Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Clarence Rambharat has identified succession planning and enhanced primary school agricultural education as two key success factors for development of the local agricultural sector.
Speaking recently to the twenty-five (25) graduates of the annual National Agricultural Enterprise Business Training Programme facilitated by Atlantic and the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), Minister Rambharat said succession planning in agriculture has been a “big issue”, with older farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs complaining that younger members of their families are not interested in entering the farming profession. “Succession planning is at the heart of your success over the long term,” Rambharat said.
Minister Rambharat also called for the Atlantic/UTT National Agricultural Enterprise Business Training Programme to be “taken on the road’ into other parts of Trinidad, where it could be offered to existing farmers young and old and also agriculture teachers working in the primary school system. “I think this would enhance the primary school curriculum significantly, based on discussions I’m having with primary schools across the country about what we as a Ministry could do to support learning on agriculture, ” the Minister said.
Toni Sirju-Ramnarine, Atlantic’s Vice-President of Corporate Operations presented Minister Rambharat with the results of a Tracer Study commissioned by Atlantic and UTT to assess the impact of the National Agricultural Enterprise Business Training Programme and to shape its future syllabus and course offerings to the local agricultural sector. Addressing the Programme’s graduates, Sirju-Ramnarine emphasized that local agriculture could bolster Trinidad and Tobago in times of economic adversity and engender healthier living.
“Healthy food is the fuel for healthy lifestyles, helping to fight the prevalence of obesity and diabetes,” Sirju-Ramnarine said. “Affordable food is vital to the existence of those who face economic disadvantages whether in times of recession or times of prosperity. But as we know all too well here in Trinidad and Tobago, times of prosperity can create a false sense of lasting economic security and divert attention from the pursuit of agricultural endeavors. If Trinidad and Tobago is not careful, we could find ourselves at a juncture where the opportunity to diversify would have been completely eroded.”
Sirju-Ramnarine praised recent local initiatives to enhance agricultural offerings and promote economic diversification, including the local farmers markets, the green markets and the monthly ‘UpMarket’ events. “But there still remains a lot to do. So graduates, if any of you had doubts about the value of your vocation – don’t! As agricultural entrepreneurs, you are more important than ever before.”
Valedictorian Kerwyn Huggins said that the National Agricultural Enterprise Business Training Programme brought together entrepreneurs who were genuinely serious about agriculture and interested in the agricultural sector helping to develop Trinidad and Tobago. “Knowledge is power, but applied knowledge is powerful, therefore, I have been applying all the knowledge that has been shared during this programme to make my vision in the agriculture sector a reality and I can safely say this on behalf of other trainees also.”
The twenty-five (25) graduates join the ranks of 158 agricultural entrepreneurs who have graduated from the Atlantic/ UTT National Agricultural Enterprise Business Training Programme since its establishment in 2010. The annual three-month training programme focuses on the development of agricultural entrepreneurs in both the Southwest Peninsula and wider Trinidad and Tobago, upgrading business acumen in local agriculture and helping to create opportunities for economic diversification.