PROFESSORS Clement Imbert, John Agard and Pathmanatan Umaharan were given the nation’s highest award, the Order of the Republic of TT (ORTT), at the presidential awards on Republic Day.
The three awardees were recognised for their contributions in various spheres – Imbert, in steelpan technology, education and Metallurgical Engineering, culture and the arts. Agard was honoured for his work in climate change and environmental protection; climate smart development and biodiversity. Umaharan was awarded for his contributions to cocoa research.
Imbert said that while he was recognised before with a Chaconia Gold medal as part of the team that designed and developed the G-pan, it was a special feeling to be recognised individually. He described himself as a “curious fella” which allowed him to explore various fields.
“Whenever you do things, you don’t do it for awards,” he said. “You just do what you feel you have to do.”
He said along with continuing his work he is thinking of developing a new kind of steelpan.
“When that comes out, it will blow your minds,” he said. “I have the idea in my head, I just have to put it in steel.”
Agard expressed humility on receiving the ORTT, telling reporters that for a while he thought his contributions were going unnoticed. He said more should be done to protect the environment and reduce the effects of climate change.
“I think this is an acknowledgement that we are probably inching along in the right direction, but we are not doing enough. TT depends on oil and gas and this makes a major contribution to the heat, heat stress and stroke.”
Originally from Sri Lanka, Umaharan said he was honoured as TT was an “adopted country” for him. As the director of the Cocoa Research Centre at the UWI, said TT has massive potential for diversity in agricultural development noting that TT has a product with great potential to attract foreign direct investment and foreign exchange in the form of cocoa. But he added that TT has several crops which has the potential to have the same impact as cocoa, with the right investment.
“TT is very well known. We have some of the most pungent hot pepper in the world; we have very good pumpkin varieties, we have a lot of diversity,” he said.
“I have always said that we should be providing value-added products. For example, we should be manufacturing pepper sprays and exporting, instead of importing pepper sprays. We have a lot of diversity and we can turn this diversity into opportunities.”
He said more young people are getting into agriculture and leveraging technology and this interest should be encouraged by providing youths with opportunities.