The government is keen to develop its agricultural and manufacturing sectors. About 86 percent of the population is considered as rural. Although the agriculture sector has been contributing only 2% of the national GDP since 2001 and implies about 11% of the population, the government attaches great importance to the agricultural sector and has embarked upon its revitalization. The main thrust is that farmers manage their farms as businesses. On both islands, most of the agricultural land is owned by the state, with some farmers being part-time.
The country has both plantation estates and small farm agriculture. While plantations are managed by specialists, employing large numbers of laborers, small, subsistence farms are cultivated by families. About 87 percent of agricultural holdings in Trinidad and Tobago are on plots of five acres or less. Sugar, coffee and cocoa are the most important commercial and export crops. Citrus, rice and coconuts are also economically important commodities. Within the agriculture sector, vast sugar production contributes about 50 percent of the GDP for agriculture. The fruits and vegetables being produced include: watermelon, hot peppers, eggplant, pumpkin, peas, beans and potatoes. Unlike in Tobago, in Trinidad, farmers apply excessive dozes of chemical pesticides to their vegetables. Among farm animals, sheep and buffaloes are the most common.
Key Statistics and Indicators
Agricultural land (sq km)
Agricultural land (% of land area)
Arable land (hectares)
Arable land (% of land area)
Arable land (hectares per person)
Fertilizer consumption (kg per hectare of arable land)
Agriculture, value added (% of GDP)
Food production index (2004-2006 = 100)
Food exports (% of merchandise exports)
Food imports (% of merchandise imports)
GNI per capita, Atlas method (current US$)
Literacy rate, adult total (% of people ages 15 and above)
Literacy rate, youth female (% of females ages 15-24)
Literacy rate, youth male (% of males ages 15-24)
Ratio of young literate females to males (% ages 15-24)
Ratio of female to male secondary enrollment (%)
Mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people)
Internet users (per 100 people)
Population density (people per sq. km of land area)
Rural population (% of total population)
Agricultural population (% of total population)*
Total economically active population
Total economically active population in agriculture*
Total economically active population in agriculture (in %
of total economically active population)
Female economically active population in agriculture (% of
total economically active population in agriculture)*
Sources: The World Bank; *FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
History of extension and the enabling environment
Agricultural extension started in Trinidad and Tobago during the British colonial era, almost one hundred years ago, with the establishment of the Botanic Gardens, including advisory services. Extension was influenced by the establishment of the first Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture, as the institution covered both training and research in agriculture. The college was later transformed into the University of the West Indies (UWI). A number of plant propagating stations were also established, which were supported by advisory services for cocoa production. At the beginning, the focus was on technology transfer. Later, however, State Lands Development Projects involved crop and livestock production, which became the major emphasis on extension and home gardening was also encouraged.
Initially the Department of Agriculture, which later became the Ministry of Agriculture, included separate research and extension divisions. In 1950s, the Eastern Caribbean Institute of Agriculture and Forestry was established in order to start two-year diploma level training. The institute was later transformed into the Eastern Caribbean Institute of Agriculture and Forestry, to serve not only Trinidad and Tobago but also the entire region.
Presently, the Ministry of Food Production, Land and Marine Affairs is responsible for providing public extension services. A study conducted by the University of West Indies shows that farmers are not satisfied by these extension services. That is why most of them rely on the suppliers of agricultural inputs for technical advice even though the suppliers have little training in agriculture and are hardly concerned with the environment impact of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. In its effort to transform farming into agriculture business, the Ministry has started the Land Delivery Program for leasing commercial farmlands in Trinidad for agricultural investment, development, management and operations.
The Caribbean Agricultural Research & Development Institute (CARDI) has a country office cum research station in Trinidad and Tobago. Although the Ministry of Food Production, Land and Marine Affairs does have a research division, yet the research activities undertaken by CARDI have been of benefit to the country in terms of improved technology. Although CARDI is not involved in extension work per se, its technology and innovation system consists of four phases namely technology generation or adaptation, testing, validation, and adoption. This last phase of adoption is facilitated through collaboration, mainly with the extension systems for obtaining feedback from extension workers and farmers.
Major donors for Trinidad and Tobago include the European Union, Canada, USA, France, Japan and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has a number of regional projects which also cover Trinidad and Tobago. From 2009 to 2011, FAO provided technical assistance for strengthening agricultural extension under its TCP/TRI/3201 project “Excellence in Extension Services Delivery”.
Major institutions providing extension/advisory services
Ministry of Food Production, Land and Marine Affairs
Extension Training and Information Services Division
The Ministry has a number of technical divisions under the Chief Agricultural Technical Officer. One of these divisions is the Extension Training and Information Services Division (ETISD), which does not provide direct extension services, but supports and facilitates the extension work undertaken by regional administrations. Headed by a director, assisted by a deputy director, ETISD has the mandate to provide information on various aspects of agriculture with the aim of assisting farmers in enhancing the efficiency in production for increased profitability. The division’s mission is to promote the empowerment of farmers through an extension service which is client oriented and responsive to changing needs and circumstances.
