To rebrand the culture of agriculture to “Agri-Kool-ture”& to ensure everyone forms more intimate relationships to sustainable green growth.
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
We have a rich heritage and culture of that transcend all the way back to Africa. Our ancestors came to our country as slaves and were forced to work the land in order to stay alive. At the end of the slavery era, many folks turned away from agriculture and started doing other jobs. Eventually there was a big oil boom and agriculture got completely forgotten and folks resulted to importing food and setting up fast food restaurants. This lasted for many years , until most recently when the price of the oil barrel started to decrease and the oil started to deplete, there is now a more conscious effort to return to the soil and make Trinidad and Tobago food secure once again. Keeping in mind that our soil is very fertile and we are known for having one of the highest quality of cocoa beans in the world, our project is being developed to rebrand the culture of agriculture to ensure the young ones are there to feed us in the future. We are going back to our indigenous techniques and merging it with information technology. Ensuring the knowledge of our ancestors is passed down to future generations.
Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.
Trinidad and Tobago is a twin island republic located at the southernmost region of the contiguous Caribbean archipelago. The country lies a mere 7 miles from its South American neighbour Venezuela, and has been a popular destination for global citizens for many years. Coupled with its colonial past, these influences have resulted in Trinidad and Tobago becoming a true melting pot in respect to culture, food, music, and daily life. Historically rich with petroleum resources, the country has played a strategic role for the region and beyond. While one of the most industrialised countries in the region, T&T, as it is affectionately known, possesses an ecological and geographic diversity unsurpassed in the region. This is matched by its plural society, its ethnic and cultural diversity not seen anywhere else in the Caribbean. As people from around the world have migrated to T&T, they have brought with them their way of life, their food, beliefs, music, and culture and as such have influenced the very fabric of daily life, outlook and identity of what it means to be from Trinidad and Tobago. In essence, to understand the people of Trinidad and Tobago, you need to look no further than the food we all enjoy from the curries of India, to the European influence of African creole dishes. From our “trinibogian” take on authentic Asian cuisine, to the traditional dishes from the middle east. These have all infused the development of food unique to Trinidad and Tobago from street side doubles to the sea-side bake and shark. For us, music connects us as people to the diaspora of forebears, it is fused within our calypso, soca, and chutney rhythms, enhancing the cultural experiences that we as a people share with the world. A fixture of this artform includes tassa and steel drums from our traditional weddings to the greatest show on earth … Trinidad and Tobago carnival. Trinidad and Tobago is located at 10°40′0″N longitude 61°30′27″W latitude in a maritime tropical belt and average temperatures ranging from 27°C (80°F), though higher averages have been noted as is the case with other countries. The country experiences two seasons a wet and dry season. Trinidad and Tobago has one of the highests GDPs in the hemisphere driven by oil and gas resources that have fueled the country’s industrial growth post independence and has seen the decline of the sugar industry locally. The over dependence on oil and gas has created a dependence on petro-dollars limiting the diversification of the economy resulting is susceptibility to variation in global prices in oil and natural gas. Trinidad is the larger of the two islands (4,768 km2 or 1,841 sq mi) is the more industrialised island with the country’s capital at Port of Spain. Tobago is the more idyllic island (300 km2 or 120 sq mi) and is supported by a robust tourism sector. Geographically, Trinidad’s terrain is a mixture of hilly ranges (peak 940 m or 3,080 ft) with open plains between two ranges for the most part. Two large swamps exist along the eastern and western coasts surrounded by many beaches. The majority of soil consists of sand and heavy clays but fertile alluvial valleys exist.
Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.
Food system has transitioned to one self sustaining in the 80s-90s, to environmental friendly and as with most developing countries (Caribbean), the current food system challenges in Trinidad and Tobago are characterised by: i. a high dependence on imported (70%) foods and commodity crops, which is linked to the estrangement of the population from traditional foods/diets to western (Northern American and Europe) foods/diets and lifestyles. ii. low levels of local food production/supplies from 50-70 year-old farmers (principal producers) whose economic base and livelihoods have been disrupted by international trade relations and preferences iii. uncertainty of food arrival associated with external adverse shocks such as natural disasters and the negative impacts of climate change and iv. underdeveloped (linear) food value chains, supporting environments and investment value that do not easily and consistently facilitate the sustainable optimisation of resources for desirable outcomes such as reduction in diet-related diseases, improving environmental health and building closer person-to-food relationships (food intimacy). All of which, for the most part, translates into a food system that is failing in terms of livelihoods, human health and rights, culture and the environment. In Trinidad, most of food systems challenges are rooted/linked in rooted in a stigma associated with agriculture, which is akin to slavery, underachieving/mediocrity, stereotypes, lack of power, embarrassment,and undesirable.
