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Windy Hill farmers bring fresh hope: Using agriculture to erase crime

Published: 
Friday, March 25, 2016
Against the Odds
Farmers tend to their crops at Windy Hill, Arouca. PHOTO: MICHEAL RAMSINGH

A group of young men from Windy Hill, Arouca, have turned to agriculture in hope of removing the negative stigma associated with their community. Their initiative has caught the eyes of experienced farmers who willingly assist them in becoming more productive. Windy Hill/Edna Hill in Arouca is labelled as one of the crime hot spots on the East West Corridor.

However, this group, which calls itself the Windy Hill/Edna Hill farmers group, hopes to use agriculture as a motivator to keep young men out of crime. In the last six months a group of 40 young men came together and began to toil the land. Their success has been commendable. With everything there are challenges but for this group to be recognised as bona fide farmers is the greatest challenge.

Cordell Peters, one of the young farmers, says they are judged even before they are given a chance. 

“I am proud of where I am from. Despite the negatives my community is the best place to live.  We want to leave a legacy and we will ensure that this area will be the place everyone will want to visit,” he said. Peters left his job as a labourer in the construction sector a few months ago to pursue agriculture as a profession.

“When you work for people, it’s hard. cause you are stigmatised for where you live. Also in agriculture I am able to work on my own time and see the results of my hard work,” he said. Since the establishment of the group, youths in the areas have been showing interest in agriculture, Peters said.

“To us everything we have to fight for, even our farmer’s badge was a concern. The field officers did not want to visit our area, yet again because of the stigma,” he explained. Peters said since they became active members of the Agriculture Society of Trinidad and Tobago they have seen headway.

With dry season in its third month, Peters and his young farmers are faced with a water crisis. He said it was difficult for them to access water for their crops and livestock. They currently occupy about two acres of State land. 

“We use my car to fill barrels but this is not sufficient, we are asking for a grant for a water pump. The land is very close to a spring and if we get the pumps we will be able to produce more effectively during the dry season,” Peters said. So far the young farmers has seen successes in producing hot peppers, cucumbers, tilapia farming and by extension to that livestock and poultry.

“The younger ones look up to us, some also ask if we can give them jobs but until we have all the necessary requirements, especially water, we can’t hire our own,” Peters said. He believes he and the other farmers can assist to alleviate the shortage of local vegetables and reduce the food import bill.

“If we get all that is necessary for us, we can be sure to produce and help develop the shortage of food,” he said. However, the young men have been getting direct assistance from a director from the Agriculture Society of Trinidad and Tobago. 

Experienced farmer Frank Ali, who grows lettuce not too far from the young men, said he was willing to help. He said: “When I discovered these young men, I was amazed by their vigour and passion in agriculture.

“I was able to give them the encouragement and also show them the right way to enter into the sector. 

“I see these young men as the future, as they will continue the farming which has been seen as not attractive. They gave the sector hope. From the society’s point of view, I want these young men to get the assistance needed,” he said, adding:

“I am sure they can make the Windy Hill/Edna Hill community a viable food basket of Trinidad and Tobago.”

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