Thursday 29 October, 2020

Gov't urged: ‘Increase agriculture allocation to $3.2B’

WHYFARM Founder and Executive Director Alpha Sennon is urging the Government to deliver on its promises of greater investment in the agriculture sector.

He made the call ahead of the 2021 Budget in an open letter to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.

Sennon suggested that a substantial increase in the budgetary allocation for agriculture would be a great place to start.

In his letter, the agricultural activist appealed to Finance Minister Colm Imbert to consider “nothing less” than an allocation of $3.2 billion to achieve food and nutrition security.

He said there are already several successful ventures led by young people in agriculture making significant contributions to T&T’s food systems, demonstrating the importance of developing the sector. He said further investment in several areas can help build a more robust agriculture sector.

Sennon, who promotes agriculture through the Agriman comics, called for the promotion of Agriculture using arts and culture and education. He believes this approach will reach youth and inspire and motivate them to return to agricultural practices.

He suggested the incorporation of information technology in indigenous techniques in agriculture to pass on knowledge from older farming heads to the young and upcoming farmers. This, he said, could be done through an educational series.

“Knowledge from our ancestors must be transferred: trainings from our elderly farmers to pass on their knowledge to our younger generation of farmers and merge it with new age information technologies.”

He said it would be a case of IT meets IT ( Indigenous Techniques meets Information Technology).

Sennon also called for investment in climate smart agricultural strategies.

Pointing to agro-processing, he said this must be T&T’s “new Petrotrin”, adding that soil and grass must be the new gas.

He said this would ensure more local products find their way to grocery shelves.

“Why on earth do we have dried mangoes on the shelf in Trinidad and Tobago from Thailand and the Philippines? The answer is because 'WE' not motivated enough to do it.

Let's invest heavily into an Agripreneur Incubator Design Lab (AIDLab) in every community. We processing ochro, baigan, pomerac, tangerine, cucumber, yam/ moringa...”

Finally, Sennon urged citizens to plant their plate by investing in a home garden. He stressed the importance of reliance on healthy, non-chemically grown foods.

“Our health is our wealth and our food is our health... Therefore, our food is our wealth.”

He even encouraged a “food sou sou”, a system of bartering crops with neighbours to get the community involved.

Sennon concluded that, in this regard, food security is critical to national security.

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