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Pepper worth more than oil

Young farmers seek help...
Thursday, April 21, 2016
Against the Odds
Irving Valdez waters his crops. PHOTOS: MICHAEL RAMSINGH

“A barrel of peppers is worth more than a barrel of oil in T&T. What do you think the Government should invest in?” asked Brent Bascombe, a young farmer of North Manzanilla. A bag of hot peppers fetches close to US$40 in foreign markets while the price of crude oil climbed to US$42 yesterday.

Bascombe, 26, lived in North Manzanilla all his life, a rural community with not much economic activity to produce employment and other opportunities. He and other young men in the community have taken up the challenge to invest in agriculture.

Bascombe said in his community there was nothing much for youths to do.

“We sit idly by waiting but we saw a source to become independent and to assist with the current food crisis in our country,” he said in a recent interview.

A total of 48 young men have banded together to make a  difference and championing their dreams is the Agricultural Society of T&T and president of the North Manzanilla Farmers Group, Dhano Sookoo.

“I am from this area and I see the youths not being able to be employed and they engaged me about getting involved in agriculture.

“Some of youths in the area are currently using abandoned State agricultural lands that has not been in use for over three decades.

“The land was handed out in the 1980s but has never been fully cultivated and then left abandoned. Most of the leaseholders have died or migrated. Now these young men are returning the land to full production and have gotten verbal permission from some leaseholders,” Sookoo added.

She said they were also revitalising the coconut industry and were focusing on major food production. However, she added, they were faced with challenges “like access roads and access to ponds during the dry season.

“I must say these young man have potential, rather than sitting idly. This is something positive and it will change the outlook of North Manzanilla and create economic opportunities,” she said.

So far the young residents have in production less than 100 acres of land. They are focused on root and short crops.

Another young farmer, Steve Harripaul, told the GML Enterprise Desk: “Our involvement in agriculture has brought hope for other young adults in the area and has shown them there is a way out of poverty, instead of being idle and in some instances heading in the direction of crime.”

Harripaul said once the issue of land tenure was approved they would be able to seek financing for their projects. Most of the young men in the area are currently catching crabs to help bring in revenue to purchase chemicals and other items for their farms.

Many of the farmers are now waiting on the rains to return to start cultivating more crops as they are unable to supply enough water for their crops in the harsh dry season. They hope their plight can be heard and are given the opportunity to be able to help the country’s economy.


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