T&T must emerge from pandemic as healthier, more tech savvy nation

April 7th marked the 55th month of Trinidad and Tobago being under the leadership of Prime Minister Dr Keith Christopher Rowley and no one could have predicted the current scenario.

Not in our wildest dreams did we contemplate that we’d be engaged in a daily tally of deaths versus confirmed cases of Covid-19. Yet here we are, confined to our homes with no KFC, doubles or ‘chinese’ food, as the virus continues slaying whomever it wishes.

Photo: Actor Darrell Hammond plays KFC founder Colonel Sanders.

In the midst of this, we have an opportunity to innovate and redesign our society for those who are left standing at the end of this pandemic.

Already, we are seeing the government leverage technology to change the way it delivers services to the citizenry. Almost overnight payments to citizens are being made by direct bank deposits, and citizens are being directed to online interactions.

It would be a terrible, mindless waste of time, effort and money if we abandoned our newly acquired skill set after this pandemic.

At this point we have a tremendous opportunity to change the game. With approximately 71% of our population using the internet, the country is in a good place to redesign our approach to work. Getting more people working from home would require that systems of accountability be baked into renewed work designs.

The removal of KFC and doubles from our list of ‘essential services’ is likely to directly improve our individual and collective health. There is no coincidence that the increase in non-communicable diseases came with the introduction of fast foods to our country some decades ago. We are all now forced to prepare our own meals and eat them in our homes.

An article on the Harvard Health Publishing website suggests that cooking at home leads to daily consumption of fewer calories, fats and sugar which can result in the reduction of lifestyle diseases like diabetes and hypertension.

Photo: A child muses over a healthy meal.

There will be the genuine response by many that they do not know how to cook. This response will provide a unique opportunity to educate the community about preparing healthy, nutritious simple meals as well as suggesting a basket of goods.

This lock-down is an opportunity to re-fashion our collective palettes and re-learn healthy eating habits.

Professor Roger Hosein recently made a plug for backyard gardening and commented that if we are able to feed ourselves, we will reduce our need for foreign exchange, which is likely to become more scarce post-Covid-19.

Daily, Agricultural Economist Omardath Maharaj lights up social media pages with his pleadings for us to preserve food and nutrition security at the level of households.  Hopefully a positive fall out from Covid-19 will be taking a different approach to food self sufficiency and a move to ‘plant de land’ as the late Ras Shorty I urged.

Covid-19 has provided us with an opportunity to pause, reflect, hit the ‘reset button’ and move towards a different Trinidad and Tobago, where technology drives our approach to work and we turn inwards to find ways of feeding ourselves. We must stop being afraid of our stigmas regarding agriculture and other kinds of work we might consider to be menial.

Right now, cleaning and health staff are the ones on the front line, and we hail them as heroes. Why not farmers also?

Photo: Farmers on the Vision on a Mission programme.
(Copyright TT.UNDP.org)

If we lose this opportunity, our nation is likely to join the list of least-developed countries where people are malnourished and the country is unsustainable.

Over the years we have experienced the feast and famine that being dependent on oil and gas has brought us. The prediction is that there will never be a return to the high oil prices of the 70s and 80s so we have to diversify more importantly become food self sufficient.

Let’s do this!