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
WHYFARM uses Agricultural Educational Entertainment (Agri-edutaintment) which includes videos, animations, song, poetry, and drama to creatively communicate agricultural knowledge. WHYFARM has created the 1st Food & Nutrition Superhero, AGRIMAN, with a comic book, gadgets and a fan club that has inspired children to want to participate in the agricultural value chain. We collaborate with schools (preschool to tertiary), youth, community and volunteer organizations to facilitate farm visits, community garden development and Agri-entrepreneurship training sessions. This model has proven replicable with WHYFARM Ambassadors being launched in 7 additional countries. The WHYFARM model not only teaches youth the “how” to farm like organizations such as 4H, but it helps every individual develop their own understanding, motivation and commitment to the “why” of farming. Motivations for the “why” of farming can include health, access to nutritious food, support for local communities, reduction of the food import bill, environmental care, agri-innovation and entrepreneurship opportunities. WHYFARM’s programming builds a pipeline of Agri-entrepreneurs (kids to young professionals) and provides experiential activities that inspire global citizenship, leadership and commitment to action. By 2050, the world’s population is expected to be 9.7 billion, and because of the ageing demographics of farmers, and declining participation by youth in agriculture and their perceived disinterest, of critical concern is how will we achieve food and nutrition security (SDG 2). Our youth (10-year olds, and by then 45) will be responsible for producing our food, and novel approaches are therefore needed to rebrand agriculture as cool, important and a sustainable livelihood. These approaches must include raising their awareness of the world food crisis, the need for their participation in food production, and a call to action to lead this task to achieve global food and nutrition security. At the WHYFARM headquarters in Siparia, we are building a Fun, Museum and Food Factory Park. This is envisioned to excite visitors about where their food comes from through educational games, tell the story of local agricultural products, share indigenous knowledge (tools, natural fertilizers and pesticides), and demonstrate farm product value addition. This Park seeks to preserve and restore the country’s food heritage along with a dedicated space in this Park to be used as a meeting hub for Agripreneurs. It will also serve as a storefront Market Place for the Products and Services of the Agripreneurs from within the community. The park will consist of fun rides all agricultural themed, chocolate factory showcasing the cocoa bean to the chocolate bar, a outdoor restaurant and juice bar using fresh foods and fruits from the farm and a museum which preserves our traditions and practices of those who went before us and contributed significantly to our farming and agricultural industry.
High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.
The delivery of a flexible food web, anchored in indigeneous legacy with technology advancements driving a culture of green growth and entrepreneurial opportunity; providing communities with the tools for the development of sustainable choices in creating healthier lifestyles.Freedom to know WHYFARM The people must have the: Freedom to Become a farmer Farmer to grow your own food at your own free will Freedom to eat healthy and nutritious foods We have to look beyond the idea that more food in the world and greater productivity will solve our problems. Local and national food systems need to be strengthened to adapt to the climate crisis and become better equipped to provide diverse diets for consumers in food-insecure communities. Diversity in diets can help farmers diversify their risk, provide markets for food crops, break their dependency on commodity crops, and increase biodiversity and resilience. While science points us in one direction, very often prevailing food and agriculture policies lead us in a different one But imagine if food policy was developed by health, agriculture and environment ministries—then the trade-offs and synergies would be immediately spotted and addressed before impact is seen. If we continue to cut away at the nature-based foundation of our food systems through how and what we produce and consume, the human right to food will continue to be eroded.
