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Cultivating an agri-mentality

There are business opportunities in agriculture.

By Luke Smith   

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) food and nutrition security occurs when a person, household or community, nation, at all times, has physical and economic access to buy, produce, obtain or consume sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for a healthy and active life.

In Trinidad and Tobago, the phrase ‘food security’ has been tossed around several times in numerous fora yet in the budget allocation agriculture came last on the list of “major allocations” with TT$0.5446 billion for 2017/2018. In my mind this rings clear of how agriculture is treated locally.

We do not recognise that soil can be the new oil and grass the new gas. Many speak about diversifying the economy through agriculture to help generate foreign revenue but have we not heard this story before? Is it that we have not diversified our thinking with regard to agriculture by understanding it is an entire value chain encompassing various activities?

We can talk about agriculture’s contribution to GDP or agricultural policies but let us move away from government and focus on the responsibility of consumers in society. The onus to educate and cultivate a new mentality is on us.

Do you buy local or is your preference for imported products? Look at your plate of food today and try to figure out where your food came from. We can seek to increase agricultural production and farm output but if you choose not to support our local agri-economy then the food import bill will continue to rise.

Now I’m not saying everyone should be a farmer but everyone should know their individual responsibility in ensuring food and nutrition security. Consider starting a home garden then you will notice how agriculture can be ‘AgriCoolture’ and more importantly you will begin to understand the important work of our food producers.

Let me paint one more picture on the food-security canvas. Imagine a world where the average age of famers is 55 years and older; where there is an estimated population increase of nine billion plus by 2050, and a scenario where youth are not interested in agriculture. You must be wondering who will feed us in the future right? If you have not, take some time to reflect and ask yourself: are you growing, supporting, mentoring or encouraging the future feeders of tomorrow?

As we celebrated World Food Day last Monday (October 16) I hope you reflected on the many questions posed. This year’s theme Change the future of migration – Invest in food security and rural development calls to mind some contributing factors such as increased conflict of migration from rural to urban areas, political instability, hunger, poverty, an increase in extreme weather events linked to climate.

Rural communities are the branches that bear fruit throughout Trinidad, sustaining us in the current economic environment. Developing rural areas can address factors that drive people to move from one place to another. Focus should be placed on creating business opportunities and jobs for young people along the value chain. This will increase food security, create resilient livelihoods for these rural communities, and provide solutions to environmental degradation and climate change.

WHYFARM’s mantra reminds me why agriculture is so important: “Generations have passed away but agriculture remains constant. To teach a child to plant one tree is as though you have fed all of humanity”.

Luke Smith is an Information and Communication Technology Officer at WHYFARM (We Help You-th Farm), a non-profit organisation based in Trinidad and Tobago, aimed at promoting agriculture among youth by increasing their awareness of the world’s food problems. He is also an ambassador for the Thought for Food (TFF) Foundation which engages and empowers the next generation to feed 9+ billion people by the year 2050.