For a long time, Trinidad and Tobago’s efforts toward sustainable development have come under the dark shadows of its fossil fuel industry. In 2013 the leading economic sectors of the country, oil and gas, accounted for 40% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 80% of exports. According to their nationally determined contribution () there is an attempt to reduce greenhouse emissions from the sectors of power generation, industry and transportation by 15% by 2030.
One organization walking the talk when it comes to securing a sustainable future, particularly for its country’s youth, is , which engages with youth to become farmers and help solve challenges in agriculture and food security. In order to make farming attractive to young people, founder Alpha Sennon visits schools and communities as AGRIman, a superhero in cape and costume.
Shortly after taking on this new path, Sennon founded WHYFARM to increase youths’ awareness of the world’s food problems, and consciously become the generation that will feed the future. The project was developed to help young men and women capitalize on the opportunities and overcome the challenges in the agriculture industry by becoming stronger leaders and more dynamic voices in their local communities.
Sennon shares that it was already during his second year in the university when he had heard about food insecurity. “If this is a global issue, why didn't I hear about that before?”, he says during a recent Skype interview from Siparia, on the South of Trinidad. Sennon believes that everyone has to get involved, from the street child to the family and the farmer.
“We Help You-th Farm”: at HQ's Signage in Siparia, WHYFARM Director Alpha Sennon on the left-side of the photo presents the comic book of AGRIman. He believes we can’t wait until university to teach kids about food security or wait for a PhD to learn about climate adaptability. Hence, the problem is creating new engagement, and the solution is creatively engaging youth. Photography copyright granted by Alpha Sennon.
WHYFARM works with schools, camps and lectures. They run activities every week, even on birthdays, when AGRIman makes a surprise appearance and teaches kids how to plant so the kids can learn where food comes from and be connected to issues such as food insecurity and the climate crisis. Becoming a farmer would give them a first-hand understanding of risks associated with climate change, such as flood, drought and fire, and show its effects on the supply chain.
Sennon shares with One Earth some exclusive news: that the next issue of the comic will focus on climate change, and the villain will be us, the citizens of the world. The kids from the schools he visits already came up with a catchy name for AGRIman’s sidekick: “Photosynthesista”.
WHYFARM is also promoting urban agriculture through community gardens featuring crops like cacao, coffee, and peppers to dasheen bush, sugar keens, cassava and avocado. The idea is not promote a specific crop, but to encourage young people to produce their own food.
Whether Trinidadians and Tobagonians are making pepper sauce or another staple, climate change will affect the pepper farmer, and therefore the product. Hence, they would have to adapt and mitigate, as they are the ones who will be responsible for producing our food. Therefore, new approaches are crucial to ensure that the younger generations assume the responsibility of ensuring food security occurs and eliminating hunger.
Sennon believes “the farmer is the most down to earth person” and that the best way to teach the young people how to advocate for the cause is by taking them back to their roots, educating them on the indigenous techniques used by their ancestors, and improving that knowledge with data and technology. WHYFARM’s philosophy is that although many countries may not have the ideal land or resources, they can now grow food on a rooftop of a building, and not in a lab with steroids.
Cherrie D Atilano, a Filipino farmer who established , an agroecology social enterprise, and was appointed UN Scale-Up Nutrition ambassador in 2019, considers the challenge in feeding the planet in the years to come is not just for one person or country to address but for all to be responsible food producers and consumers.
Depending on fossil fuels has proved unsustainable in this Caribbean nation, and until very recently the oil industry was considered a top job while farming was a poor man’s job. When asked about the largest oil company in his country, which recently , Sennon explains:
Sadly, the superheroes notion that“with great power comes great responsibility” wasn’t the driver at last year’s . Trinidad and Tobago, as member of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), led the call for raising ambitions during the last climate change summit, put the spotlight over the issues of Loss and Damage, and did not hide its frustration with the results of the conference. The Caribbean nation was also included in the San Jose Principles for High Ambition and Integrity in International Carbon Markets, along with other 30 countries.