How do you sustainably grow food in the Caribbean?



I fondly remember my father’s stories of the flourishing production and export of sugar cane and cocoa in Trinidad and Tobago in the 1970s. In particular, we produced high quality cocoa that was appreciated. and sought after in Europe and the UK.

However, during my childhood in the 1990s, there were few sugarcane and cocoa plantations left, and the economy’s focus on oil and gas, as well as imports, left an agricultural sector. in decline.

In 1972, agriculture contributed over 7% of the Twin Islands’ GDP, but in 2019 that figure stood at a paltry 1% (1).

Additionally, the country’s profitable oil and gas economy has left a large carbon footprint, earning it a less than ideal ranking on the Yale Environmental Performance Index (EPI) for climate change (2, 3).

However, guided by the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030 and economic diversification efforts, the agricultural sector of the Twin Islands is currently experiencing growth, with significantly revived cocoa production (4).

In this article, I will take a closer look at what sustainable agriculture looks like in Trinidad and Tobago and identify potential areas for future development.

Agriculture accounted for 4% of global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018 and remains a crucial component of economic growth (5).

However, conventional and industrial agriculture make extensive use of pesticides, fertilizers, and animal husbandry practices that pose risks to human and environmental health (6, seven).

Alternatively, sustainable agriculture aims to meet current food needs without harming the environment or human health. It does this by integrating ecosystems into agriculture, making efficient use of non-renewable resources, and supporting and enhancing natural resources (8).

It also aims to eradicate hunger by improving food security and access to healthy food (9).

What challenges does sustainable agriculture face in Trinidad and Tobago?

Sustainable agriculture in Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) is in its infancy and is affected by limited arable land and substantial food imports.

In addition, the adoption of a green economy as part of the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for small island countries like T&T has met resistance (ten, 11).

This is because T & T’s oil and gas economy provides over 45% of the island’s GDP, and this sector claims that taxes on its activities can hamper the economy (12).

As such, the government has prioritized economic diversification and the transition to a “blue” economy – which would develop sustainable aquaculture – over a green economy.


Sustainable agriculture in Trinidad and Tobago, which is in its infancy, has been constrained by limited arable land, fear of high taxes for oil and gas activities and the preference for a “blue” economy formed around it. ” sustainable aquaculture.

Agroecology is an agricultural practice that combines the sciences of agronomy and ecology.

Agronomy focuses on soil management and plant production, while ecology is the study of the relationships between living organisms and their environment (13, 14).

This style of agriculture restores degraded land, supports human health through improved access to nutritious food, and promotes biodiversity by strategically cultivating symbiotic relationships between crops (13, 14).

In Trinidad and Tobago, Rocrops Agrotec – a small 30-year-old family farm – is at the head of the agroecological space (15).

Built on once degraded and acidic sugar cane fields, this farm has rehabilitated its land through soil restoration and minimal application of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.

Instead, the farm uses fertirrigation – the delivery of small, precise amounts of fertilizer twice a day through a crop watering system – to avoid overuse of fertilizer, as well as citronella as a deterrent. weeds instead of herbicides (16).

The farm grows limes, other tropical fruits, vegetables and herbaceous perennials. This not only produces high quality, pesticide-free crops year round, but also provides an ecosystem for bees, birds, frogs and other wildlife.

Rocrops Agrotec’s approach stimulates food production, is respectful of the environment and offers an economically healthy model of agriculture.


Agroecology is an agricultural practice that improves biodiversity to support agricultural production. The Rocrops Agrotec family farm is the leader in agroecological sustainable agriculture in Trinidad and Tobago.

Aquaculture is the rearing and harvesting of fish, crustaceans and other seafood intended for human consumption (17).

Companies that focus on sustainability strive to restore marine ecosystems by reducing overfishing and the need for bottom trawling, a common fishing practice that damages marine life and ecosystems (18, 19, 20).

In addition, sustainable aquaculture can improve food security by making nutritious seafood more available (17, 21).