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
The prospect of achieving food and nutrition security by 2050 is challenged by an ageing farmers’ population, the perceived disinterest and participation of youth in agriculture, and a world population of 9.7 billion, which is expected to be fed within the context of land tenure and production and productivity issues, and human and environmental health concerns. Interestingly, the brunt this challenge will be faced by our present youth (10-year olds, who will be 45 by then), who will be responsible for producing our food using novel approaches, i.e., if agriculture is deemed as an attractive and viable livelihood strategy. To ensure that it is, agriculture must be rebranded as cool and important by raising the awareness of the youth to the world food crisis and the need for their participation in food production as a call to action to achieve global food and nutrition security.
In response to this challenge, WHYFARM (We Help You-th Farm), an NGO registered in Trinidad and Tobago and headquartered in Quinam road, Siparia, was created in October 2015 to develop the next generation of farmers and agripreneurs through agri-edutaintment & social innovation as one of its main objectives. To date, WHYFARM has used an eclectic combination of AgriMovtivation Talks, Agripreneur MasterMind Program, school drama tours and farm to table competitions, agriculture fun museums and food factory parks, curriculum development, strategic partnerships, advocacy and social media to change perceptions and willingness of youth to engage and reconsider “Agrikoolture” (Agriculture) as a viable and meaningful livelihood strategy. A critical part of this process, which underlies all interventions, has been effective communication to youth by engaging in linguistic processes such as morphological and semantic manipulations that emphasise identities that are more closely related to food systems, social causes, innovations, relatability and inclusiveness. A major flagship product of this process has been the development of AGRIMAN, the World’s First Food and Nutrition Security Superhero, which was joint by his female counterpart, PHOTOSYNTHESISTA, who was created by children as part of a call-to-action programme on food security. The adventures of AGRIMAN and PHOTOSYNTHESISTA are now shared in a comic book and creative educational content using animations, song, poetry, and drama that inspire current and future feeders.
Collectively, WHYFARM’s programs have resulted in farm visits of >1800 persons per year, 200 AGRIMAN visits to schools and institutions, engagement of 1600 primary students (age 6 – 12), the distribution of 4500 copies of the AGRIMAN comic book worldwide and 60 workshops with >1600 persons (students and young professionals) in 4 countries on sustainable production systems and practices, agribusiness (ideation, marketing and branding), and the relationship of STEM and climate change to agriculture. Moreover, WHYFARM has delivered keynote addresses at 5 global events including the “Thought for Food Summit” and the “United Nations ECOSOC Youth Forum.” However, more importantly, WHYFARM’s programs have resulted in children building their own grow boxes at home and sharing pictures of their progress on social media. The organisation has also collaborated with schools, youth, communities and volunteer organizations in Trinidad and Tobago to develop community gardens and build capacity in agri-entrepreneurship. Such was the case in 2018, when WHYFARM collaborated with the Port of Spain City Corporation to launch a community garden, the Gonzalez Food Park.
A more recent flagship product of WHYFARM has been the recently launched Agripreneur Mastermind Program, which resulted in the opening of our agripreneur Hub at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine. This 8-week intensive mastermind program was created to find TnT’s next Top Agripreneur, who are committed to mastering their individual crafts, and creating bridges and spaces for collaboration between policymakers and agricultural youth-based organizations. Participants were provided with mentorship and professional development activities on ideation, social entrepreneurship, business models and pitches, fund-raising, effective communication, networking, collaborations, media development, social media engagement and press coverage. During and after this program, WHYFARM collaborated with farmers and leading agripreneurs who volunteered as mentors to the young agripreneurs. In the Siparia district , youth has also been engaged in volunteer activities and assisting farmers in the area.”
In next 5 years, WHYFARM plans to scale-up and replicate its programs and activities at the regional and global level, which includes extending the AGRIMAN Adventures Comic Book to a cartoon series, developing an Agri Play Book as a “Fun Curriculum for Food and Nutrition Security”, establishing a digital accelerator for Agripreneurs and Fun Museum and Food Factory Park to preserve and restore the country’s food heritage and launching WHYFARM Ambassadors in at least 7 more countries.
Although much successes have been gained through WHYFARM’s programs, research work to more accurately map and evaluate the direct and multiplier effects and impacts of these interventions is still needed. This work forms the basis for current M.Phil. studies and the commitment to WHYFARM’s motto of “Growing Future Feeders from the Ground up!”