Q: Archbishop J, what happened to your garden?
During the Covid pandemic it became clear that food security was vital for our nation. Many who usually supported their families were unable to earn an income and ended on the breadline. It was very scary for those who did not know where the next meal would come from.
In response, we did two things as a Church: first, we dramatically increased our food distribution throughout all parishes, second, we began a garden at Archbishop’s House and started ‘Gardening with Families’ to train families and youth to start a home garden with whatever land that was available to them.
In addition, giving food to the poor became a key part of our food distribution effort.
Several families learnt how to start a kitchen garden, some 25 youth were engaged in the process and learnt valuable gardening skills, but also team work, the dignity of work and care for God’s creation.
This group went to 20 communities where they worked on community gardens, sharing their knowledge and materials with residents of Beetham Gardens (50 families), members of the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission, Chaguanas; Families Connect to Nature (122 persons); Herbs & Health (91 persons); Agri Plant Food Future (182 persons); Maracas Valley (75 persons) and the Royal Botanical Butterfly Garden.
We are now moving the food initiative from Archbishop’s House to the parishes and communities of Trinidad and Tobago.
In 2006, when I attended the World Urban Forum in Canada, it was the first time I heard the term “food security”. At that forum it related to nations and communities having access and control of enough food to secure their citizens.
With the pandemic, we have seen how easily distribution lines could be disrupted. If there is a longer, more fundamental disruption the supply and cost of imports would be seriously affected. As it is, all prices of imported goods have increased significantly since 2020.
Food prices have been a concern in every decade. I remember going to the corner shop many a morning to buy a loaf of bread and a packet of UHT milk for $1. There was a time when a $100 bill was enough to buy food for a family of four, for a week. Now, $100 barely covers a day’s supply of food for a family of four. General inflation, higher oil prices and thus transport costs, together with changing climate conditions that create great uncertainty in rain and drought all account for the high price of food.
A great question: Are we food sustainable, especially in our Caribbean region? The truth is food security begins at home! Food security needs to be everyone’s priority.
Our societies have modernised to the stage where we have forgotten a basic life-skill: growing our own food at home. The revolution in the world of agriculture makes it possible to create a kitchen garden without soil, as the climate smart agricultural method of hydroponics shows. As a country we must once again learn the techniques of our ancestors, modernise them, and focus on increasing our local food supply.
When, 50 years ago, my family dropped in on an aunt in Tobago, she took me out into the garden where we picked some pigeon peas, okra, dasheen bush and corn. She showed me where to dig and we got some root crops; we went to another part of the garden, and she picked her spices. Then she prepared a home-grown chicken. The only thing that came from the shop was rice. In short order a meal was on the table. Our grandmothers practised food security long before it was a thing.
A great opportunity coming near you
Our Archdiocese, in alignment with Laudato Si, has birthed the Food Security in Parishes (FSIP) project. It was initiated in January 2023. The project aims to train households in traditional agriculture and technology-driven agriculture.
We will support these trained participants in crop production, assisting with resources to get them going, and provide a marketplace for the sale and exchange of products.
The project focuses on four of the main sustainable development goals (SDG) of the United Nations.
The FSIP project aims to promote food production on a household level, encouraging small scale agriculture for the household and assisting participants, who wish to commercially produce crops, with the tools and information needed. We want to help you buffer the cost of your food bill. Also, we want to assist you to use the land around you wisely to contribute to your food production.
FSIP Project Targets
Who are the representatives involved in the FSIP project?
The FSIP is a project hosted by the Archdiocese, The Catholic News, and Rainforest Agricultural Consultancy. The Archdiocese prioritises food security in households and promotes good health and wellbeing.
Who can participate: All members of Catholic parishes are welcomed to join. Ultimately, we are aiming to promote the programme to all households in Trinidad and Tobago. So, anyone can join at any time. As schools pause for vacation, we even encourage children between ages 12 to 18 to participate.
Courses will focus on traditional farming, hydroponics, and aquaculture, together with poultry and livestock and the financial elements of agriculture.
Why is Food Security a concern of the Catholic Church?
Pope Benedict in his encyclical, God is Love: Deus Caritas Est (25) writes:
The Church is God’s family in the world. In this family no one ought to go without the necessities of life. Yet, at the same time caritas-agape extends beyond the frontiers of the Church. The parable of the Good Samaritan remains as a standard which imposes universal love towards the needy whom we encounter “by chance” (cf. Lk 10:31), whoever they may be. Without in any way detracting from this commandment of universal love, the Church also has a specific responsibility: within the ecclesial family no member should suffer through being in need. The teaching of St Paul’s letter to the Galatians is emphatic: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (6:10).
Food security is everyone’s concern. We can all contribute if we learn how to grow food in our gardens to supplement our food bill. This also ensures we have enough to share with neighbours in our community and families.
Using the QR code on this page, register for one of the FSIP courses and encourage your family and friends to register and begin a great adventure.