FROM as early as July, released convicts would have for sale pumpkins, hot peppers and cucumbers after their hard work comes to fruition.
The "returned citizens", as they have been coined by head of Vision on Mission Wayne Chance, have turned to farming as a means to keep from returning to crime.
Speaking with the media following yesterday's launch of the Turning of the Heart and Soil Project, Chance said the former inmates have been working on 12 acres of land in Wallerfield, planting baigan, pumpkin, cucumbers, hot peppers and pimentos to be sold at the local markets.
The 12 acres planted are part of the $2.4 million 52-acre land space that Vision on Mission hopes to fully utilise in the coming years. Chance said so far $600,000 has been paid and, following further discussions with the Ministry of Food Production, the remainder of the money would be paid
Chance said the virgin farmers would also engage in tilapia rearing and there would be housing facilities on the land to hold up to 100 workers.
During his address, Minister of Food Production Devant Maharaj said the aim is to have the project and, by extension, Vision on Mission self-sustaining. He said had the farmers begun tilapia rearing six months ago, they would have been making a lot of money now during the Lenten season.
Maharaj said his ministry was on board with the initiative and encouraged the inmates present and "returned citizens" to take full advantage of the opportunity. He added that the project would also be opened to deportees.
One former inmate, Dale St Louis, who said he was incarcerated nine times and spent time in every prison in the country, applauded the initiative and encouraged the former inmates to work hard and not return to a life of crime as he did numerous times.
St Louis, who moved some gathered to tears with his emotional testimony, said the project is an initiative that would reduce crime. He added even though the former inmates had no training in agriculture, they have worked hard at not returning to a life of crime, and if they could do it others would follow.
Treasurer of Vision on Mission Ronald Forde said this was another idea to reduce the level of recidivism in the nation's prison and, at the same time, an opportunity for the organisation to assist in reducing the country's food import bill.