It was amazing to finally see so many stakeholders, our thriving and diverse agri-community all in one place, at the recently held TechAgriExpo2017.
This event was long overdue as expressed by many of the student volunteers, visitors, business owners and entrepreneurs, who contributed to the event’s success which was held at the St. Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies. The event was the perfect opportunity to build on YPARD T and T’s plan.
What did we learn from the expo?
There are so many agriyouth out there. In our country alone, there is quite a high number, not only from the Faculty of Food and Agriculture’s student base but from all backgrounds, communities and educational levels. The same goes for the number of agripreneurs and food innovators all seeking to build their brand, product and business.
In effect, the event itself proved that the agricultural community exists far beyond the academic fraternity. Unfortunately, existing learning institutions and the stakeholders in the sector are disconnected. Trough the expo these stakeholders, especially our agriyouth, where given the opportunity to connect, interact and build new relationships over the course of the three days of activity.
It was clear that our presence was necessary. Fortunately through the efforts of Tech4agri and WhyFarm which are run by our YPARD members, a table space in a shared tent was made available to hold our membership drive.
We have learned long ago to use whatever resource we have to get things done. YPARD info was added to the Tech4Agri giveaway packages, while communications focal point for YPARD T&T, Enricka Julien interacted with visitors at the WHYFARM table.
Weeks prior to the expo, a committee was formed to represent YPARD, and plans were made to boost membership and execute a mentorship program. We seek to have greater impact and more face to face activities to truly improve the skills and know-how of agriyouth in T&T. The expo allowed us to achieve the first part of our plan sooner than expected, which was a welcomed occurrence.
Our efforts have been a success having launched a YPARD T&T Facebook group, prompting visitors to the expo to join the group. The group now has 338 members, some of whom are from other islands, with a steady, daily stream of opportunities, specifically for agriyouth in the Caribbean.
So what’s next?
How do we keep the momentum going? We stick to the plan while being ready to make changes as necessary. Of course, this has not been an easy process. Our committee members have many responsibilities not to mention making a livelihood for ourselves as young professionals.
However we are passionate about supporting our colleagues, therefore after a couple iterations of the program, several WhatsApp conversations and one face to face meeting, we decided on an online and hands-on type of mentoring program.
With much interaction, particularly with intended mentorship expected to be done online, other aspects of the program are very much practical exercises meant to effect learning by doing. Some of these include vertical farming, social media and business development. At this stage, we are still making changes to the plan as we hope to have this funded via a local opportunity.
This opportunity honestly presented itself meaning we had to be ready to make changes to our previous plans and pivot, by tweaking them to fit the requirements of the application without losing sight of our goal.
It is a work in progress with the submission deadline looming. Wish us luck in getting these funds to drive our plans for agriyouth development.
Picture credits: Keron Bascombe