The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) will distribute lands to productive farmers within the next few months.
Chief Secretary and Secretary of Food Production Ancil Dennis said developing the agriculture sector remains the objective.
In an interview with Newsday on Monday, Dennis said, "Within the next months we should be distributing lands to new farmers and existing farmers in Goldsborough and Belmont Road. "
The farmers in Goldsborough will focus on crop farming – tomatoes, sweet peppers and similar crops. At Belmont Road. the focus will be on poultry, goat, sheep and other livestock.
For livestock, farmers will receive five to ten acres on a 20 to 30-year lease. At Goldsborough, farmers will have access to between two to five acres on a similar lease.
Since becoming chief secretary in May last year, Dennis has taken a keen interest in agriculture. He has visited farms across the island and engaged farmers about issues affecting them and ways the THA could assist. His focus on agriculture has significantly increased since assuming the portfolio of Secretary of Food Production, Forestry and Fisheries last month.
Dennis said although some people have applications for land through the land management department, he will use the knowledge he has on Tobago's farmers to guide the distribution of land.
"I've made a decision to give priority to promising farmers.
"I've spent the last eight months visiting farms and I've seen a lot of committed, hard-working ones who if given state lands will make Tobago proud. Some are on private lands in uncertain and unpredictable situations and some have outgrown their current circumstance."
In a Facebook video, Dennis also addressed the road access programme, which he said is making a difference in the agriculture sector.
"I took the opportunity to visit a number of farmers over the last seven months or so. There are still farmers who are still crying out for this kind of support – the establishment of better roads so they can access their farms. There are farmers still in areas like Goldsborough, Castara, Richmond who need this kind of support. It is something the division will continue to do to ensure we treat with the issues experienced by farmers."
He said access roads have been fixed or built in Goodwood, Mason Hall, Golden Lane, Les Coteaux, Louis D'Or and Mt St George.
Dennis told Newsday the division gave a commitment to farmers to upgrade access roads in a few other areas in the next fiscal year.
Mason Hall farmer Junior George, who grows yam, ginger, dasheen, plantain and banana, said he was grateful for the improved access road.
He said, "If I didn't have this road I might have stopped wuk garden.Yuh see here, yuh couldn't pass here. Big bamboo root was in this road. We used to pass here with donkey."
Crop and livestock farmer Terrance James added, "It will assist first by being able to transport feed for the animals in and out and the crops, and being able to access certain areas of the farm easier."
Dennis said recent incentives offered by the THA to boost agriculture – cash for crop yields, subsidised equipment and land – have garnered interest but not at the desired level.
"There has been an increase in production on the island – not at the levels I'm satisfied with but I'm happy that a number of persons are showing interest."