The significance of food goes beyond mere survival for the average Trinbagonian (a person from Trinidad and Tobago). ‘Trinis’ are known to be constantly hungry, intolerant of bad food, and are quite literally a nation of foodies.
Even the custom of visiting the local market on a Saturday morning with granny is a cultural joy Trinidadians share. However, even with this love for food, Trinidad and Tobago is still fighting the battle of becoming a food secure nation.
Trinidad and Tobago has been blessed with a vast diversity of fruits and other tropical crops which has made our local cuisines recognizable in the world today. The potential Trinidad and Tobago has is far from being explored given its resources.
A perfect example of this potential is the nation of Cuba which has, over the years, moved from a state of food insecurity to becoming one of the most food secure countries in the region. As a nation, we have yet to properly explore emerging technologies and probe areas such as underutilized crops and urban agriculture.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the food import bill for CARICOM countries for the past three years has been over US $3 billion dollars. Our love for foreign goods and dependency on oil and natural gas has collectively been a stumbling block for the agricultural industry.
The negative stigma of the agricultural industry which varies from ‘too much hard work’ or an unprofitable venture has been embedded in the minds of young Trinbagonians for many years. Almost every child would like to become a doctor, lawyer or police officer, but how many would like to become farmers?
With the constant change in consumer taste and demand for food, there is an urgent call for Trinidad and Tobago as well as the wider Caribbean to become food secure.
Another pertinent point is that food security is not solely based on the ability to produce one’s own food but it is built on four pillars; availability, access, utilization and stability. These are often forgotten when constructing policies and initiatives.
Nevertheless, this buzzes around an interesting question. How do we as a nation escape this reality of food insecurity?
One answer is to stimulate the young and growing cohorts of our population to have an individual role in achieving food security. Every person should have some direct or indirect participation in agriculture, especially the younger generation.
Just imagine, His Excellency, President Anthony Carmona is a certified farmer who plays his part by planting crops regularly. If the President of Trinidad and Tobago can find the time to plant, shouldn’t we as a nation make a greater effort?
One step forward in making the younger generation involved in agriculture is through the Thought For Food Challenge (TFF). Thought For Food is a next-generation powerhouse founded in 2011 that encompasses of over 5000 students, ambassadors and mentors worldwide.
Each year they run the TFF Challenge which is an incentive prize competition which call on university students worldwide to solve one of biggest challenges both in the present and future: how are we going to feed 9+ billion people by 2050?
With the world estimated population to be 9 billion in 2050 students registered in the competition indulge in TFF’s Design Thinking Lab which is an online portal full with resources to aid in designing their ideas.
This competition concludes at the TFF global summit where 10 finalists would pitch their innovative business plans for the chance to win cash prizes up to $15,000 USD. This year’s lead youth at the forefront of food and agriculture have been selected. This summit also entails lectures and activities from well-renowned professors and speakers in the food and agricultural industry.
“The TFF Global Summit is no conventional conference….It is a thought-provoking event, a celebration of human potential, and a place where people built friendships and collaborations that will last a lifetime. Participants included students, startups, investors, governments, companies and more to shape how we think about and act upon innovation in food and agriculture.”
Such movements and communities are critical to motivate agriyouth to become more involved in our islands’ food security. We are the future!
Written by Christopher
Youth Energizer, Tech4Agri
This year the summit is being held on the 24th -26th May in Amsterdam. Many students from Trinidad and Tobago have registered in this year’s TFF challenge. With Trinidad and Tobago being in the top five of the CARICOM countries with the most imports, new ideas on replacing foreign goods must be developed.
Mention must be given to the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries which has been continuously providing courses and programs on agricultural disciplines such as hydroponics, cocoa production and many more. Though many approaches have been made both domestically and regionally through policies and programs, it must be reiterated that food security is not based on the ability to produce one’s own food but it is built on four pillars; availability, access, utilization and stability. This is an important feature that often eludes policies and initiatives.
With an estimated regional food import bill of US $8 – 10 billion by 2020, the idea of being a food secure nation needs to be addressed urgently to turn that idea into a reality. However, are we ready to pick up this mantle? Whether it is a small start as growing lettuce in your backyard or developing a new idea for tilapia farming or even entering the TFF Challenge, it must begin with our youths, they are the future.
Written by Christopher
Youth Energizer, Tech4Agri