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Ramsaroops innovate with scrap
Freeport small farmers Chemraj and Sita Ramsaroop and their three children, a fourth generation farming family with few resources, used scrap iron and other materials to modify and enhance equipment and machinery for the agriculture fields on which they grow root crops and vegetables.
Their creativity and innovation as small farmers earned them special mention and acknowledgement at the recently held Fund for Agricultural Technology (Fontagro) contest on family farming, Competition of Success of cases of Innovation for family agriculture 2012. Some 112 entries from the Caribbean and Latin America were submitted.
The Fontagro fund is an alliance of the Latin American and Caribbean countries that supports research and innovation in agriculture with the overall objective of reducing poverty, promoting competitiveness and sustaining natural resources. The fund is sponsored by the Inter-American Institute on Agriculture (IICA) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) with a focus on the area of innovation as a framework for action, strengthened results, impact and the dissemination of knowledge.
Dr Humberto Gomez, technological innovation specialist, IICA, said the Ramsaroops were identified for special mention by the independent referees because of a combination of engineering and management despite the lack of formal education.
Their designs met the needs of small production units, as Caribbean farmers are small and lack equipment, and there was a focus on family and team work, strong work ethics and willingness to help others. At a function to honour the Ramsaroops and two other participants from T&T, Sita Ramsaroop told the gathering at the Centre of Excellence in Macoya that in every business, the struggle for survival was in staying ahead of the curve.
“We have witnessed the evolution of our trade from the use of bison cart to wheel tractor. Due to the high cost of machinery, we have developed our own equipment from scrap materials. We have also modified standard equipment to suit our specific needs. We have approached mechanisation and innovation as a means of survival in agriculture,” she said.
“At a time when most in our industry are taking their children out of agriculture, we have managed to advance our family in this very challenging industry. We have sought to do this by finding innovative ways of increasing our profitability,” Ramsaroop added.
Identifying the myriad problems facing small, family-based farmers, including lack of regularised land tenure, praedial larceny, pests, competition with imported foods and high production costs for labour, chemicals and equipment, she said the greatest control her family had was over production cost. “The cost of production is driven up significantly by the cost of labour. Mechanisation is the only way of controlling this cost. This is why I started by saying that we have approached mechanisation and innovation as a means of survival.
“This innovative spirit is driven by our passion and love for what we do,” she said, adding that “the dedicated hard work and love of family were the two most important fertilisers that we use.”
The winners of the FONTAGRO contest were
• Andean Culture and New paradigms: The Farmer’s Market of Huancaro, Cusco, Peru by Edison Ramos Bautista, Gualberto Cruz Godos, Germán Mejía Tuco y Enrique Nolte
• Innovation to value the biodiversity of native potatoes: The Case of the Andean Potato/INCOPA in Perú By Miguel Ordinola, André Devaux, Thomas Bernet, Kurt Manrique, Cristina Fonseca, Alice Thomann, Douglas Horton
• Innovating together: The Apiculture case of Argentina and the Dominican Republic By Enrique Bedascarrasbure, Santiago Rivas, Emilio Figini, Alejandra Palacio, Javier Caporgno, Sesar Rodriguez, Iciar Pavez
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