International economists are predicting a global recession by 2023/2024 and agricultural economist Omardath Maharaj wants families to be prepared if food and medicine become scarce.
While conversations are now steered towards alternative types of flour based on the steep increase in wheat, Maharaj says citizens can start looking towards reducing their food bill by planting backyard gardens and growing ground provisions.
Having already launched a breadfruit initiative that saw the distribution of 6,700 free breadfruit trees since 2015, Maharaj is now advising family heads to plant fig trees, tomatoes, breadfruit trees, avocado trees and any other produce based on land availability.
“We were preparing for this situation years ago because we recognised we are too dependent on foreign imports. We had called for a breadfruit forest to be planted at the Queen’s Park Savannah and Woodford Square and every other public place, so if food becomes scarce, people will have free access to breadfruit,” Maharaj added.
He said this is why he started the yard market where he could teach families how to grow their own food.
Maharaj claimed that while the Government has failed to monetise and commercialise alternative flour as promoted by the University of the West Indies Food and Agriculture Faculty, T&T was on the brink of a food crisis.
“People joke saying it’s only flour, oil and rice that have gone up, but this impacts on the pockets of every family. Spending more money on food means that you have less money to spend on leisure, a car and clothing. It means the quality of life will decline and so will the standard of living.”
Maharaj said based on the increase in homelessness and destitution brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the country was already starting to experience a social crisis.
“There is a wave of beggars on the street and also we are seeing more children out of school. It is something that has to be dealt with. If the Government fails to implement policies to deal with this, we as the family must take charge of our homes and put systems in place to safeguard ourselves.”
Saying everyone must prepare for hard times ahead, Maharaj said every individual must look at their talents and find ways to monetise them. He noted that many people went into baking to supplement their income but with the steep flour increases, this may not be a viable option anymore.
“My advice is to consolidate your income and reignite that spirit of entrepreneurialism. Find ways to learn a skill that could reduce your spending. Start producing some of the things that you are eating. Many people live in apartments. You can still plant something, even if it is in a bucket,” Maharaj added.
He noted that everyone has to work together to make it through the crisis.
Maharaj also said the global economy will contract moderately to fairly severe over the next three years and small island developing states will feel it harder as it relates to access to food, medicine and clothing.
However, he noted that while people feel disenchanted and demotivated with unemployment, the harsh economic times should be seen as an opportunity.
“Together we have to find ways to reduce our spending, start new business ideas, develop new skills, produce our food and stay healthy as a family, community and country,” he said.