Month: March 2010

Note to Culture Stakeholders: Strengthening TT Culture Sector

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Despite our rich cultural diversity – an area in which it has tremendous repository of knowledge and experience while much of the global community is now coming into awareness – Trinidad and Tobago is absent from intense discourse on cultural diversity in the international arena.
At home, it has no cultural policy. As a result there are perceptions of wide discrepancies and inequities in the treatment of different cultures and groups.
Internationally, it has not ratified the UNESCO Cultural Conventions: The Convention on the Promotion and Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005) and The Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003). As a result:
T&T has no access to the UNESCO Fund for Cultural Diversity, launched earlier this month, March 2010 which helps support development of the culture sector.
T&T is deprived of access to many of the mechanisms for cultural exchange and trade because of lack of ratification. For example, the Cultural Protocol of the controversial Economic Partnership Agreement was used as currency to buy public approval for the EPA-EU agreement – but to access these benefits the country must ratify the UNESCO Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and the establish cultural policy.

The Gaps

There is need for widespread consultation on a National Cultural Policy, using the current draft as a basis to identify and define:

i. T&T National Position(s) on culture, the cultural sector, and cultural industries

ii. National priorities for culture, the culture sector and cultural industries in Trinidad and Tobago

iii. Directions for culture, the culture sector and cultural industries in Trinidad and Tobago.


The International Federation of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity (IFCCD) has been actively promotion ratification of the 2005 Convention and establishment of cultural policies internationally, and specifically in the region. After several meetings throughout the region, the Caribbean Coalition for Cultural Diversity (CaribCCD) was announced at the Commonwealth People’s Forum 2009 to support the lobby for ratification of the UNESCO Conventions, promote national cultural policies and national priorities, as well as identify and promote regional cultural positions as they relate to heritage conservation, cultural co-operations, harmonization of policies, and copyrights among others. Jamaica, Barbados, Grenada, St Lucia and Dominica are among the 108 countries who have to date ratified, and other Caribbean countries are working towards this. Trinidad and Tobago remains virtually invisible in this conversation. This is to invite Trinidad and Tobago culture sector to make its input for national priorities that can be carried forward by the CaribCCD to the regional arena, the IFCCD and others to the international arena.

A. Please indicate with a tick/Yes/No and you may elaborate:

i. I/my organisation support these objectives

ii. I support ratification of the UNESCO Convention on the Promotion and Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005) and the Convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH);

iii.I/my organization support public consultation towards a national cultural policy.

iv . I/my organisation support establishing national priorities for the culture sector.

B. Please submit what you/your organisation identify as priorities for consideration and incorporation into the objectives and advocacy agenda of the CaribCCD that may be carried forward to international meetings of the IFCCD and others.

C. Please identify contact person for your organisation and submit contact details – email, phone, address – of a person within your organization who can participate in discussions and consultations on these issues.

Send queries and submissions to:

Dr Kris Rampersad,

For further information see:


Growing journalists from agriculturalists: Restoring culture in agriculture in T&T

