Four years after being promised a national award, Dr Ian Hypolite finally received his honour yesterday.
Hers is the face you see and the voice you normally hear critiquing on politics and the economy. But there is another side to Indera Sagewan-Alli—the 'support-local' activist, who's speaking out candidly on the issue of growing, buying, and eating local, and its connection to sustainable diversification in T&T.
On her televised series, Diversification: Not Just Talk, which airs live every Wednesday on a Chaguanas-based television network, she gives an in-depth analysis on the topic and showcases entrepreneurs and businesses who have taken up the 'total-local mantle,' and are running with it.
Just type the hashtags #diversiftttnotjusttalk, #allahwebusiness, #growcookeatlocal or #saveforex, in your Facebook, twitter, and instgram search bars and you will find videos, interviews and tips on kitchen gardening and buying local. Also found on Facebook are recipes and scrumptious total-local dishes by Sagewan-Alli and her mother, Chan, on their page, From Indera and Chan's Kitchen.
She told the Sunday Guardian this initiative and several others are all flourishing and with a network of like-minded and newly converted people growing local at an accelerated pace, it is the hope through learning and sharing, mindsets will be changed and the population would begin to understand 'people power.'
The economist, who has been blunt for years when it comes to economic diversification in T&T, reiterates there is life beyond oil and gas and she is frustrated with the redundancies of diversification becoming vogue only when oil crashes and quickly returning invisible when gas flows again.
A passionate Sagewan-Alli argues, by the choices we make, by our silence when governments misuse our tax dollars, and by the acceptance of the neglect of agriculture, we are all guilty of failing the progress of sustainable diversification.
“It is not big business using up scarce foreign exchange; rather it is about supporting businesses that maximise local content offering. The onus is on every individual when they choose foreign over quality local substitutes.”
She is adamant the “all-eggs-in-one-basket” syndrome must end as T&T has to recognise the times are changing and it can no longer depend on one sector to drive the economy. Sagewan-Alli who underscores the plights of other support-local activists like agriculture economist Omardath Maharaj and Eat Local Challenge TT, said the policy makers were the biggest culprits as they continue to be backward in their thinking thus handicapping progress.
“Michael Porter, competitiveness guru, advises that economic clusters (groups of businesses producing basically the same or similar products) are a natural phenomenon, they exist because entrepreneurs know best where opportunities reside for investing, producing, selling, making money, and creating jobs,” she explains.
“The role of governments, universities, state enterprises, and institutions is to support the targeted growth and expansion of these clusters, which our policy makers don't appear to understand."
Sagewan-Alli said she spends a lot of time thinking about how economic diversification could generate sustainable high-paying jobs, revenues for the Government, and foreign exchange. While she admits there are no quick fixes, she believes there was too much stalling and 'ole talk' over the years keeping the topic of economic diversification in the future tense, when there is always ample opportunity for diversification to begin.
She speaks of the 'bitter-sweet' feeling she gets whenever she encounters ordinary people who understand the importance of sustainable diversification and are trying in their own way, building economic clusters with such passion and commitment despite the years of many road blocks, sometimes, even deliberately imposed on them.
“This is a national imperative and I am now convinced that unless we the people take responsibility for making it happen through the changing of mindsets, investment, and consumption patterns, we will never see economic diversification in T&T.”
Sagewan-Alli said diversification should also be the deliberate responsibility of businesses big and small, which made huge profits during the economic boom periods. She recommends it is time they move out of easy distribution and into real entrepreneurship, adding value to what T&T owns as nation building tools.
Through her activism, Sagewan-Alli said her end game was to create a people's revolution of sorts that influences our actions and encourages consuming local as a first and best option.
“This is all 'ah' we business. There are so many untold success stories, we have plans to share these and to write the case studies that can replace the foreign cases used as teaching tools in our business schools,” Sagewan-Alli says.
“We will call upon governments and other institutions to act and explain inaction, as there are things which they can only do to make diversification happen. We will do all of this transparently and under the glare of public scrutiny. Trinidad no longer has the luxury of time. We must diversify now!”
For more information on these initiatives, how to get involved or how you lend your support, send emails to: [email protected].
From Indera and Chan’s kitchen
"I am the daughter of an amazing cook and from her learnt much. Over the years, I’ve added my own flavours to her cooking. My friends tell me that my food is delicious and so I’m going to share with you from mine and my mom’s pot local treasures. They will come from our pots but some inspired by the recipes of others. I hope to encourage all of you to do more local in your kitchens.
"Sunday lunch: coconut breadfruit, sautéed breadfruit, sweet peeper sautéed plantains (Shivana’s recipe), jerkhoney baked chicken, and fresh salad.
"This meal can serve at least eight adults. Materials cost $140—that’s approximately $18 per person. I would say 97 per cent ingredients I bought from the local markets (Tunapuna and Macoya and Chaguanas farmers market, and chicken from Reeyad Poultry depot."
#Diversifytt #notjustalk # buylocal #cooklocal #eatlocal #supportourfarmers#allahwebusiness
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