Agriculture Land and Fisheries Minister Clarence Rambharat said supporting local agriculture is a patriotic effort which needs to happen at the national, municipal, community and agricultural levels.
He made the statement at the opening of the Ganknaski Avenue and Tumpuna Court Community food park on Friday.
Rambharat said there is an unbreakable link between health, longevity and what we eat. He said despite the general feeling among Trinidadians and Tobagonians that they can eat anything and live a long, healthy life, those days are gone. He said buying local is one way to help with food security.
“Feeding ourselves starts with us. Whenever I buy something local, I’m supporting jobs, I’m supporting the economy of a particular community, we’re supporting farmers and most importantly we’re making a patriotic decision to support TT. The most important decision you could make to support a country is to support the economy of that country, the most important thing you could do to support a community is to support the economy of that community. It really operates at four different levels, at the national level with the ministry, at the municipal level with the corporations, at the community level with projects like this, and ultimately what we do really revolve around the individual because all these projects need support and will succeed once they get it.”
Rambharat said he was encouraging every family to plant a fig tree for Christmas.
Arima Mayor Cagney Casimire said the project falls under the priority areas of safety and security, institutional strengthening and community development.
He said it incorporates four initiatives which the regional corporation will be rolling out soon: a green garden project, a composting project, a water harvesting project and a solar lighting project.
The project is being done by a committee of residents – Richard Jimenez, Derek Regis, Robert De Ramos, Joseph Arrindell and Floyd Neckles – in collaboration with Tumpuna councillor Brennon Patterson,the Sunbeam Foundation, NIHERST, and the TT branch of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA-TT). It consists of a weather harvesting unit, seven multi-tiered and three flat grow-boxes, and a compost unit. The garden was converted from a fitness park. In addition, a two-acre area of land adjacent to the garden which has been planted with a variety of trees will be incorporated into the initiative.
Rambharat, in touring the garden, gave tips on how to fix some of the problems the residents were facing, including humidity and the presence of insects. Some of the produce being planted included bodi, tomatoes, oranges and peppers.
“A lot of people complain about the prices of these things in the market, but don’t realise the labour and effort that go into planting and harvesting them. These aren’t things you can plant today and come back six months later and reap them.”
D’Abadie/O’Meara MP Lisa Morris-Julian said she was pleased to recognise and celebrate the merging of minds and energies of the two communities in the garden.
“I am aware that each name in the brief I received represents a home and family that makes up the fibre of this community, so I am not surprised that this project will excel even more in partnership with the IICA-TT. I want to publicly pledge my support for this project as we focus on creating a sustainable food culture and economy.”
IICA-TT representative Diana Francis said the project marks the culmination of a collective effort to convert a largely neglected green space into a productive growing space.
“It demonstrates the importance of self-motivation and community capital as an effective development resource, as the residents themselves came together to achieve it, the importance of collaboration among those who support agricultural development, and the importance and pivotal role of a supportive environment for community-led initiatives. This intervention is part of IICA’s commitment across all 34 countries of the Americas, to strengthen both production and distribution of local foods thereby enhancing availability and access to affordable locally grown produce that is fresh and close to home.”
Grow kits, comprising tools, organic pesticides, and seeds were presented to members of the committee by IICA-TT. All community residents are welcome to support and take part in the gardening efforts.
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