February 23, 2017: For the future, ‘part of what we should be doing for young people is to introduce agriculture to them in all its forms at a very early stage’. Words of Senator the Honourable Clarence Rambharat, Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries as he delivered the Feature Address at Launch of Digicel Foundation’s Aquaponics Demo Unit on Wednesday 22nd February, 2017 at the Aquaculture Division, #1 Bamboo Village, Churchill Roosevelt Highway. At the event, a demonstration unit was showcased, funded by the Foundation.
Stating that the issue of aquaponics, hydroponics and youth has given him a challenge since he came into office, the Agriculture Minister shared that ‘this issue of youth in agriculture has really been a challenge; attracting young people in agriculture is a challenge across the Region and nothing is wrong with saying it is a challenge. In the area of aquaponics [while there is] the use of technology, labour saving mechanisms, less labour, less work it has not caught on as many of us think it should’. So he shared with the audience that he has ‘set out to figure what is the issue, and particularly why are young people not gravitating towards it in the way that we would like them to’.
Of the Project, Senator Rambharat said ‘I am very proud to have a facility here that we can refer people to and bring them to see the practical side of it. There is a lot of work ahead, but we remain completely focused on what we have to do; and I am very pleased that we have partnered with a brand as strong, solid and supportive as Digicel’. He further shared that he was ‘here to see first-hand on what has been done; hear of the experiences of the various schools that are here of how this can work for them and what are the challenges they have faced; here to tell my own story as I know first-hand of some of the challenges working with the Rio Claro Learning and Development Centre; and here to tell Digicel that I will continue to personally support the Foundation and the work of Digicel’.
Mrs. Albertha Hercules, Principal of Aspirare Learning Community expressed her appreciation for the support of the Minister and the Ministry for what she deemed a ‘special project for special children’; ‘our students were excited, with expressions of joy and laughter on their faces’ about this new venture. Aspirare Learning Community was pleased to announce the success of their aquaponics system which saw them reaping a harvest of tomatoes, lettuce, chive, celery, parsley, patchoi, sweet peppers which was shared with parents of the students and utilized in the school kitchen. Her encouragement to other schools, saying that her students reaped the lion share psychologically, was to ‘get on board, make the project your own and reap the benefit!’
The unit is available to all schools across the country for demonstration. Aquaponics is a food production system that combines the technology of aqua-culture (rearing marine animals) with hydroponics (growing plants in water).
Other speakers included Mr. Harnarine Lalla, Fisheries Officer, Fisheries Division, Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries. In the audience were Senator Avinash Singh, Parliamentary Secretary; Mr. Claudelle Mc Kellar, Deputy Permanent Secretary; Mr. Andre Laveau, Deputy Permanent Secretary; Ms. Elizabeth Mohammed, Director-Fisheries Division; among others.