The ETISD has been operating the Farmers Training Center for the last 30 years. The center conducts every year over 200 short courses in crops, livestock and other general areas of agriculture for approximately 3000 trainees, at three different locations, free of charge. ETISD also has a publications unit and an audio-visual unit; these units issue a monthly newsletter, fact sheets, posters, etc. in addition to the provision of support in the preparation of instructional cassettes and videos, slide-sets, CDs and radio programs for the farming community.
Extension officers are based at the regional, county and district levels. Besides doing extension work, they also administer programs like Agricultural Incentive Package, flood relief and disaster assessment, and monitor the economic impact of pest and disease outbreaks. Fisheries extension is provided by fisheries officers, while the Forestry Division provides extension advice in agro-forestry and wildlife farming. In 1999, the ratio of farmers to extension officer was approximately 500:1.
Public Regional Administrations
Each administrative region of Trinidad and Tobago is headed by a Regional Director who has overall responsibility for field extension work. The regional extension offices cover crops, livestock, apiculture and rural youth programs. During the last 10 years, fisheries and forestry extension activities have also been started. County officers supervise the extension field staff while another senior official coordinates extension work in different counties. Extension staff also performs certain regulatory tasks.
Human resources: In 2003, the total number of frontline field extension staff serving in all counties of Trinidad and Tobago was about 100. There were only two staff members with the title of subject-matter specialists responsible for technical backstopping of the county extension workers. The forestry extension staff basically was the same staff that was responsible for implementing forest regulations. For fishery extension, there were two fisheries officers for marine fisheries, and one fishery assistant for aquaculture, who organized extension activities.
The Sugarcane Feeds Center
The Sugarcane Feeds Center was established in 1976 under a Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) funded project. It now functions as an institution of applied research, demonstration, and training tropical livestock production. The center has a sprawling campus of 60 hectares.
The National Agricultural Marketing Development Corporation
The National Agricultural Marketing Development Corporation (NAMDEVCO), being primarily a marketing management agency, does not provide direct extension services on regular basis. However, it does provide guidance on agricultural management and export market requirements. Its small field staff interacts with farmers and provides information on marketing and post harvest practices.
Agricultural Society of Trinidad and Tobago
The Agricultural Society of Trinidad and Tobago (ASTT) is a unique national organization representing farmers, founded in 1839. ASTT is a statutory body located within the Ministry of Food Production, Land and Marine Affairs, and represents all sub-sectors of agriculture. The organization is managed by a committee comprising elected representatives from various aspects of agriculture. It serves not only as an advocacy body but also assists and encourages the development and advancement of agriculture. Over the years the ASTT has forged alliances with several national and international agencies.
Trinidad and Tobago does not have any private company which may be called as full-fledged service provider. There are, however, many private agricultural inputs supply companies which undertake extension activities in order to promote sales of their products. Two examples of such companies are as follows:
This company started its operations in Trinidad and Tobago in 1966. It organizes field demonstrations, exhibitions, seminars, field days and training workshops for farmers. Its field staff remains in frequent contact with the farmers. The company is also involved in research and development work besides sales of its chemical farm inputs.
This company was founded in 2009. It engages a variety of stakeholders for promoting its business in agriculture.
There are quite a number of NGOs in Trinidad and Tobago. None of them, however, is involved in any significant agricultural extension work. Now and then nominal extension type activities are undertaken by some NGOs as a part of their literacy, vocational training, and social welfare and poverty alleviation programs. The country also has the Network of NGOs of Trinidad and Tobago for the Advancement of Women. Examples of a few NGOs are as follows:
Caribbean Network for Integrated Rural Development (CNIRD)
The Children’s Villages Association of Trinidad and Tobago (CVATT)
The Cotton Tree Foundation
Morvant Laventille Improvement Organization
St. Martin Welfare Association
Women in Development
Farmers-based Associations, Cooperatives and Societies
The Cooperative Development Division of the Ministry of Labor and Small and Micro Enterprise Development has the mandate to promote the growth and development of a strong cooperative sectors as well as to regulate these sectors. There are a large number of agricultural cooperative societies and farmers associations in Trinidad and Tobago. Many cooperatives are successfully benefiting their members in several ways including marketing and extension support. A few examples of agricultural cooperatives are given below.
The Citrus Cooperative Growers Association
The Coconut Growers Association
Point Cocoa Agriculture Association Cooperative Society
Cedros Fishing Cooperative
Montserrat Coco Farmer Cooperative Society Limited
The Trinidad and Tobago Goat and Sheep Society Cooperative
The Cunupia Farmers Association Cooperative Society Limited
List of Extension Providers
The following list shows an excerpt from the GFRAS Directory of Extension Providers for Trinidad and Tobago. Some of these entries may be specially marked for having more detailed information in the database of the Worldwide Extension Study WWES.
