CWA2014: Engaging youth in agriculture – young professionals star in video contest at the 13th Caribbean Week of Agriculture

As the Caribbean grapples with the problem of an ageing agricultural population, CTA and partners are taking steps to drive youth interest in the rural sector. The 2nd Caribbean Science and Agriculture Film and Video Competition, with the theme of adding value to local foods, has highlighted the value of local products and the strong contribution that young people can make to promoting Caribbean agribusiness opportunities.

With the average age of farmers in the Caribbean now over 45, and most farmers on the islands aged over 60, there is an urgent need to attract more young people to the sector, and make it more appealing.

The Fruit Of Life from Jelani Paul on Vimeo.

Demonstrating agriculture as a modern, profitable venture is a strategy that the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is keen to promote, with a range of initiatives that use new technologies to draw youth into agriculture, slowing the rural exodus and harnessing young people’s capacity for innovation.

The winners of the contest, which was organised by CTA, in partnership with the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), the University of West Indies (UWI), the Caribbean Council for Science and Technology (CCST) and The National Institute of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (NIHERST), were announced today. All the short films, which ranged from documentaries to fictional stories, celebrated local foods in one form or another, identifying novel prospects for adding value through processing, increasing production efficiencies and promoting nutritional and health benefits.

The contest, held for the first time last year during the 12th CWA in Guyana, showcases the knowledge, talent and passion of young professionals and their ability to use ICTs to communicate the role of science and technology in agricultural development.

“If we are to see a real transformation of agriculture into a sustainable and profitable business in the Caribbean, we need to change the mindset of young people and help them explore the opportunities that exist in farming and the rural sector,” said CTA Director Michael Hailu, during the ceremony to award trophies and cash prizes to the winners. “That is exactly what the film and video competition tries to do. Through the eyes of young film-makers, agriculturalists and communicators, the videos explore the huge opportunities that could be opened up by adding value to local foods in the Caribbean for healthy living and creating new businesses for the young.”

The 2014 competition attracted 36 entries, with videos produced by teams from eight countries - Barbados, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. Each film highlighted key issues in the agricultural sector, and opportunities for adding value to locally produced food in the Caribbean.

The 2014 competition attracted 36 entries, with videos produced by teams from eight countries – Barbados, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. Each film highlighted key issues in the agricultural sector, and opportunities for adding value to locally produced food in the Caribbean.

Themes explored included the nutritional value and agribusiness potential of Caribbean favourites such as coconut, breadfruit, purple sweet potatoes, domesticated wild meat, as well as the importance of science and innovation in the creation of high-value niche products and the modernisation of farming and fishing techniques and marketing methods.

“It’s got young people talking about agriculture and agribusiness, and wanting to mobilise Caribbean people to add value to local foods,” said Judith Francis, Senior Programme Coordinator Science and Technology at CTA, who was one of the main drivers of the initiative and a member of the jury that selected the winning films. “This contest is our way of getting young people to look at agribusiness, using science and innovation as the entry point. It has transformed the way people see Caribbean agriculture and the opportunities it presents.”

Before the selection, a short list of 36 teams received training in film-making and animation, and each team was paired up with film and scientific experts for mentoring. Next year, winners will be supported in attending the Caribbean Tales Film Festival in Barbados, where they can acquire additional knowledge and skills in film making, network with key players in the film industry and share their videos with an international audience.

First prize was awarded to Kareem Larcher and Jelani Paul from St Lucia, for The Fruit of Life, a fictional short film about a young girl who receives the gift of her great grandfather’s plans for a coconut processing plant.

We want people who watch it to think there is value in local food, especially coconuts,” said Larcher, 29.

We want them to feel inspired and emotionally connected to the product,” said co-director Paul, 22.

The second prize went to 26-year-old Jamaican Randy McLaren, for his film Breadfruit Versatile, which explores some of the many uses of this classic Caribbean fruit, including its flesh, juice, bark and blossom. He plans to invest his cash prize in a social enterprise.

Marc and Tannecia James from Jamaica, won third prize, for their film, Captain V, a story that shows the huge potential of some local foods by highlighting different value added opportunities.

Two special prizes were awarded to Lionel Stevens and Damian Woodley from St. Kitts and Kelly-Ann Murphy and her team from Barbados, for their films, CEMEPRO and Food Apocalypse, respectively. Fey Epina, made by a Haitian team represented by Renel Pierre Louis, won the Viewer’s Choice Award on Facebook.

Winners at the prize-giving ceremony during the 13th CWA, Suriname with Minister Soresh Algoa and CTA director Michael Hailu

Winners at the prize-giving ceremony during the 13th CWA, Suriname with Minister Soresh Algoa and CTA director Michael Hailu

CARDI Executive Director Dr. Arlington Chesney said the video contest made an important contribution to breathing new life into Caribbean agriculture.

The Caribbean Science and Agriculture Film and Video Competition attracts young people between the ages of 18 and 35. This is a very important age group as we look to modernise and revitalise our agriculture sector in the context of an ageing population,” he said. “This revitalisation must be information and knowledge driven – two areas of activity that are much more adapted to the youth of our community.”

The winning film was shown during the Alliance meeting attended by numerous ministers of agriculture from the Caribbean and leaders of the partner organisations involved in the CWA, shortly after the prize giving. The other videos are being shown to participants during the course of the week.

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