Food Sovereignty Food Import Dependency Trinidad and Tobago
activism, Boycott, food, supermarket

Who Controls the Food Controls the Country: Food Sovereignty and Food Import Dependency in Trinidad and Tobago

Part 1: Wheat Boycott

Dreams of Life Back Home

Growing up as a first-generation American child in an immigrant family, I heard lots of idealized reminiscing about “back home”.  To hear them tell it, the Caribbean was a magical unicorn-filled wonderland where everything from the food to the freedom was

To hear them tell it, the Caribbean was a magical unicorn-filled wonderland where everything from the food to the freedom was perfect.  It never occurred to me to ask them why, then, did they leave it to come to Brooklyn, New York. 

perfect.  It never occurred to me to ask them why, then, did they leave it to come to Brooklyn, New York.  Nonetheless, notions of greener grass and cleaner food lodged in my subconscious and followed me through my move to Trinidad and Tobago, my husband’s native land.  Imagine my shock when I discovered how problematic food import dependency is here. At least 70% of what Trinidadians eat comes from outside of the country!

To be fair, my family left the Commonwealth of Dominica in the mid 1980’s.  The country was still far behind Trinidad & Tobago in terms of its entrenchment in the global food system.  Food and life was perhaps still “natural”, what we now call “organic”. Dominica was also still rather underdeveloped, so much of the land was being cultivated to a wide array of local crops to feed a very small population.  Indeed, perhaps there were even unicorns and magic!

Fast forward to late December 2013, my first trip to Trinidad.  I found here supermarkets very much like the ones I left in the US stocked with just as much of the pseudo-variety of wheat, corn and soy incarnations with a sad produce section.  All these symptoms of heavy food import dependency left me feeling somewhat dejected. Really tho?  Did it never cross anyone’s mind here that who controls the food controls the country?

Did it never cross anyone’s mind here that who controls the food controls the country? 

Greenmarkets were an even bigger disappointment than the groceries.  Instead of the rich panoply of diverse colors, shapes and flavors I looked forward to seeing, I found a similar uniformity to the supermarket.  Vegetable vendors have all the same basic inventory. Import fruit and Chinese onions and garlic abound.

Now I started to reminisce idealistically about my New York City farmers’ markets, where I could find a beautiful selection of locally grown heirloom tomatoes, organic foods of all kinds at Whole Foods, and have fresh groceries delivered to my door.

A Wheat Boycott to Call Attention to Food Import Dependency

Not that I wasn’t subject to the Global Food Regime, but I lived in the perpetrating country.  Living in the victimized country that Trinidad and Tobago is has affected me in a deep way.  Consistently I consider the implications of relying so heavily on other countries for the very food we eat.  This deeply concerns me.  I will highlight some of these in the coming weeks.

So on Monday, 11th June, 2018 I started a one woman boycott of wheat.  I chose to boycott wheat for a number of reasons.  Wheat is Trinidad’s top imported food item.  The US being this country’s biggest trade partner implicates that the wheat we eat comes from over-subsidized midwestern wheat fields.  Those farms, with their GMO seed, heavy chemical warfare regime and degerminated finished product, flood the world with nutrient poor, poison rich product.  They are unwittingly sickening the world’s people.

Delicious Poison

The other reason I chose wheat is because I knew it would be an extremely challenging thing to abstain from.  Almost every meal in Trinidad calls for wheat of some kind, from pies, bakes and doubles at breakfast, roti skins and macaroni at lunch, to dumplings and bread at dinnertime and all great snacks – digestive biscuits, khurma, pholourie – you can have in between.  Here is food import dependency at its best: a non-native ingredient masquerading as a native staple. And all of it is SO DELICIOUS! It’s never wise to make generalizations, but Trinidadians can cook! Honestly, I haven’t had a bad meal in this country yet.

Here is food import dependency at its best: a non-native ingredient masquerading as a native staple.

Discussing Food Import Dependency in Trinidad &Tobago: More to Come

I am looking forward to giving talks about this around this country, so this is my first act towards helping to determine solutions to this problem of food import dependency in Trinidad and Tobago.

Here’s my boycott launch video.  Enjoy!

What are your thoughts?  Even if you’re not from or in Trinidad, please share.  The Global Food Regime affects us all one way or another!

Literature Recommendations:

Hungry for Change: Farmers, Food Justice and the Agrarian Question by A. Haroon Akram-Lodhi – Read my book review

When Banana Was King by Leslie Gordon Goffe – Read my book review

 

 

 

 

©2018 Rashida V. Serrant-Davis, The Really Nourish Movement.  All Rights Reserved.

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