Stalwart Krishna Sooknanan Passes On
Photo : Krishendath Sooknanan (red T-Shirt) at the National Fruit Festival 2014
On behalf of the Tableland Pineapple Farmers Association (TPFA), rural agricultural communities by extension, it is with a heavy heart that we join to extend our deepest and respectful condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Krishendath Sooknanan. Long known as a human encyclopedia, an advocate, and agri-educator, Sooknanan stood as one of the pillars of the largest grassroots movement in the local agricultural sector, the TPFA’s National Fruit Festival.
While we are tempted to mourn a loss, farmers and other stakeholders celebrate his principled contributions and views on impacting the new paradigm for food and agriculture in Trinidad and Tobago. Fond memories will be shared on his passing but we are guided by his interactions with us on and off the farm. Just like many others, Sooknanan’s voluntary service to the people of our great Republic of Trinidad and Tobago must not go unrecognized.
Public education and awareness activities in which we engaged his participation remains unsupported by public institutions that have the benefit of taxpayers’ resources and other implements to advance agriculture on the national development agenda.
Our information on the lives of farmers and fishers across the country may be somewhat limited but the difficulty in obtaining a simple tool such as an updated active farmer and fisher database in the public domain is a cause for concern.
We have to develop a greater sensitivity to the circumstances of the men and women who feed us. Data and information attraction and dissemination in the sector is a constraint but as a country, we have to reflect and consider:
1) What are the contributions of these stakeholders (advocates), farmers, and their families to the national food basket?
2) What is the impact on motivation as their families and fellow farmers are left to mourn?
3) Who will replace their indigenous knowledge for the benefit of Trinidad and Tobago?
Perhaps near a decade ago, Sooknanan partnered with the TPFA to engage farmers in La Savanne, Moruga in order to assist in better organizing themselves and their operations. Reflecting on Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley’s recent address, one of the more productive food crop projects, farmers, and other stakeholders now stand to benefit as proposals are being invited for the Moruga Agro-Processing and Light Manufacturing Industrial Park. One can only hope that this vein of consultation, collaboration, and coordination is respected and not suffer the same fate as the Brickfield Packinghouse.
Having personally observed some of his interactions over the years, this day in history is also a reminder of the social value of volunteerism and advocacy- traits that are perhaps slowly disappearing from our landscape. While families, generations, and communities are growing further away from the farm, becoming less knowledgeable of rural realities, we must carry the farmers’ story, champion the issues, drive the education, and keep a legacy of empowerment alive.
May his soul rest in eternal peace
Omardath Maharaj is an Agricultural Economist who is dedicated to organising the farming community of Trinidad and Tobago. He is currently working with the Tableland Pineapple Farmers Association and other agro-processing projects across Trinidad and Tobago.