The Barrackpore Police Youth Club held its annual end of year celebration for members and their families this week but with a difference.
There was collaboration between Agricultural Economist Omardath Maharaj, who has volunteered as a mentor to the club since 2014, and other generous helpers to gift 105 Breadfruit trees to all in attendance.
It was the continuation of a civil society effort by BreadfruitTrees.com which gifted a few thousand trees this year including 285 to schools in the neighbouring Moruga/Tableland district.
“105 to Stay Alive” captioned a Breadfruit planting initiative of the Faculty of Food and Agriculture, UWI for World Food Day earlier this year.
Acknowledging that the Barrackpore region was a close-knit community, well-managed activities of the Club and parents, Maharaj stressed that the Christmas anecdotes for Trinidad and Tobago should be four Breadfruit trees per street.
“We should be encouraging people to grow more food. Tell them about the health benefits, the economics, and employment opportunities associated with investing in local agricultural production. We should have had national conversations across the country, similar to those even at UWI, on the future of our food, the industry, and our people,” Maharaj said.
“Why aren’t we encouraging people to plant Breadfruit trees instead?” he asked.
We need to restore hope and provide especially for the most vulnerable among us.
“You must have seen social media posts shaming mothers and fathers for stealing small quantities of food products – admittedly – so that their children would not go hungry. You must have heard stories of neighbouring countries and even of our own people and their unease about food especially in times of personal crisis,” he said.
An important observation is that in times of disaster – particularly the major flooding events in the southern region – we depended on canned, processed, and packaged foods, the majority of which are imported. This exposes the vulnerability of our food systems and emphasizes the need for us to continue the struggle towards our food independence and security.
Several members of the Club were affected by flooding this year and in the recent past; losing livestock, home gardens, household assets and some, their livelihoods.
Maharaj insisted that even in the worst of times, the trees will stand over the floods, there may be some assistance with soil and land retention, adding community greenspace, but it provides food and income opportunities with entrepreneurship.
“Producing approximately 300 fruits per year with mature trees, this simple intervention could impact more than 10,000 families if we begin to share our resources, talk with our neighbours, and genuinely seek each other’s interests. It is literally bread that grows on trees, food for our future,” he said.
Climate change and its deleterious impacts as well as the recognition that agriculture strengthens the national economy, provides employment and a social safety net to vulnerable areas and segments of the population, as well as its environmental role is growing on the Caribbean psyche. Trade issues, natural disasters, and social inclusion have prompted many countries to dig deeper into their agriculture sectors – investing in its people, food, productivity, and variety.
“Ideally, for less than what a large family would pay to have a meal at a restaurant, you can buy 105 Breadfruit trees; instead of buying a small toy which may be broken or forgotten or even a box of imported biscuits this Christmas, you can gift someone a Breadfruit tree which is guaranteed to be remembered and will feed your loved ones and their families for the rest of their lives.”
Maharaj reminded that the country can only be better from the initiative unless if people choose to selfishly cut that food supply by destroying the trees, not appreciating the food value (primary or value-added), wasting domestic or economic opportunities, or surrendering their spaces to alternative use
He urged all in attendance to be the people who shine a positive light on the future of food and agriculture in this country despite the darkness of crime, criminality, and other negative issues which grab headlines almost every day.
The evening also marked the celebration of retirement for Inspector John Farrell and his leadership of the Club over the years.