National Conversation on Agriculture

The Trade and Economic Development Unit of the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, hosted a conversation on Agriculture Outcomes and Food Security Challenges in Trinidad and Tobago.

Key Presenters

The main Presenter was Prof Wayne G Ganpat, a Former Dean of the Faculty of Food and Agriculture at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, Trinidad. He was followed by Mr. Kent Viera, Aquaculture Entrepreneur, and owner of Kent Farms Ltd, the leading aquaculture farm in Trinidad and Tobago. Senior lecturer at UWI, Dr. Roger Hosein also contributed to the conversation.

Top Outcomes

  1. The agriculture sector needs a plan and a champion to achieve the transformation necessary for the industry to thrive and for the country to achieve the goal of food sustainability.

2. The country appears to be stuck and it is necessary for the population to be informed about the policy and strategy

3. Former Caroni lands provide an opportunity for farming but we need to assess the quantity of land that is actually still available.

4. There is a need to establish a database of graduates who have been trained and are interested in agriculture.

5. The population needs to be informed about the details of the food import bill so they can engage in the behaviour change required to help reduce imports.

6. There are examples of how technology is being used to modernize farming and agriculture and these success stories need to be popularized.

7. There is a need to implement a plan to reduce the incidents of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) using agriculture and farming.

8. Agriculture needs to be re-designed using an all-of-country approach to remove the former siloed approach.

Chatting with Dr. Karrian Hepburn Malcolm about Mental Health

Career Shift

Caribbean Wellness chats with Dr. Karrian Hepburn Malcolm who made a career shift from banking and finance to becoming the Managing Director of Guardian Media Limited (GML).
Her entry to Trinidad was in 2011 as General Manager of Scotia Investments Trinidad and Tobago Ltd with oversight of the Private Client Group operations.

Navigating Mental Stress

She was very intentional in this move to the media as she knew that it is naturally a stress-inducing environment. Karrian’s first 6 months as General Manager of GML was stressful. However, she was able to successfully navigate those mental stresses and has adapted to the different norms and expectations of the industry. She recognizes that it is a work in progress and continues her commitment to leading a new direction for GML.
This new role meant a disruption in her entire life including her sleeping patterns and being a “Mommy” with her son asking why is she coming home late every day.

Destigmatizing Mental Health

Karrian has also had to lead the adjustment of changing working patterns brought on by COVID. She comments that employers are critical stakeholders in ensuring the overall wellness of their employees. Employers can help destigmatize mental health by providing mental wellness opportunities for employees. Some companies have arranged employee assistance programmes as a free benefit. Just this availability might encourage persons to begin to see mental health in the same way as they see physical health. The end goal is for employees to not feel constrained if they need to speak to a psychologist or a counselor about a wellness concern.

Mentally well employees contribute to profitability

Employers need to remember that employee wellness contributes positively to productivity and hence profitability so they should invest in their employees physically, mentally, and psychologically.
Mental health is still highly stigmatized, and people often think that persons who are in counseling are different and not to be trusted because they are “crazy”. While our societies have come a long way towards accepting mental health issues, a lot more needs to be done to help people accept their issues and work towards normalizing their mental health.
According to Karrian, it is extremely progressive that across the region, we are beginning to have more open discussions about feelings of being overwhelmed or stressed.

You Can’t Give from an Empty Cup

She maintains her own wellness by remembering the advice of one of her mentors that you cannot give from an empty cup. Often, we are so frustrated that any attempt to support others in need will have a negative result. So Karrian invests a lot of time ensuring that she leads a well-balanced life, mentally, emotionally, and psychologically. She reminds us that we are all human and our human experience includes feeling stressed, tired, and frustrated so it is important to kind to ourselves and to understand our personal limitations. A big factor in ensuring that our cup is full after we have listened to our own needs, listen carefully to the concerns and comments of others. She has learned and accepted that we all need to focus on mental wellness and stop stigmatizing persons with mental health issues.
Her advice is twofold – maintain your own space of well-being while keeping in tune with those around you whether it be your loved ones or colleagues or other random individuals who may just need a positive word
Her daily mantra continues to be: “I have to absolutely pour from a full cup so I must afford, the time to replenish mentally and emotionally, and psychologically.”

We recall Dr. Brock Chisholm, the first Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), who famously stated: “without mental health, there can be no true physical health”.

Paving Our Parks

 Commentary: Paving Our Parks

Originally published in AZP News/Azlan Mohammed on August 12, 2022.

The sun rises over the Queen’s Park Savannah.

A WALK-through Port of Spain, Newtown, and Woodbrook can take you to several beautiful green spaces which we call parks and squares. These are all in danger of disappearing to be replaced by paved areas and buildings.

 Two examples to support this statement are the fact that approximately three acres of the Queens Park Savannah are now paved and a building is being constructed on Adam Smith Square on Carlos Street.

Our forefathers understood the importance of green spaces. Many of us have childhood memories of playing in Tamarind Square on the way to and from school or playing in Adam Smith Square or liming at horse racing in the Queens Park Savannah.  These are just three examples of the number of green spaces which must be preserved for future generations to enjoy.

Trinidad Express story (September 9, 1999, by the late Terry Joseph) quoted former minister of works in the United National Congress (UNC) Government Carlos John admitting that he decided on his own and without government consultation to pave three acres of the Savannah. This was done in preparation for the Independence Day parade so that the members of the army would not have to march in mud.

The minister boldly advised that because of the urgency of the job, it was not put out for tender but did not share the cost of the job with the public at the time.

Former environmentalist and National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) government minister Eden Shand staged a one-man protest and was almost buried with gravel.

 Olga J Mavrogordato in an article writes: “The Savannah is listed as one of the biggest parks in the Western Hemisphere and also by the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest roundabout in the world.”

In 60 short years, citizens have allowed the gradual encroachment on the lungs of Port of Spain. Now the Government has trained its construction guns on Adam Smith Square and we don’t know which other green spaces. Barbados has Garrison Savannah, London has Hyde Park, New York has Central Park. We must ensure that our parks and green spaces are preserved.

If we do nothing it will be a matter of time before the plans for the savannah are reclaimed from the shelf.  Here’s what was planned for the savannah as revealed by former minister of culture Joan Yuille-Williams: “a below the ground level facility, with only the entrance and exits visible from the streets, it will have a seating capacity for up to 18,000 persons and will house a museum, offices, training rooms, studios, Carnival offices, event management rooms, security booths and parking spaces for 3,500 vehicles. A ten-tiered retractable roof will provide for all weather conditions to protect patrons.

“Construction will be done by the state-owned Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (Udecott) and carried out on a 24/7 shift, once labour is available so that the facility could be completed by 2008.”

This is an interesting concept but if we cannot manage surface flooding, how are we going to manage potential underground flooding?

The American writer and novelist Sai Zhenzhu or Pearl S Buck is credited with the statement: “When good people in any country cease their vigilance and struggle, then evil men prevail.”