UG’s Finest – 2003
Agriculture in his blood: Ramdeo Seepaul By Ruel Johnson
December 14, 2003
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It is primarily a farming community with the majority of the population engaged in cash crop farming. Bath, says Ramdeo, is particularly renowned for the quality of its chives – or what the majority of us Guyana refer to as ‘shallot’.
His father is a labourer attached to Blairmont Estate while his mother is a housewife. Both his parents engage in farming and Ramdeo was brought up learning his way around the family farm.
farm was run by family labour; I had to be involved,” he says.
Ramdeo attended Bath Primary where he was taught from primary one through four by the same teacher, Jasodra Kunjebeharry. Primary school life under Kunjebeharry provided the sort of close familial atmosphere that Ramdeo says contributed to his success and the achievement of others who were taught at Bath Primary.
In 1993, Ramdeo’s results at the SSEE earned him a place at Queen’s College. However, owing to the fact that he had no relatives in Georgetown or its environs, he opted to go to President’s College.
President’s College, he says, was hard at first, with him having to get accustomed to being away from home. Eventually though, President’s College came to provide for him some invaluable experiences for life outside of the school.
He cherishes most of all the sense of independence that he got while attending there, and, as he says, all that comes with it.
Another important thing he remembers the school for is the opportunity it afforded him to mix with young people of other races in a residential setting.
was,” says Ramdeo Seepaul, “exposed to an ethnic blend that I was never a part of since Bath Settlement was an all Indian community.”
Most importantly however, his academic experience there finalised his decision to pursue his studies in agricultural science.
When Ramdeo entered President’s College, one of the extracurricular activities lower school students were required to take part in was ‘practical agricultural studies’, for want of a better phrase. Early morning class trips to the cow-pens, chicken coops or farms saw students engaging in a variety of agricultural activity, from feeding and watering chickens to milking cows to cultivating various garden crops. Much of what was used in the kitchen at President’s College – milk, eggs, chicken, vegetables etc – was produced right on the compound.
Coming from a farming family, Ramdeo said that he could identify with the school’s striving towards self-sufficiency with food production and consumption. Naturally, he entered the science stream where he studied, among other things, Agricultural Science. In 1998, he was only one of two CXC students graduating with passes in what was no doubt his favourite subject. He recalls, a bit uncomfortably, that he ‘only’ scored a Grade 2 in Agriculture
Ramdeo enrolled in the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) Programme, undertaking the seemingly uncharacteristic (for him) courses of Information Technology and Communications.
In September of 1999, after finishing his one-year CAPE career, Ramdeo entered the University of Guyana’s degree in Agricultural Science programme. One of the people who interacted with Ramdeo during his four years at the University was Dr. Pat Francis, Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture.
In a telephone interview with Sunday Chronicle, Dr. Francis spoke glowingly of Ramdeo.
applied himself well to his academic studies, as was shown by his performance”, she says, “…[but] in addition to his academic work he also was involved in other things. He was rounded.”
Most notably, Ramdeo was an active member of the faculty’s Agriculture Club. The club, according to Dr. Francis, was set up to offer agricultural science students at UG the sort of learning that was not catered for in the official curriculum. This included ventures and projects designed to hone their managerial, interpersonal and entrepreneurial skills.
She says that Ramdeo was assigned to several committees where he performed creditably in whatever tasks he was assigned to do. She says whatever part he played in a project, he played it with dedication and fervour.
She also spoke well of Ramdeo’s social skills.
Dr. Francis says that young people like Ramdeo should be given the support they need to strike out on their own. Seepaul was part of a class that she once took to see Minister of Fisheries, Crop and Livestock, Satyadeow Sawh in a bid to let the minister see for himself the quality of students that the faculty had. Ramdeo also enjoyed some brief training in aquaculture at the Ministry of Agriculture’s facility at Mon Repos.
Dr. Francis sees, as she once told him, great things in store for Ramdeo Seepaul.
"He’s a young person who has a lot of potential for leadership and academia. He has a far way to go.”
The validity of Dr. Francis’ prediction seems buttressed by Ramdeo’s exemplary performance at UG’s 2003 Graduation exercise. He carted off several prizes: the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Best Graduating Student in the Faculty of Agriculture; the NBIC Award for Best Graduating Student in Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Extension; and the Oscar Sydney James Shield and Trophy for Most Outstanding Student in Animal Husbandry.
She is of the opinion that those in authority should do everything possible, offer every feasible incentive, to keep exemplary young people like Seepaul here in Guyana. On her part, she says that she would be happy to have Ramdeo fill any vacancy that might arise in faculty in the future. Currently, Ramdeo is employed as a research assistant in the Agronomy Department at the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI).
When asked about his opinion of the agriculture degree programme at UG, Ramdeo says that he was for the most part very satisfied with it. He sees it as a very thorough and up-to-date one, but says that he expected a bit more practical experience.
Whatever practical experience the course offered, however, Ramdeo made ample use of. For his final year project, he focused on chives, the crop that was the economic base for his home community in Bath Settlement. He – in an unfortunately unsuccessful attempt – tried to use a bio fertiliser, a fungus called mycorrhizae, to increase the yield of chives.
He has not given up, however. One of Ramdeo’s current projects is his research on chives, which centres on the organic growth of the plant and the development of new technologies in its cultivation. For example, he says that he is currently looking at the viability of replacing the conventional harvesting method of ‘final harvesting’ – the uprooting of the entire plant – with ‘foliage harvesting’ which entails just cutting off the leafy stems.
Ramdeo sees his work as being geared towards the good of the general agriculture sector in Guyana. Eventually, he says, he would like to, if given the chance, further his studies.