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Clarence Rambharat

Fast food restaurants are closed and people are being told to stay indoors, and given these conditions, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley advised that people cook at home.

Now, the government is taking it one step further and is encouraging everyone to grow their food as well.

In an interview with Guardian Media, Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries said the government is moving to become a catalyst in the area of home gardening.

“After discussing with the Honourable Prime Minister, Cabinet colleagues, and Ministry staff, we would provide 50,000 households across Trinidad and Tobago with a package containing six seed varieties – bodi, corn, melongene, seim, pigeon peas, and ochro. Sorrel and pumpkin would be available later on,” the Minister said.

He explained that with the onset of COVID-19 in Trinidad and Tobago, numerous citizens and even Cabinet colleagues and MPs approached him to encourage householders to set up or expand kitchen/home gardens.

Minister Rambharat had some advice for the public.

“We need to take complete control over what we eat, when we eat, how much we eat and why we eat. Buying most of our meals does not give us that level of control. We eat whatever is sold to us without regard to our health risks; our nutritional requirements; our allergies and things we need to avoid and most importantly our portion sizes.”

He added that Trinidad and Tobago has made small steps, but meaningful ones.

“But the true challenge is not what and how we produce, but it is this. We are eating ourselves to death. We, you and I, have ignored reports that cannot be challenged. Lifestyle diseases are killing us and before that they are reducing the level of enjoyment in our lives.”

Apart from this, the Minister said he has been encouraging householders to also grow their own plant “pharmacy”.

“There are compelling reasons for householders to plant something “medicinal” in or around the place they live. This includes fever-grass (lemongrass), turmeric, ginger, lime leaves, tulsi, orange peel, carilee, rough-skin-lemon, bay leaf, aloe, wonder-of-the world, hot pepper, garlic. Even cucumber for managing water retention. For more complex applications some households have candlestick, verven, Cat’s Claw, ringworm bush, shining bush, chandelier, ratchet, bachelor button and zebapeek.”

He said in some households the monthly medicine bill may actually exceed the monthly market bill.

To help with the home gardens the Minister said they are also providing training and technical advice.

“We are also directing citizens to some of the successful gardeners and farmers who promote their activities online and on television.”

He said the Namdevco Farmers Markets would also have specific sections designated for home gardeners selling excess produce and young persons selling food products to meet educational and other personal goals.