Over 20,000 seedlings were distributed to hundreds of persons across the Mayaro community through an agricultural initiative sponsored by bp Trinidad and Tobago (bpTT) at the Mayaro Resource Centre on Saturday, 21st August.
Funded by the energy company and organised by the Sustainable Unemployment Reduction Efforts (SURE) Foundation, seedlings for plants including patchoi, corn, pepper, tomato, bodi, cucumber, chive and ochro were distributed to persons across Mayaro and environs.
Explaining the programme was Ryan Chaitram, communications and advocacy manager, bpTT, “Our new sustainability framework is focused on improving people’s lives, caring for our planet and getting to net zero. This initiative directly touches on the aim of improving people’s lives since it recognizes the importance of health and wellbeing and the role agriculture plays in improving these. COVID-19 has caused us to all rethink food, and I am confident that this initiative will positively improve food security for some and will hopefully create a wholesome family bonding experience. We are proud to partner with the SURE Foundation and contribute to the well-being of the citizens of Mayaro and our nation.”
This distribution represents the first tranche that will see a total of 50,000 seedlings distributed across the south-eastern community. As part of the exercise, bpTT partnered with other organisations and individuals including community-based groups, local government officials, the Office of the Member of Parliament and the Mayaro Initiative for Private Enterprise Development (MIPED), in order to target interested persons.
Present at the seedling distribution was MP for Mayaro, Rushton Paray, “The focus on agriculture is absolutely critical at this time as our food import bill has crossed TTD $7 billion, which is unsustainable. This will make a huge impact when recipients get their home gardens started. This is also an enabler because when young people get involved, it will inculcate a sense of nurturing, growth and seeing tangible rewards for effort. Once interested, they can even contact bpTT’s own MIPED to secure a loan to invest in their agri-business ideas. I commend bpTT for their focus on green energy and agriculture, and yet again, they have set the benchmark for other companies and individuals to follow.”
The distribution was done in a controlled, appointment-based system in order to ensure that recipients were protected and all pandemic protocols were observed. On hand to collect his seedlings was farmer and MIPED client, Stephen Rolingson, who has engaged in agriculture for the past 45 years. “From an early age, I always had a passion for growing things, and my connection to agriculture has enriched my life in many ways, including my health. This is a great initiative and household farming is a critical measure to reduce expenditure in these trying times. Most of all, they are also getting young people involved and that is sowing seeds of success for the future generations,” Rolingson explained.
Established in 2012 to target social and environmental aspects of development, the SURE Foundation was represented on the day by its founder, Dr. Roger Hosein and current president, Dr. Rebecca Gookool-Bosland, alongside a few volunteers.
As SURE’s president explained, the group launched a national decarbonisation strategy in 2020, as a mechanism to offset the fact that Trinidad and Tobago is, per capita, one of the largest carbon emitters in the world. With the advent of the pandemic, SURE linked this strategy with a drive for national food security and began the seedling distribution. With a target of distributing two million seedlings, aligned with the global Trillion Trees Campaign, the group passed the 800,000 mark with the Mayaro distribution.
Summing up the exercise was respected economist and SURE’s founder, Dr. Roger Hosein, “The intention is to promote the distribution of seedlings to encourage micro-agriculture and consequently, this will manifest in a wide spectrum of tangible benefits. From January 2022, our foundation will also be planting two fruit trees in every school in the country. The overall drive is to spark a cultural change that will have tangible and far-reaching socioeconomic impacts.”
“This was an excellent partnership with bpTT and traditionally, Mayaro has had a high proportion of agriculture-based activity. Like MIPED, this is just another investment by them in the sustainable development of the community. We need to re-ignite the passion for agriculture because, going forward, it will be a key strategy in reducing our carbon footprint, promoting national food security, reducing foreign exchange expenditure and providing a sustainable source of unemployment,” Dr. Hosein added.