Jensen La Vende
FORMER market vendor turned politician Foster Cummings hopes that when the time comes to end his political career he will have helped eradicate poverty in Trinidad and Tobago.
In interviews consisting of virtual and in-person meetings, Cummings, 48, said he entered politics as a natural progression after his involvement in work and community service.
“My passion is to work for poverty eradication and human development and I am committed to giving extra attention to the most vulnerable in society as we work to build a better TT for all. “
Cummings, who began his parliamentary career in 2008 as a temporary government senator, was appointed Minister of Youth Development and National Service in April. This is his first full ministerial portfolio. He was chosen by the Prime Minister to serve as minister in the Ministry of Public Works and Transport last year.
“My vision is for the ministry to be a dynamic, client-focused, policy-driven organization that brings together all stakeholders to promote youth development and encourage national service through TT.
“We are committed to advancing the youth development agenda by providing safe spaces for young people in all regions of the country, which will facilitate positive development; promote the empowerment of young people through participation in productive activities; and increasing the participation of young people in all aspects of sustainable development.
Following his appointment as Prime Minister in August last year for a second term, Dr Rowley said that although national service is voluntary, it will be a path for young people to be trained. He said this when announcing the creation of the youth-focused ministry. He added that the ministry will be linked with three youth camps that have been fulfilling campaign promises and appointed Laventille West MP Fitzgerald Hinds as head of the ministry.
Hinds was reassigned to the Department of National Security in April following the death of Franklin Khan and Stuart Young was reassigned as Minister of Energy, retaining his other ministerial responsibility in the Prime Minister’s Office. Cummings replaced Hinds and has since launched an aggressive social media campaign to showcase his work as an MP and Minister.
Cummings said one of the biggest obstacles to getting his job done is the current financial hardship caused by the pandemic. But he is undisturbed and aims to stay focused on guiding young people of whom the nation can be proud.
“We need to focus on producing model citizens and providing adequate support for young people to reach their full potential, providing them with vocational training to prepare them for the labor market and facilitating entrepreneurship opportunities to support the development of the next generation of progressive citizens. ”
Part of that will be an agricultural project that the ministry is working on that will be launched next year. The partnership will see young people working with young farmers to learn more about the industry.
“We promote agriculture as a way for young people to get involved in agribusiness. As part of our business development at the ministry, we are traveling to different areas to look at some of the examples of what successful farmers are doing. “
Cummings spoke about the initiative during his Seans Rabbitry & Aquaponic Produce tour in Wallerfield. The farm was one of ten farms visited by the ministry in recent weeks as it created a database for the agricultural program. The owners of Seans Rabbitry & Aquaponic Produce, Sean Mc Lean and Sean Austin, have been selected as “Farmers of the Week” by the ministry.
Cummings visited farms which are all owned and managed by young people who believe that peer partnership can motivate others to get involved in farming. Farming is a passion for Cummings as he spent his formative years in farming and vividly remembers helping his mother sell in the market.
“We are very involved in involving young people on unoccupied state lands. What we’re going to do is use some of the success stories that we have. They will supervise young people entering the industry.
Austin told Newsday on Sunday that he and his partner decided to team up after both realizing entrepreneurship was their calling. Austin, who was a police officer, resigned and joined Mc Lean, a full-time farmer, and their company was born in 2015.
The advice from business people is that when it comes to raising rabbits, it is better to grow taller than to get started.
Growing up in the small Indian Trail farming village of Couva, Cummings understood the importance of hard work and the benefits of farming.
With unemployment and underemployment being the main problems plaguing his constituency, Cummings hopes agriculture can solve both.
“Currently, agriculture accounts for around one percent of the country’s GDP and with the recent emphasis on food security, agriculture and agribusiness present lucrative opportunities for our young people. “