Training options for extension professionals
Trinidad and Tobago has two main universities: the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) . Both of these universities offer pre-service academic programs leading to graduate degrees and diplomas in agricultural extension besides many other agricultural disciplines. The universities also have necessary human and physical resources to run in-service training programs for extension professionals. There is also Caribbean Fisheries Training Development Institute, and the Eastern Caribbean Institute of Agriculture and Forestry, which offer in-service training courses.
Info-mediaries and information and communication technology (ICT) for agriculture and extension
According to the World Bank, in 2011, the number of mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people) in Trinidad and Tobago was about 136. During the same year, the number of Internet users (per 100 people) in the country was about 55. The country has 32 radio stations, and 27 of them are online, and as many as 10 television stations that are also online. According to the Ministry of Public Administration and Information, the Fast Forward Policy announced in 2005 is expected to transform the country into an online society and a knowledge based economy. The Vision 2020 for Agriculture also aims at making the agriculture sector technology driven and market led, making use of an efficient information technology support intelligence and information system. The National Agricultural Marketing Development Company (NAMDEVCO) developed the Internet-based National Marketing Information System in 2005.
The Ministry of Food Production, Land and Marine Resources drafted an Information Technology Strategic Plan (2006– 2008) for the development of various individual databases to cover the State Agricultural Land Information System, land and surveys, farmers, fisheries, agricultural incentives, and the farm animal monitoring and recording system. The Land and Water Development Division is using Geographic Information System (GIS) and Geographic Positioning System (GPS). The Ministry produces a 15-minute agricultural television program on regular basis. The mobile training unit of the Extension, Training and Information Services Division produces tutor-guided multimedia CD-ROMS and instructional videos. Almost all extension field staff has access to the Ministry’s intranet as well as the Internet. However, the use of the Internet by the majority of farmers is still quite limited with the exception of a rather small number of commercial and well educated producers.
A distance education initiative was launched a few years ago. The Ministry of Training and Distance Learning has established 20 distance learning centers--19 in Trinidad and one in Tobago. The learning centers provide computer literacy skills to the communities.
Resources and references
Dolly, D. (2005). Assessing the Benefits of Two Farmer Field Schools Recently Conducted in Trinidad and Tobago. Proceedings of the AIAEE 2005 Annual Conference; San Antonio, TX; Pp. 539 - 550
Dolly, D. and W. Kissoonsingh (2006). Prospects for distance education training among vegetable producers in Trinidad and Tobago. The AIAEE 22nd Annual Conference Proceedings; Clearwater Beach, Florida; Pp. 194 - 2003
FAO Representation in Trinidad and Tobago (2009). PowerPoint Presentation of Report of Dr. M. Kalim Qamar; First Mission, 3 -16 May 2009. Port of Spain: Trinidad and Tobago
Ministry of Food Production, Land and Marine Affairs, Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. (October 2011). Land Delivery Program; Large Land Parcels Prospectus; Request for Proposal for the Leasing of Commercial Farmlands in Trinidad for Agricultural Investment, Development, Management and Operation
Mohammed, R. (1999). Agriculture in Trinidad & Tobago. Invited presentation made by the Minister of Agriculture at the 15th Annual Meeting of the Association of International Agricultural and Extension Education (AIAEE), held at Trinidad & Tobago, March 22 – 26, 1999
Qamar, M.K. (May 2009). Report of First Consultancy Mission; prepared under the FAO project TCP/TRI/3201 – Excellence in Extension Services Delivery. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Renwick, S. (2009). Potential for Use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in Agricultural Extension. Paper submitted for AGEX 6003 – Trends and Emerging Issues in Extension; University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago; April 21, 2009
Rivera, W.M., M.K. Qamar and H.K. Mwandemere (2005). Enhancing Coordination among AKIS/RD Actors: An Analytical and Comparative Review of Country Studies on Agricultural Knowledge and Information Systems for Rural Development (AKIS/RD). Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Seepersad, J. (2003). Case Study on ICTs in Agricultural Extension in Trinidad & Tobago. Paper presented at the CTA’s ICT Observatory 2003, “ICTs—transforming agricultural extension”, held at Wageningen, 23 – 25 September 2003
Seepersad, J. and V. Douglas (2002). Case Study of the Decentralization of the Extension Services in Trinidad. Paper presented at the workshop, “Extension and Rural Development: A Convergence of Views on International Approaches”, held at Washington, DC; November 12 – 15, 2002.
Singh, R.H., L.B. Rankine and G. Seepersad (December 2005). A Review of Agricultural Policies: Case Study of Trinidad and Tobago. Report prepared for the CARICOM Secretariat. St. Augustine, Trinidad: The Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension, University of the West Indies
Spence, J. (2010). Developing the agriculture sector. Article published in Trinidad Express Newspaper; August 26, 2010)
David Dolly, D. and Kissoonsingh, W. (2006): Prospects for Distance Education Training Among Vegetable Producers in Trinidad and Tobago. 22nd Annual AIAEE Conference, Florida
IICA Annual Report 2009: IICA's Contribution to Development of Agriculture and Rural Communities in Trinidad and Tobago.