura), one of seven career paths offered at the Megatec, is one of the alternatives that have attracted student interest for the past two and a half years.
Aquaculture is a term derived from “aqua,” meaning water, and “culture,” which refers to the organisms that live underwater, such as fish.
At the Megatec in La Unión, run by the ITCA/Fepade, there are currently 63 students pursuing that degree, which is coordinated alongside the course of study offered by the Instituto Nacional de Usulután. There, 89 students are working toward completing their high school requirements to begin classes at the Megatec, and complete their studies in this field.
Luis Ángel Ramírez, coordinator of the Aquaculture program, explained that this year the program also established ties with the courses offered at the Centro Escolar San Dionisio. In 2013, they also plan to do this at a school in the municipality of El Carmen. “There are 150 students, total,” explained Ramírez, while we observed 13 students in the second year of the program carry out practicum activities at the tanks used by the Megatec for tilapia farm projects.
Students learn about the tilapia mode of reproduction here. In some cases, the fry they raise will be donated to organizations such as CRS, Cáritas of Santiago de María and San Miguel, as well as Fundesa and the Segundo Montes Foundation, who then distribute donations to low-income families who live in rural areas and are interested in tilapia farming.
These donations are distributed via agreements with local area families. “The fry donated weigh about two grams and measure about 2.5 cm,” explained the coordinator.
At the Megatec, they are working with two tilapia species: grey and red. Moreover, students are also learning how to farm-raise shrimp.
For this purpose, the Megatec has made contacts at the Asociación Mangle and works with the cooperatives of the Bajo Lempa who work on shrimp farming. It is in the Bajo Lempa that the Megatec hopes to set up an experimental field. Currently, there are also a series of research projects under the guidance of the biologist Armando Navarrete.
Julia Edelma Aparicio de Vásquez, director of the Megatec in La Unión, explained that since the beginning of this degree program, interest in it has steadily grown. Also, in April and May, the Megatec carried out efforts to outreach in high schools in the eastern part of the country.
“We have students in Morazán and San Miguel, because as far as fish farming goes, we don’t necessarily need to be in the coastal areas. You’ll notice that our fish are raised in freshwater, not necessarily in the coast, which is why we’ll have four students from Morazán who will be graduating on May 3,” De Vásquez noted.
The director commented that in the degree program, which lasts three years, students receive 70 per cent hands-on training and 30 per cent theoretical instruction, as outlined by the teaching methodology of the ITCA/Fepade.
“Our focus is on student acquisition of skills. . . In Aquaculture what we want is for students to become self-sufficient, to be able to raise a farm product they can sell, so they won’t have to find jobs to depend on,” she added, also noting that the Megatec provides basic skill training so students can grow other products.
The biologist Armando Navarrete confirmed that students are taught research methods, thereby engaging them in the scholarship developed by the Megatec.
Many of the students are there on scholarships and grants. Among them, Verónica Reyes de Flores, a young mother who is now in the second year of the program, thanks to that financial assistance.
“Practicum courses give us more training and allow us to look out for ourselves and grow our own products,” said Verónica, who identifies as someone in love with the sciences and enjoys studying morphology and animal reproduction.
This student is ready and willing to take full advantage of this opportunity, after having to abandon a nursing career once she started a family.
“I’m looking into starting a small business, because consulting is also something that can pay well. I could possibly work in either the private or public sector,” Veronica comments on the alternatives she’s considering.
She isn’t the only one who has plans. José Enoc Guevara Franco, who is from Ciudad Barrios, San Miguel, and is studying at the Megatec thanks to a grant from Fomilenio, stated he hopes to apply what he learns there in his own community.
“It’s a really wonderful experience to be part of the ITCA family in La Unión, because through the teachings of Megatec instructors we can learn how to grow our own underwater organisms such as tilapia, shrimp and mollusks,” he pointed out.
But not everything at the Megatec is science, he reassures. The center also promotes values such as responsibility and respect among fellow students. “We engage with many people from other schools,” he stated.
José believes that since fish farming is not known much in Ciudad Barrios, he can set up a small business that will allow him to grow and sell fish or other organisms that may be profitable.
In this way, he, Verónica, and the rest of their fellow Aquaculture students will have a useful tool with which to work and provide for their families, without having to risk their lives in a search for “the American dream.”
Translated by: Morelia P. Rivas, mprtranslation.com