April 7, 2017:  ‘Healthy lifestyles, healthy eating, food safety, nutrition safety, farms in education, food safety, development of national libraries are the issues that capture my attention and those that I will definitely address’ said Agriculture Minister to an audience of close to one hundred persons at a Tree Planting Ceremony on Wednesday 5th April, 2017 at the Botanical Garden, Port of Spain.  Adding that ‘food production in schools and homes that involves teaching and encouraging children to grow what they eat is important to their development’.

Senator the Honourable Clarence Rambharat, Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries was joined by some thirty Primary School students to plant a balata tree at the ‘Look Out Hill’ in the Botanical Gardens in commemoration of World Food Day.  The Ceremony was the culmination of the 2nd Annual Plant Torch activity, which involved the passing of a plant from school to school throughout Trinidad and Tobago where it was nurtured by children.  The plant is used as a symbol of food security for us in Trinidad and Tobago and the symbolic gesture of passing the plant depicts the sharing of the responsibility of achieving the goal of food security.

The participating schools this year were Valencia South Government Primary; Hokett Baptiste Primary; Exchange R.C.; Cedros Government Primary; Siparia Hindu (SDMS) Primary; St Thomas Mayaro Primary; and Sisters Road Anglican Primary.  Each of the seven schools was presented with a Certificate of Participation for their students’ support and participation in the Plant Torch activity.

The Minister spoke to the audience about key issues noting that negative comments by some of the sector is a ‘tremendous disservice to the food producers of this country because agriculture’s contribution to GDP will never be equal to oil and gas’; further stating that ‘our agriculture and food production is linked to something far more fundamental’.  ‘Agriculture is not an attempt to diversify our economy, agriculture is about feeding ourselves, food security, nutrition security, taking control of our lives and our bodies; and it is far more fundamental than diversification’.  Calling attention to recent examples of failure of food production systems around the world on which we rely, Minister Rambharat shared that ‘the more control we take [over what we eat], the more attention we pay to food safety, the better we will be as individuals’.

Placing the increased number and frequency of the Farmers’ Markets that are hosted weekly by NAMDEVCO into context, Senator Rambharat said that this ‘is an attempt to bring people closer to the producers to their food and allowing [them] a level of control [over what they eat]’.

Other speakers included Dr. Lystra Fletcher-Paul, Representative, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); Mr. Derek Winford, Chief Executive Officer, Massy Stores; Ms. Natasha Ramkissoon, President, National 4-H Council; and Mrs. Deokee Bholasingh-Hay, Chair, World Food Day National Committee.  Among the distinguished guests at the Ceremony were Senator Avinash Singh, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries; Mr. Wayne Innis, Deputy Chairman, National Agricultural Marketing and Development Company Limited; among others.

This event preceded the 2nd Annual Run-for-Food, scheduled for Saturday 8th April, 2017 at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain – an activity that is the local version of the ‘Hunger Run’, a sports event branded by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO/UN), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), World Food Programme (WFP) and Biodiversity International.  It is organized every year in about twenty countries around the world with the mission of eradicating world hunger and creating assistance for vulnerable communities.

The series of events are led by the World Food Day National Committee of the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, with invaluable sponsorship support from Massy Stores.