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In Trinidad and Tobago, not unlike many other parts of the Caribbean and the developing world, agriculture and development are inherently contradictory terms. Deeply rooted in the regions labour history of slavery and forced indentured labour, children are educated away from agriculture; their ambitions nurtured to aspire to life in industry or professional services that are as far away from the land as is possible in the belief that agriculture offers only limited life chances.
This attitude to agriculture – as a peripheral activity translates into the policies and practices of the adult world. In Trinidad and Tobago where there is an abundance of alternatives to agriculture in the country’s energy resources, policy planning ensures that there are sufficient incentives for the private sector to invest in the exploitation of more oil and gas reserves. At the same time the private sector is berated for not investing in agriculture although it is offered little inducement to do so. Support for farmers and agricultural interests is not viewed as viable and economically-sound investments. There is no real link between the products of agriculture as core to personal survival as there are with the oft-reiterated links between energy as core to economic survival. The quantity of food on one’s table from the outside world is believed to signify the level of development. Import labels imply that the household is on its way, like the national policy agenda, to developed status. The household with mainly local products on its table is considered to be on the lower rungs of the social and economic ladder.
National media replicate and perpetuate these perceptions of and attitudes towards agriculture with – perhaps not deliberate – inadvertent, negative imaging of the sector. It is not unusual to see or hear feature and news stories in print and electronic media that tell of “the once sleepy agricultural village is now awakening to development (read: non-agro based industries). In effect, there is no culture of agriculture in Trinidad and Tobago.
The media is one of the most powerful modern engines for creating, nurturing and sustaining tastes, perceptions, habits and beliefs. As a creative catalyst, an agent of culture, and a stimulant of public opinion, it is recognizably best positioned to reversing such attitudes and approaches that have worked against the sector. But the limitations on media as an institution in the region are not much different from those of the agriculture sector. It too views itself as disempowered and functioning with limited capacity, resources and investments in its professional development. Perhaps we need to turn the spotlight not just on what journalists can do – which has already received considerable attention – but what agriculturalists can do to empower themselves by increasing their capacities to use media in their outreach.
It is a fact that the media is attracted to power and success like insects to a source of light. Empowering the agriculture sector to utilise the wide array of media tool and opportunities is key to attracting media attention to agriculture. The agriculture sector has to develop and establish strong bonds with conventional mass media as well as explore the potential of expanding outreach and impact through new (e.g internet) and alternative (performance arts) media. Agriculture must reach out to create understanding and awareness and then a one-to-one approach – reporter to agriculturalist – rather than trying to convert the entire media. The sector will also benefit if it develops its own expertise in journalism; package products, feed articles and stories to media outlets and filter its expertise through the system as editors, producers, reporters and opinion leaders, for example. In addition it should draw on the opportunities for citizen journalism and the kind of target community the online social and professional networking channels provide.
Such a proactive approach will help project an image of an empowered sector and help counter negative imaging. Support by new technology and with the objective of gaining fuller control over content and message will enable the sector to target its audiences and readership in a more systematic way and emerge from the niche into which it has been squeezed by the conventional media. One particularly effective mechanism for stimulating media interest and awareness is the outdoor outing. Taking journalists away from the daily grind of the office to field projects. At the same time, there is enormous potential in training and using the sector’s ready cadre of extension officers – already experts in transferring technical scientific information accessible to lay farmers/communities – to be effective conduits of information, potential media liaisons, and agricultural stringers and journalists.
In an ideal world, the media may train or seek out journalists with expertise in agricultural reporting, but given its own resource limitations, and the reality that media managers have not yet seen this as a necessity, the agricultural sector can well capitalise on and create its own opportunities for public outreach by growing its own journalists.

Skewed development vision in CHOGM concept paper …Imbalanced attention to key drivers: culture, gender and rural development

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Despite its very clear identification of Commonwealth challenges, and its theme Partnering for a More Equitable and Sustainable Future, the CHOGM concept paper gives unequal focus to its three key words, ‘partnering, equitable, and sustainable.’ The paper is heavily slanted to climate change, almost to the oblivion of all else, and even that is skewed to the perspective that all the world’s ensuing problems will arise from the climate change phenomenon. This constitutes a business-as-usual, plaster-on-the-sore approach that holds the symptoms for the cause.
It ignores the reality that anticipated challenges from changing climate patterns are really manifestations of the continued imposition of culturally alien financial and other systems on many of the world’s communities, unbalanced economic development, neglect of the contributions of women and girls, and inequitable investments in the largely rural-based agricultural sectors in favour of close-to-the-nose urban sectors.
The paper’s approach is analogous to the get-rich-quick models that spiraled the financial crisis in the first instance; the failures that have arisen from focus on economic security at the expense of food security; and the disrespect for home-grown, culturally evolved modes of coping with life’s challenge that have excluded large segments of the world’s peoples from an equal share of development — spring-factors that will exacerbate the impacts of climate change, not the other way around!
The concept can certainly benefit from strengthened emphasis on the need for integrated and multi/cross sectoral approaches that promote balance and equity and that recognise different notions and cultures of development that can add enormously to solutions for the current crises of finance, food security, water and land management, soil conservation, rising temperatures and ocean levels.
As it treats with climate change, there is need in the concept for dedicated attention through paragraphs that:
1. recognise that peoples’ cultures are central and pivotal to development around which all else orbits if there is to be widespread buy-in-to the Millennium Development Goals;
2. account for the conditions of and contributions of two-thirds of the Commonwealth—who are women and children—as key starting points (not endpoints) to reversing the horrifying imbalances of poverty, malnourishment, child and maternal mortality that will be aided and alleviated through – not token – but revisionist priority positioning of agriculture, food security and rural in the Commonwealth and others’ development agendas.
This would go a long way to help right the lopsided vision in the concept, clouded as it is by climate change as the looming tsunami bearing down on the world, by sharpening its focus on the real subjects of the MDGs: the neglected communities that huddle on tsunami-endangered coastlines, farmers who are squeezed onto precarious hillside to produce the world’s food as concrete encroach on prime agriculture lands and the plight of the disadvantaged, including women and children.