Members of the public sit in their cars as they collect plants and seedlings during the Feed the Nation food drive-through hosted by Hunters United group at Mohess Road, Penal, yesterday.

Sascha Wilson

Due to the hardship facing several families as a result of the pandemic, several hunting groups yesterday launched a drive-through Feed The Nation initiative in Penal where thousands of seedlings and plants were distributed.

The five-hour drive caused a back-up of traffic along Mohess Road as hundreds of cars with people from all over the country attending the event held at the home of Ren Gopeesingh.

Gopeesingh, of Hard Grounds Get Soft group, and his colleagues, are well known for assisting in searches throughout the country for missing people, but he said they could not ignore the cries of people who are struggling due to the pandemic. They all came together under one banner– Hunters United, to make this initiative a reality.

Gopeesingh said the idea behind the drive is not only to give people a fish, or in this case a crop, but to teach them how to fish and grow their own food.

While the drive is open to everyone, they are hoping to reach people in rural communities.

He said, “Due to the pandemic and people losing their jobs and all that stuff, so we here to assist them and this is the first food drive and we have almost 40,000 seedlings. Then we have cassava, then we have eddoes. We have sweet potato, we have dasheen, we have pine and different stuff.”

They reached out to Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat, who attended the event, and they are hoping to join with the ministry to host this drive throughout T&T.

While some of the planting material was donated, the groups used thousands of dollars of their own money to make the event possible.

However, he is hoping that some of the big organisations will come on board as they expand the initiative to other areas.

Some of the groups involved were Unified Hunters, Old School Hunters, and Angry Birds, as well as Michael Baboolal.

Impressed by the hunters’ initiative, Rambharat joked that he was jealous that he did not think of it first.

Rambharat said, “This will help and we have promoted the issue of home gardening and kitchen gardening. It will not deprive the farmers of their sales. It will have something growing in their property and then they will also supplement it with things that they buy so this is excellent. “

The minister said he will be accepting their invitation to partner with them and his ministry has donated its grow Trinbago seed packages. The packages contain six different types of seeds and one packet should grow more than 200 pounds or more of produce over a three-month period. Apart from 25 different types of planting material, he said the group was also donating chemicals.

“I would say to people who want to do a similar initiative that the ministry will help them with the seed packages and they can do it in their communities and it will be successful, he added.

Commending the groups for also following the COVID-19 protocols, the minister said Hard Grounds will be a very good group to be part of the Government’s initiative to vaccinate people, particularly in those pockets in the country where people may have difficulty accessing health facilities.

He said the group might be able to assist in bringing out people by doing a mobile drive.

Addressing the issue of compensation for farmers who have lost their crops in floods, he said, “We have not seen severe losses but we know some farmers with short crops have had losses,” he said