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Chemraj has no training in machinery, engineering
Chemraj Ramsaroop, a former sugarcane farmer with no formal training in engineering or machinery design, began experimenting with designs of machinery and equipment in 1995. This was after facing labour woes to cultivate his lands and the unavailability of suitable machinery at affordable prices.
• He built a cassava molder from scrap iron with more adjustments than a commercial molder and which simultaneously tills the soil, molds the cassava and controls the weeds.
• Ramsaroop also built a sprayer from scrap iron which can apply insecticides over the cassava canopy and weedicides in the rows. Spraying 1.23 hectares of land an hour, Ramsaroop’s sprayer is nine per cent of the cost of a commercial sprayer.
• The family also modified a commercial planter which cuts stems, plants and applies fertilisers to 1.23 hectares of land per hour.
• His two other innovations include a harvester, a completely original design that among other functions loosens the soil and brings cassava to the surface with minimal damage, and a cane juicer which extracts juice at the rate of 454 litres an hour.
Edric Harry, policy analyst and planning specialist, IICA, said the result of Ramsaroop’s innovation, creativity and adaptation resulted in no external labour required, increased productivity returns to the family to enable them to live comfortably while other farmers benefitted from it.
‘A viable family enterprise’
The two other participants from T&T were Ramgopaul and Beena Roop, and Kent Vieira. The Roops, from north Freeport, submitted their entry: an integrated system to rehabilitate degraded heavy clay acidic soils for horticultural production based on the management of pests, diseases, soil and water with minimum external inputs in an economically sound and environmentally friendly manner.
Vieira’s submission was an integrated horticulture and tilapia production system running on fish feed as the sole input with no waste generated. Gregg Rawlins, IICA representative in T&T, said family agriculture plays an important role in contributing to food security at the individual, household and national levels.
“Notwithstanding the challenges which face the many small producers in the Latin America and the Caribbean region, our small farmers continue to adapt and implement new technologies in agriculture and their efforts have given rise to several success stories,” he said.
IICA holds the view that opportunities for increased production, processing and marketing of domestically produced food offer scope for agriculture to be viewed as a viable family enterprise or business with the active participation of all family members, he added.
“This will, however, require that the children and young adults in these households are actively encouraged to participate in the agricultural enterprise, not merely as a source of labour but as shareholders in the family business. “Hopefully, that generation of children and young adults, with the right guidance and support, can become the farmers and agribusiness managers of the future,” Rawlins said.
Steve Maximay, who has been contracted by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to assist the T&T Government to frame a National Intellectual Property Strategy for the country, said Ramsaroop’s innovation was evident, not just in the products (engineering) but in the use of services and software to manage the farms.
“Local farmers are unheralded as they make infinitesimally small changes and innovations. Because of our ignorance about patenting and protection of intellectual property, we bypass the legislative flexibility this country enjoys with regard to utility certificates or utility models, a less rigorous and less costly route to protection,” he said.
Maximay, who chaired the function, said IP was central to innovation and is a well-documented means of making new things available to the public while still rewarding the innovators and inventors. “It is not about selfishness but about sustainability. Mr Ramsaroop should benefit from sharing his equipment so that he is spurred on to do even more. We have the legislative framework to have him benefit from his creativity and to inspire others to follow suit,” added Maximay, who’s also managing director of Science-Based Initiatives.
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