Pigeon peas whet appetites at bpTT

Beyond Borders lauded as investment success

It was a virtual cornucopia of culinary delight for hundreds of persons  when BP Trinidad and Tobago hosted an appetizing Pigeon Peas Festival at its head offices in Port of Spain on Thursday, August 18th.

A variety of creative dishes were prepared and presented by the Diego Martin-based Upper Cemetery Street Residents Association (UCSRA) at the event which underscored the success of bpTT’s investment in the Beyond Borders programme. Launched in 2010, the programme is implemented by The Rose Foundation and provides training in organisational development skills for groups in marginalised communities across Trinidad and Tobago. 

The festival featured a diverse menu that offered bpTT employees and guests with a dizzying array of choices, savoury and sweet. There were items such as pholourie, accra, doubles, soups, roti, pizza, pelau, curries, stews, coo-coo, pastelles, salad, sweetbread, muffins, punch and even ice cream, all incorporating pigeon peas as the main ingredient.

Ronda Francis, Corporate Responsibility Manager, bpTT gave an insight into the initiative, “Community-based organisations have proven to be very effective in removing barriers and creating opportunities for sustained development in communities, especially at the family level. It is inspiring to witness informal groups transform into formal, legally registered and high-performing organisations. From the success of this Pigeon Peas Festival and similar initiatives, it is clear that these groups have gone far beyond the borders to achieve tangible, and in cases like today, delicious success.”

Since the start of the Beyond Borders training initiative in 2010, 70 organisations have been formed across the nation, resulting in community-based business initiatives, including catering, marketing, bottled water, construction, graphic arts and transportation. These enterprises have generated an extraordinary $15 million to date for groups in communities such as Covigne, Beetham Gardens and Embacadere.

Ruan Mitchell, Vice-President of Human Resources, bpTT, had a fun time sampling the extensive fare on offer. “Everything looks delicious and it is amazing to learn of the diversity of pigeon peas, which we normally associate with just a couple of dishes. I look forward to seeing these products in restaurants across the country as well as on supermarket shelves. Although mouth-watering, this exposition is more than just a food fair – it is a tribute to the inherent potential of every community as exemplified by their representative groups. It proves that with the right support and platform to perform, every community can strive beyond borders for betterment,” Mitchell noted.

With many requests for plates to be refilled and encouraging inquiries for catering, Myrtle Joseph, Chairperson of UCSRA, was pleased with the success of the event: “We all come from Covigne in Diego Martin and today was a great opportunity to expand what started three years ago with the Pigeon Peas Festival. This platform has allowed us to raise our standing in the eyes of the nation and moves us closer to realising our bigger vision – the Sustainability through Agriculture and Tourism (STAT) programme. We see ourselves as agents of change, planting the seeds of entrepreneuship and community development even as we plant pigeon peas. We are very grateful for Beyond Borders because none of this would have been possible without bpTT and The Rose Foundation.”

Culinary aficionados and food lovers alike can look forward to the next edition of the Pigeon Peas Festival, which will be hosted in the hills of Covigne, Diego Martin, in February 2017.

Giving context to the overall initiative was Sterling Belgrove, Executive Chairman of The Rose Foundation, “Today encompassed a number of interconnected purposes, including demonstrating entrepreneurship and innovation in agriculture as well as giving bpTT employees a personal Beyond Borders experience. We branded this as a ‘Living Product Expo’ because it involves live participation where people and products coalesce in creating an immersive experience. Out of this one initiative, catering and marketing companies are emerging to facilitate the development of families from the Covigne community, each of which produces unique pigeon peas products. This is just one success story among many achievements that have grown from the vision of bpTT that goes Beyond Borders.”