Agriculture minister launches National Seed Initiative

Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat (right) shows some of the seeds to be planted in the Grow Trinbago Seed Initiative, to Chief Ricardo Bharath Hernandez of the First People of Trinidad and Tobago. (Image: Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries)

Trinbagonians are being encouraged to get more involved with home gardening and “Plant Something” (#plantsomething), following the launch of the Grow Trinbago Seed Initiative, at the First People Heritage Site off Blanchisseuse Road, Arima.

Over 50,000 seeds are to be distributed over the next couple of weeks to the national community, via their respective Members of Parliament and Local Government Councillors.

The national initiative was launched on Saturday 9 May 2020, by Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, Senator Clarence Rambharat.

Also present at the launch were: Minister of Education and Member of Parliament for the area, Anthony Garcia; the Mayor of Arima, Her Worship, Mrs. Lisa Morris-Julien; and Chief Ricardo Bharath Hernandez, Chief of the Santa Rosa Carib Community.

Speaking at the event, the Agriculture Minister explained the reason for selecting the proposed site of the First People Heritage Village for the launch of this programme.

“The First People were the first farmers in the country, and they have maintained the tradition of farming, throughout their existence,” Minister Rambharat pointed out. “The First People also were the first agro-processors in this part of the world, having taken their primary produce and made value added produce for production. If ever there was model for farming, they are an excellent example,” the Minister said.

Arima MP and Education Minister Anthony Garcia said he was very appreciative of the efforts of the Agriculture Ministry on this initiative. He gave his assurance that the seeds will be put to great use for the benefit of the country by the various communities.  

And Mayor of Arima, Her Worship Lisa Morris-Julien, praised the initiative and thanked the Agriculture Minister for selecting Arima as the first point for national distribution. She noted it is significant, given the constituency’s history. 

“The Arima Borough Corporation already has initiated a programme with persons who are interested in home gardening,” Mayor Morris-Julien reported. “The Corporation has assisted these individuals with the supply of dirt, manure and also with planting containers for those who don’t have enough yard space.”

She added that with the inclusion of the seeds, distribution will start soon, but persons are invited to register first with their Local Government Councillor.

“Technical assistance will be provided for interested persons and the Corporation also will be implementing a check and balance system to ensure the programme’s long-term viability.”

Speaking on behalf of the First People, Chief Ricardo Bharath Hernandez expressed gratitude for the launch of the programme, and noted the date on which it occurred was quite significant.

“Today is particularly auspicious, given that it was 30 years to the day, that the Santa Rosa First People community was recognized by the Government, as the representative voice of all First People in the country,” Chief Bharath Hernandez said.

He added: “Agriculture has always been part of our culture, and it will continue to be an integral part of the Heritage Village and other areas occupied by the First People for generations to come.”

At Saturday’s event, over 1,000 packets of seeds were distributed from the Ministry’s National Seed Bank in Chaguaramas.  They included: pigeon pea, melongene, bodi, corn, pumpkin and ochro. Along with the seeds, the ‘soon to be’ home gardeners were provided with instructional, nutritional and cooking information.

At the conclusion of the formal launch ceremony, Minister Rambharat planted some of the seeds with the First People at the Heritage Village site.