October 25 2017: ‘Ultimately, whatever we talk about or whatever we do, the success of it will depend upon our ability to execute’ said Senator the Honourable Clarence Rambharat, Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries. ‘It is vital that I show support to your topic [since] there is not enough discussions in this country on these [critical issues]’; noting ‘the irony of discussing drought in the time of plenty’. Words of the Agriculture Minister as he delivered the Feature Address at the College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of Trinidad and Tobago’s (COSTAATT) Drought Risk Management Training Workshop on Tuesday 24th October, 2017 at the College’s Chaguanas Campus.
Minister Rambharat said that he ‘has a particular interest in the weather’ and shared with the audience why, outlining the nature of his current role as Minister, the area where he grew up and his career in the private sector which always in some way or the other were influenced by what was happening in the air, on the land, sea; ‘it is a constant attempt to deal with what is happening in the country and the consequences of not being prepared all the time’.
‘I really do not have the luxury of debating the issue of climate change as Minister responsible for fisheries; I have seen what the changes in temperature have done over the years to my fishermen. I am no scientist, but I grew up in a fishing community, an agriculture community; there are things affecting how we live, how we work and how we earn a living that we should be paying very serious attention to’.
Putting into perspective the damages from the recent deleterious weather system, Senator Rambharat stated categorically that ‘none of this is the making of anything that has happened overnight; for in the absence of long term planning we deal with consequences, what we have seen over the last six days is the consequence of a problem that has developed over a long period of time and we have not addressed in it in any form or fashion ‘We will always have 189 wet days every calendar year in this country and this is very important to understand. We should be focusing on water – when we have too much and when we have too little’. He shared that ‘we need to deal with risk assessment; we need to know what the vulnerable areas are’.
Outlining the purpose of the three day workshop was Dr. Ronald Roopnarine, Network Manager, Caribbean WaterNet Cap-Net UNDP, who said that ‘as academics, we must be more proactive. We must plan ahead. This is what this workshop is about – putting things in place’. He also shared that Cap-Net is ‘a capacity development network that is fifteen years old, and Caribbean Water Net is a subsidiary of Cap-Net, with a focus on water resource management in all aspects [ranging] from drought, flooding, water quality, water distribution, gender issues, conflict’; with its main focus being ‘to provide training, knowledge and bring awareness with respect to how we utilize this most vital resource’.
Dr. Gillian Paul, President of COSTAATT said that they were especially happy to welcome the Agriculture Minister to the spanking new facility, since it is their ‘first purpose built facility focusing COSTAATT on sustainable development; we are sitting on 30 acres of prime agriculture lands where we hope to get COSTAATT back into doing work in agriculture and to look at how we can play a role in sustainable development, through food security [among others]’.
The Minister’s action words were echoed by Dr. Roopnarine, who in his Welcome Remarks said that ‘whatever knowledge is gained over the next three days [we hope it will be] implemented by those who are here [in their various capacities on a national level]’.
The three-day workshop will see the following topics addressed: Drought Occurrences, Vulnerability and Integrated Water Resource Management; Drought Characteristics and Management in the Caribbean; Vulnerability and Impacts of Droughts; Drought Risk Management Framework; Drought Characterization and Monitoring Using Remote Sensing; Strategic Planning under IWRM for Drought Risk Management; Drought Preparedness, Emergency Management and Recovery.