These five young farmers from the Caribbean are redefining awesome

Globally, the need to engage youth in agriculture has become ubiquitous. From the United States, where the average age of a farmer is 57, to Japan, where the average age is 67, factors such as urbanization and high start-up costs have created an aging crisis, affecting food security. For some countries, attracting young blood to the sector is a matter of survival. In the Caribbean, for example, where 80% of all food is imported and climate shocks have left farmers at the mercy of the environment, innovation, technical literacy and fresh energy have become imperatives.

But crisis conditions breed change. And across the region, there is a growing movement of young, dynamic agri-entrepreneurs who are not only succeeding in agriculture, but influencing the engagement of their peers. Regional stakeholders have also been involved, identifying emerging agribusiness leaders and helping them expand their reach to attract more young people to the sector.

Suddenly, Caribbean agribusiness looks a lot sexier, and not so old.

“To make a real difference in youth engagement in agriculture requires a rethinking, a paradigm shift, in how we look at and engage with youth,” said Carla Barnett, Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat. “I am agriculture. youth in agriculture”, a CARICOM social media campaign developed with support from the UN World Food Programme.

“Caribbean youth have risen to the call for food and nutrition security by embracing the region’s 25 to 2025 initiative,” said Sean Bau, Head of Agriculture and Agro-Industry Development Programs at the CARICOM Secretariat, of efforts to reduce food imports. region and cut the Caribbean’s $5 billion food import bill by 25 percent by 2025.

“Our young CARICOM farmers are demonstrating their commitment to transforming the agri-food system by infusing technology and digitization to improve production, productivity and trade. Making agriculture ideally sustainable, efficient, profitable and attractive”.

The new generation of Caribbean farmers is accomplished, smart, stylish, tech-savvy and under the age of thirty-five. Goodbye grandpa in overalls. Here are five young Caribbean farmers who are challenging the traditional image of agriculture.

Toni-Anne Lalor, Jamaica

“I am a farmer. At my core, I am a woman,” said Toni-Anne Lalor, an agribusiness entrepreneur, actress, model, teacher and philanthropist, in a recent post to her 48,100 Instagram followers.

Lalor, better known as Jamaica’s ‘Farm Queen’, earned the title in 2019 at the age of 24 when she competed in the Miss Jamaica World pageant, where she took home the ‘Beauty with a Purpose’ award.

As the owner and operator of Toni’s Fresh Produce, Lalor often posts images of the colorful fruits and vegetables she grows herself: sweet potatoes, carrots, watermelon, squash, yams, sweet peppers, tomatoes and cantaloupes.

Lalor is an advocate for the economic potential of agriculture, especially among youth, and is living proof that farming is not a job for the elderly or the uneducated. Conversely, Lalor was able to pay for his studies for a Bachelor of Fine Arts with the income from his farm.

In 2022, Lalor competed against 53 other contestants to win the Miss United Nations World title in India. His platform was food sovereignty and hunger reduction.

Lalor told the Jamaica Observer about his victory. “This fits so well into my larger plan to rebrand agriculture to appeal to young people. We need to start this conversation about making it more attractive by looking at food security, innovation and technology.”

“He never denied that he was a farmer,” said Parnell Charles Jr., Jamaica’s Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. daughter and the other youths who look on.’

John Jones. Barbados

“I am giving away over 25 different crops to anyone who wants to grow them here in Barbados. Let’s grow together,” it said recently Twitter from farmer John Jones, whose impressive image of a seed pod garnered almost 700 likes from his fast-growing fan base.

The 30-year-old director of Thirteen Acre Farms Ltd has become a bona fide Bajan celebrity since he bought his own farm 18 months ago and wants to reduce his country’s food import bill by growing crops like broccoli, which Barbados exclusively imports. He also hopes to open farms in the Caribbean to support the region’s 25 initiative by 2025.

Jones, a former college basketball star who graduated from Illinois State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in agribusiness, wants to promote engagement and participation in local food production in Barbados. For more than a year, he has been providing hands-on training in agriculture to both children and adults.

“Teaching my people about farming and sharing my knowledge was always a big thing for me,” he says. “Let’s all grow up together.”

