Wed | Mar 21, 2018

Young researchers take top prize in Italy

Published:Friday | December 9, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Anne-Teresa Birthwright (right) makes a point during the Water beyond Borders Conference in Chicago last year, while Shaneica Lester looks on. The two were the Jamaican representatives at the Young Earth Solutions competition in Italy earlier this month.

It took several months of intense preparation to develop a Knowledge Transfer Curriculum (KTC) from which farmers in St Elizabeth would benefit as an avenue to contend with the devastating effects of climate change.

Despite the hurdles, Anne-Teresa Birthwright and Shaneica Lester, who were the only participants from Jamaica in the Young Earth Solutions International Competition held in Italy, emerged as the winners out of hundreds of competitors worldwide.

The global competition, which was initiated in 2012, is for young students and researchers from all over the world, with the aim of rewarding the best ideas about food and sustainability. The announcement was made at the forum which was held December 1.

Both Lester and Birthwright told The Gleaner that in conceptualising the KTC, the primary objective was to present an educational design with a summative evaluation to be used to enhance the knowledge capacity of farmers through adaptive irrigation strategies.

"We sat down and knocked our heads together and looked at the irrigation curriculum. We have worked with several projects as research assistants and field officers, and one gap that always emerges is farmers talking about the drought and water deficiencies," Lester said.

"We thought it would be good to take this one issue of water and target it, looking at water conservation, water management, plant and water interaction. We also thought that it was necessary to not only provide physical equipment, for example, an irrigation system, but really look at the behavioural change of it," she continued.

Birthwright added that though there has been an emphasis on providing new technologies for farmers, she noted that it was even more important that persons are equipped with knowledge and skills.

"Not every farmer can get a physical system or technology anyway, so even though you will have a lot of intervention projects, not every farmer will benefit from this; however, skills, knowledge, experience and technical know-how are tools that a larger crowd can benefit from than us having a project that will be implementing some sort of technology," she told The Gleaner.

Both Lester and Birthwright said that come January, they will be going out into various communities in St Elizabeth to test the project in order to do the necessary evaluation.