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A member of Hunters United gives out seedlings and food items to members of the public yesterday.

For hours from 8 am yesterday, hundreds of people in with their vehicles, queued outside of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Headquarters in Chaguanas, waiting to collect plants and seedlings.

The initiative, called Feed the Nation, was hosted by the hunting group, Hard Grounds Get Soft and in partnership with the Agriculture Ministry, with an overall aim of encouraging more homegrown food.

By the day’s end, according to organisers, more than 51,000 plants were distributed for free.

Bags that were given out included, among other things, lettuce, celery, pineapple, dasheen, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava and bananas.

“We are in a crisis. We are in a situation in the country where people are losing their jobs, people can’t work right now because of the pandemic. You can give somebody a hamper, but it could only feed them for a few days, but if you teach them about planting and plants, you could help them feed their family and neighbours,” Ren Gopiesingh, the initiative’s brainchild, said.

According to Gopiesingh, Hard Grounds Get Soft plans to continue the initiative, however, he hoped to give out even more items next time.

He said the next event will likely be in Tobago.

Vallance Rambharat, also part of the organising group, encouraged the private sector to contact his hunting group to get involved.

“This is our way of giving back – making good use of the downtime when the hunting season is closed – we utilise our time fruitfully and this is our way of giving back to the national community,” Rambharat said.

Raymond John and Clarence Peters were just two of hundreds of people to collect plants and seedlings.

They were both grateful for the initiative, promising to make good use of the items.

“It’s a blessing and I appreciate it very much. It will go a long way. I plan to put them in boxes and grow them and eat from them and share them too with my neighbours. I’ve told a lot of folks about this you know,” John said.

“I think this is a good initiative. It is very thoughtful for people to come together, especially the Hunters Association, to do a food drive with seedlings, so that everyone can plant for themselves and put food for their families together,” Peters added.

Out to help hand out bags was Minister in the Agriculture Minister Avinash Singh, as well as the Minister of Rural Development and Local Government Kazim Hosein.

Minister Hosein was also doubling up as Agriculture Minister, with Minister Rambharat out of office for a short period.

Minister Hosein was full of praise for Hard Grounds Get Soft for the project, saying it was a huge success.

“I am seeing and meeting people from all over the country – places like Maracas, somebody even said they came from Point Fortin,” he said.

Minister Singh added to the praises for the hunting group, saying, “Mr Ren Gopiesingh and his team really demonstrate good corporate responsibility at a time when the country really needs the extra push. The economy, the environment, the pandemic—food is of utmost importance.”