Today, as Trinidad and Tobago celebrates Emancipation Day, one man is using the occasion to commemorate his own journey of self-awareness and self-liberation. He is Nigel Clement, a former Coast Guardsman, now aqua farmer. Nigel didn’t know the reason behind his transfer from Belmont Boys’ RC School to Richmond Street Boys’ RC School. But he did discern the reason for relocating from Richmond Street Boys to Trinity Junior three years later—to gain the experience of a private institution and to be a well-rounded individual was what his mother told him. And well-rounded he has become. Nigel grew up with an extended family in which football, rugby and the playing of the national instrument, the steelpan—which he still plays up to this day—were his loves.
He spent a lot of time with his grandfather, one of his role models from the “country,” extracting values of life from him. In the footsteps of his grandfather, Nigel had the inclination to be a farmer, consuming himself with the outdoors. Instead, he decided to become a Coast Guardsman directly out of Sixth Form, Trinity College. He moved through the brigade’s ranks, particularly absorbed in the Naval Unit, Operation Ship and Rescue and finally becoming one of the Lieutenant Commanders there. With each experience, he learnt a valuable lesson. Whether sorrowful with his grandfather’s death or inspirational as in finding Christ, these lessons brought him to a level of maturity which he can now say adds to his emancipated life. “I am always telling people that God has a sense of humour anytime I think of it, because I could remember crossing the road anytime I saw a (Spiritual) Baptist person on the corner,” Nigel said, chuckling. “There was always a view about Baptist that connected them to ‘obeah practices and bell ringing.’ How funny, it turned out to be that today that I am now a Minister in a Spiritual Baptist Church.”
The journey of emancipation came full circle when he had to deal with his dismissal from his position at the Ministry of National Security, a transfer after he moved up the ranks as Coast Guard officer, especially at the height of his career. The situation forced him to have some introspection on the direction of his life and his ability to sustain it. He kept thinking there are two options people have in life—eat or die. He said since he did not want to become a mortician, he turned to agriculture. Realising the country had a billion-dollar food import bill, he knew he could contribute to easing it as a supplier to a small fraction of the market. “Always wanting to do farming I began considering the idea of fish farming,” Nigel said. “Therefore I delved into the business of tilapias and food security globally.”
While at Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA), he learnt about aquaponics, the rearing of fish and vegetables in a closed re-circulating system, and decided to research the trade. He realised this was something he would enjoy. The environment would be peaceful, the soothing running water and the fact that everything was naturally grown were the keys to his decision. Now, this husband and father of five is the breadwinner of the home by being his own boss. His entrepreneurial skills have afforded him a new outlook in life and have enabled him to become fully emancipated. “Emancipation is not about putting on the wear, rather it is about being confident of who you are as a person from African decent. I always try to live by these rules, not allowing myself to be dragged down or having my self-esteem negatively affected by the stigmas that people will attach to me because I am an African,” he said.