Breadfruit Bash: Tobago tastes the Future at Zion Hill

On June 23, 2024, the usually quiet village of Zion Hill in Tobago came alive with sensations of breadfruit and the sounds of celebration as the Zion Youths Association (ZYA) hosted its second Breadfruit Festival. This unique event, set against the backdrop of Tobago’s countryside landscape, showcased the versatility and potential of breadfruit as both a culinary delight and a key to food security.

Visitors to the festival were treated to an impressive array of breadfruit-based culinary creations. From savoury dishes like breadfruit souse and cheezy breadfruit pie to sweet treats such as breadfruit ice cream and breadfruit black cake, the displays demonstrated the fruit’s remarkable versatility. Other breadfruit-based offerings included ponche de creme, pudding, chow, chips, and bread, each dish a testament to the creativity of local cooks and the adaptability of this humble fruit.

The event attracted a notable lineup of guests, including Professor Laura Roberts-Nkrumah, a pioneer researcher on breadfruit from the University of the West Indies. Now retired, her presence underscored the academic interest in breadfruit’s potential, bridging the gap between traditional knowledge and modern science.

Barry Lovelace, Director of the Tobago Alliance for Resilient Communities (TobagoARC), delivered a passionate address that resonated with the audience. Recounting his journey to breadfruit advocacy, Lovelace shared how the COVID-19 pandemic and global conflicts highlighted the need for food sovereignty. “Whereas the breadfruit was brought here to secure the enslavement of our forefathers,” Lovelace remarked, “it is this same breadfruit plant that we will use to secure our liberty and sovereignty for generations to come.” His words encapsulated the transformative potential of breadfruit, from a symbol of colonial history to a beacon of future independence and resilience.

Dr. Faith B.Yisrael, the Tobago House of Assembly’s area representative, encouraged the young organizers to elevate their initiative to the next level. She envisioned breadfruit products moving from local displays to supermarket shelves and eventually international markets, pledging the Tobago House of Assembly’s support for this ambitious goal.

Dedan Daniel, chairman of the Tobago Reforestation and Watershed Rehabilitation Programme (TRWRP), highlighted the synergy between various initiatives. He explained how TRWRP’s focus on production through agroforestry complements ZYA’s emphasis on utilization, creating a holistic approach to developing a thriving breadfruit industry.

Adding a literary touch to the event, Raul Bermudez of Breadfruittrees.com distributed copies of his children’s book, “Breadfruit ‘Three (3): A Love Story.” Set in Tobago, this cleverly titled work promises to introduce younger generations to the importance of breadfruit.

As the speeches concluded, the festival transitioned into a community celebration. Folk drummers provided entertainment, their rhythms echoing through the village. As night fell, DJs from 99.1 FM took over, keeping the festivities going as villagers gathered to socialize under the symbolic breadfruit tree.

The president of ZYA expressed satisfaction with the event’s success, promising an even bigger and better festival next year. “We may even have to find a more accommodating space,” they remarked, hinting at the growing interest in breadfruit and its potential.

This festival represents more than just a culinary showcase; it’s a reflection of Tobago’s journey towards food security and economic resilience. As part of the broader Tobago Breadfruit Initiative, events like these play a crucial role in raising awareness, fostering community engagement, and promoting the development of a sustainable breadfruit industry.

As the Zion Hill Breadfruit Festival demonstrated, this versatile fruit is not just a link to the past, but a key ingredient in Tobago’s recipe for a self-reliant and prosperous future. With continued support from local authorities, academics, and community organizations, the humble breadfruit may well become the cornerstone of a thriving, sustainable local economy.

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