Alpha Seno: Trinidad and Tobago

Alpha Senon, a 35-year-old FarmerPreneur and agribusiness graduate from the University of the West Indies, is both a farmer and a social entrepreneur whose mission is to inspire the region’s youth to take up farming.

As founder and CEO of the award-winning NGO WHYFARM, Senon wants to “contribute to food and nutrition security through innovation, creativity and agri-entrepreneurship”.

In line with this mission, Senon created the world’s first and only Food and Food Safety Superheroes, “AGRIman” and “Photosynthesista”, the protagonists of the AGRIMAN AGventures comic book series sold in the Caribbean.

Senon and WHYFARM have received support from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Kirchner Impact Foundation, Thought For Food Foundation and Digicel.

In 2022, Senon joined the Class of 50 NEXT as one of the world’s top 50 trailblazing activists and was recognized by Ashoka as one of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs and thought leaders, from which he received the Trinidad and Tobago Ashoka Social Fellowship. entrepreneurship.

Teesha Mangra-Singh, Guyana

Twenty-seven-year-old Teesha-Mangra Singh from Guyana is the executive director of the President Dr. Irfaan Ali’s Agriculture and Innovation Entrepreneurship Program (AIEP), which empowers agri-entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 35 to farm and sell a variety of products. high-value crops for the convenience of government-built climate-smart shade houses. The program, launched in January 2022, is a key element of the government’s agribusiness strategy.

Mangra-Singh, who holds a Diploma in Agriculture from the Guyana School of Agriculture and a Bachelor of Agriculture from the University of Guyana, recalls that initially people tried to discourage her from entering the male-dominated industry, but her love for nature, animals and agriculture would pay off. She now dedicates her time to encouraging other women and youth to join the fast-growing agricultural sector and recently spoke at the Guyana Women and Youth Agriculture Symposium.

“We need youths in agriculture because they are the biggest contributors to our population and we need food to bring us closer to security,” Mangra-Singh told local news provider, Guyana Times. “Our whole farm is climate smart and we use innovative practices because we understand that young people are more inclined towards technology and they are more inclined to work with innovative practices than traditional farming where you have to go out in the sun : “.

Anastasha Elliott. St. Kitts and Nevis

Anastasha Elliott is an agri-entrepreneur who adds value to her country’s organic and indigenous plant and marine ingredients through her business, Sugar Town Organics.

Sugar Town Organics is a health and wellness company that Elliott founded in 2004, specializing in ethically sourced products made from natural ingredients, usually sourced from her garden, the neighboring mountains or her community’s organic herb farm.

Sugar Town Organics’ beauty brands, Yaphene and Marapa skincare, carry “Caribbean Food Infused” vegan skin, hair and body care products inspired by traditional beauty practices, herbal remedies, food and the Caribbean, while Baba Lullaby by Sugar It’s Town Organics. Natural line of children’s skin care.

Flauriel, Elliott’s food and beverage brand, craft wines, condiments, snacks and other products using Caribbean produce and traditional practices. Flauriel Soursop Jelly, for example, is made from fresh-squeezed soursop juice harvested directly from Elliott’s garden.

Elliott is passionate about the role of natural remedies in maintaining good health and well-being, and he is equally passionate about entrepreneurship.

The future

Caribbean youth agribusiness is the region’s best bet for a more resilient future, especially in the context of climate change and the cost of living and supply chain challenges faced globally since 2020.

Conventional agricultural rules typically do not take into account the new realities of climate change, such as unpredictable weather patterns, prolonged droughts, and increased frequency of extreme weather events. An old and aging workforce and manual processes may not be able to adapt as quickly to rapidly changing global conditions.

“We have to look at the solutions that young people have to offer. We need to listen to young people and find out what solutions are available. Now more than ever, young people need to be part of the solution to the various challenges we have discussed,” said Regis Chapman, WFP Multilateral Office Representative and Country Director for the English- and Dutch-speaking Caribbean.

Youth engagement in agriculture is key to achieving inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work (UN Sustainable Development Goal 8). Agriculture also provides a pathway for youth empowerment, poverty reduction, and food and nutrition security. The time has come for young, fresh energy to revitalize a sector that currently meets only 20% of the region’s food demand. For true entrepreneurs, this is an opportunity.

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