Alpha Sennon: connecting the youth with agriculture through Agriman
Alpha Sennon on how to creatively engage youth with agriculture through WHYFARM, Agriman and edutainment.
I first met Alpha at the Thought for Food global summit 2013 in Berlin, where he spoke with passion about the need to connect young people with agriculture and the roots of their food.
From being a TFF ambassador in 2013, Alpha has taken WHYFARM to the next level - giving the keynote talk at the Thought for Food Global Summit and TEDx 2017 in Amsterdam, as well as the United Nations ECOSOC Youth Forum in New York.
Farming has come a long way, with yields per hectare flourishing due to modern practices, equipment and techniques. Yet, with ever more people flocking to towns and cities, agriculture is facing an identity crisis - one that threatens our ability to nurture and encourage the young farmers of the future.
How can we reconnect the youth with farming and agriculture, to foster an appreciation of where food comes from and where it needs to be going?
This is where Alpha Sennon, WHYFARM and Agriman come in.
I grew up on a farm but disliked it very much. As I went on to University, I switched degrees several times. One day, the dean said to me, “why not try Agribusiness?” I literally had to ask him “What is Agribusiness?” Three years later, I graduated with first class honours.
I started representing the Caribbean as a youth rep for Agriculture and began travelling to different meetings with discussions on how do we engage youth in agriculture?
What was strange is that 1) the senior folks never implemented my ideas and 2) they would come up with the same old solutions that weren’t working.
It occurred to me that the problem is communicating with the youth from an early age. I remembered the story of captain planet and as a child, after looking at it, I would be more environmentally aware.
I also remembered that the farmer was never represented at career days, and it occurred to me that if the farmer is not there, then how would our young people think about Agriculture as a viable profession?
This is where I introduced AGRIMAN and founded WHYFARM.
WHYFARM pioneers Agricultural Educational Entertainment (Agri-edutaintment) which includes videos, animations, song, poetry, and drama to creatively communicate agricultural knowledge. WHYFARM has created the first 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.
The WHYFARM model not only teaches youth “how” to farm, 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, agri-innovation and entrepreneurship opportunities.
WHYFARM’s pioneering Agri-edutainment has inspired other organizations, such as the FAO, to consult with our group on ways to incorporate similar concepts and techniques in their own projects. We also identify synergies to increase our impact by partnering with organizations that have not been traditionally engaged in this sector.
WHYFARM’s programming builds a pipeline of Agri-entrepreneurs (children to young professionals) and provides experiential activities that inspire global citizenship, leadership and commitment to action. A global problem requires global effort, and WHYFARM has partnered with individuals to launch Ambassadors in 7 other countries.
When I’m asked this question, I would respond by asking “how was your last meal” or “how was your breakfast.” Maybe you picked it up at McDonalds or the supermarket.
But the reality is that before it got to these places, it was once growing on a farm and the farmer had to pick the fruit/ vegetable/ provision from a tree or stalk etc. The more we connect young people with this, the more they will appreciate food and the process that goes into it before it reaches on our plate.
And when we look at the global perspective, 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.
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 WHYFARM we believe the problem is creating effective youth engagement and our solution is to creatively engage youth.
At WHYFARM we believe that the formative years of conditioning one’s mind is between birth and twelve, and we believe that youths have a very imaginative mind at a young age. Hence, using AGRIman and PhotosyntheSista, we help the youth start with a “why” and connect them to a purpose.
There must be an AGventure…
To encourage youth in Agriculture…
Starting with a min character…
Who’s branded as the world’s most Powerful Food Provider.
Have no fear, AGRIman + Photosynthesista is here,
Hunger and Malnutrition shall disappear.
In 2017 we reached over 6000 people face-to-face through visits to our farm, school visits with AGRIMAN and workshops in six different countries. The comic book was distributed to 1500 people and I was a keynote speaker at the TFF Global Summit, TEDx Amsterdam and the United Nations ECOSOC Youth Forum in New York.
By the end of 2018 we project to have reached 50,090 people directly, with many more global activities in the pipeline to add to our repertoire of workshops, comics and farm visits. For World Environment Day we managed to partner with Trinidad and Tobago Guardian Media Company to distribute 30, 000 packets of seeds along with a newspaper article.
Look out for cartoon series “The AGmazing AGventure of AGRIman” around the world.
We are looking to work with some donor agencies to develop our AGRIman Playbook, a fun food curriculum for kids for food and nutrition security. This will allow our brand of edutainment to be more easily replicated globally.
The story continues via comic strip and short films with entertaining yet educational elements. We are about to launch an Agripreneur Incubator Design Lab, a space for young people to develop their food concept to commercialization and take their product from their mind to the market.
TFF can help and have been helping with connecting entrepreneurs like me to investors, donor agencies and key persons in the food and ag world. TFF can help young innovators secure investments or act as an intermediary between grand agencies and young TFFers.
The future for Agriculture is bright in Trinidad with a lot of subsistence farming and hydroponics farmers on the rise. Many persons are now developing and designing backyard gardens and cottage industry products. More and more young persons globally are developing new innovations that serve purpose in reducing hunger and malnutrition or drought and starvation.
What we need is more collaborating and complementing and less reinventing.