T & T’s Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries offers free training courses to farmers and the general public in aquaculture and aquaponics, making sustainable small-scale agriculture more accessible and popular (22).

Aquaponics combines traditional aquaculture and hydroponics – growing crops with nutrient-rich mineral solutions instead of soil – so that the wastes from fish and aquatic organisms are used as nutrients for plants (23).

These training courses teach the basics of pond construction and have led to the establishment of small aquaculture farms that can generate income or reduce the food bill through local food production (24).


Aquaculture and aquaponics are small-scale farming practices that are becoming increasingly popular in Trinidad and Tobago thanks to free training courses offered by the government.

Vertical farming is an indoor or climate-controlled farming system that grows crops sustainably in small spaces (25, 26).

Vertical systems can use hydroponics, aquaponics, or aeroponics – in which mineralized aerosols are applied to the roots of crops – to grow herbs like chives and mint, green vegetables like lettuce and mustard greens, and even tomatoes.

Green Age Farms in Trinidad and Tobago supplies and installs vertical hydroponic systems and greenhouse supplies to support sustainable, environmentally friendly and resource efficient farming methods (27).

These vertical farms target both personal and commercial agriculture and can be found in spaces ranging from traditional greenhouses and vegetable gardens to people’s backyards.


Green Age Farms supplies and installs vertical hydroponic systems for personal and commercial agriculture. You can use vertical farming to grow smaller crops like tomatoes, leafy greens, and herbs.

The Extension, Training and Information Services (ETIS) Division of T&T’s Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries offers a range of free agricultural training courses (28).

Free trainings include crop production, animal husbandry, home gardening, introduction to organic farming, fertilizer use and pest control. The ministry also offers seedlings for home gardening for free or for sale, as well as grants and incentive funds for farmers (22, 29).

For example, you can take a course in home gardening from the ministry’s program, then put that knowledge into practice with a collection of free or subsidized seeds for crops like black-eyed peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce.

Although these trainings are not sustainable agricultural practices in the traditional sense, they bridge a gap between education and food production while promoting food sovereignty and local eating.


Free agriculture courses in Trinidad and Tobago encourage local and self-sufficient food production.

“WhyFarm is an inspirational catalyst in the agriculture industry,” says Alpha Sennon, Founder and CEO of award-winning nonprofit WhyFarm (30).

His approach extends beyond the farm and focuses on educating school-aged children with the long-term goal of developing a sustainable agricultural sector and generations of environmentally conscious farmers in Trinidad. and-Tobago.

Through the creation of the world’s first food security and nutrition superhero, AGRIman, Sennon and his team are using ‘farm entertainment’ to creatively engage young audiences and decision makers (31).

Here are several sustainable agriculture projects WhyFarm is involved in as it strives to reshape the agricultural landscape of T&T (32, 33):

  • Grown in the east of Port of Spain. This community garden is located in a low income community in the capital. Community members are trained in family gardening and “agricultural entrepreneurship” to create economic opportunities.
  • Culinary medicine food park. This hydroponic garden system, located at San Fernando General Hospital, produces food to feed patients and aims to reduce the hospital’s food bill.
  • School of AgriCOOLture and school gardens. These projects teach school-aged children about agriculture through drama, speaking, poetry, dance and music. In addition, school gardens and agriculture have been established in many primary schools.


WhyFarm is an award-winning organization that focuses on youth education and ‘farm entertainment’ to promote sustainable agriculture in Trinidad and Tobago.

In the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago, sustainable agriculture is in its early stages of development. However, its future is promising through agroecology, aquaculture, vertical agriculture, free training and the emergence of community gardens.

Through the collaborative efforts of the public and private agricultural sectors, community members in East Port of Spain can improve their economic capacities by harvesting crops like bok choy.

Small-scale vertical aquaponics and hydroponics could be the future of home gardens, enabling citizens to grow some of their own food and establish more sustainable and healthy eating habits.



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