The World Food Forum 2024: Good food for all, for today and tomorrow.

Meet the winners of FAO Geneva’s World Food Forum Photo Contest

Meet the winners of FAO Geneva’s World Food Forum Photo Contest

Recently, the FAO Liaison Office in Geneva organized its first Photo Exhibition, celebrating the 2023 World Food Forum (WFF) – an independent, youth-led global network of partners facilitated and hosted by FAO to engage young people in the transformation of agrifood systems. The photo exhibition showcased ten compelling photographs from the recent WFF photo contest, where youths were invited to submit photos on this year’s World Food Forum’s theme ‘Agrifood Systems Transformation accelerates Climate Action.

FAO Geneva met with the top 3 photo contest winners to learn more about the stories behind their winning photos:

  • Ganesh Rijal, “Terrace Farming”, Nepal
  • Uteno Achor David, “The Woman that Farms”, Nigeria  
  • Pradeep Bhattari, “The Agrifood Hub”, Nepal
First of all, congratulations on winning the top 3 for the World Food Forum Photo Contest! How did you feel when you first got the news?

Achor:  I was super excited because at the beginning of this year, I set a goal to be globally recognized by my photos as a documentary photographer,changing the narrative using stories about my country.

Ganesh: I was shocked to know that I was one of the three winners. I could not  believe it, so I checked whether the sending email was authentic or not. Later on, I found out it was real. I was thrilled.

Pradeep: Thank you so much! When I first received the news that I had won a top spot in the World Food Forum Photo Contest, I was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. It was a mix of excitement and disbelief because I knew there were so many talented participants from all around the world. The photo contest had a vital theme, 'Agrifood Systems Transformation accelerates Climate Action,'  I poured a lot of passion and effort into capturing a meaningful moment that conveyed this message.

To hear that my photo had resonated with the judges and earned a top spot was truly a humbling experience. It made all the hard work and early mornings spent capturing that moment in my village  worthwhile. Winning this contest has not only boosted my confidence as a photographer but also reinforced my belief in the power of visual storytelling to inspire positive change in our world. I'm incredibly grateful for this opportunity and for the chance to contribute to the conversation about the importance of agrifood systems transformation in the context of climate action.

What was your inspiration for your winning photos? Can you give us a brief presentation of your photo and some back story?

Achor: Growing up as a teenager, I had the privilege of spending three years living with my beloved grandmother. She was a passionate farmer, and in our household, it was a tradition for the young men to assist with the more strenuous farm work, such as lifting heavy loads and tackling demanding tasks. Despite the toil, I cherished those days when I joined her on the farm, for they promised sustenance during some challenging years. Years later, I embarked on a new chapter in my life, relocating to the northern part of Nigeria. After completing my university education, I discovered my true passion in photography. Through my lens, I found a powerful medium to convey the stories of the local people and their lives. During one of my projects in the far reaches of northern Nigeria, I encountered a group of farmers. They were singing joyfully as they meticulously cleaned their harvested wheat. The sheer elation on their faces was a sight to behold. In that poignant moment, memories of my grandmother and our time in the fields came rushing back. I remembered her warm smile when I completed my tasks on the farm. Regrettably, I wished I had captured her image in photographs before she left this world. It was then that I resolved to document the scenes before me—a reflection of my own past, a tribute to my grandmother, and a portrayal of the incredible stories of women who, against all odds, devote themselves to nourishing their families. These images are nothing short of heroic, for they epitomize the strength and unwavering support of women worldwide. They tell the story of unsung heroines who persevere and thrive in the face of adversity, making a significant impact on the lives of those they love.

Ganesh: I  love taking pictures of traditional lifestyles.  Most of my photographs portray the old traditional village lifestyle. I took that winning photo back in 2022 when I was roaming around my village. That picture is taken from my phone. One of the youths from our village was plowing his paddy field for paddy plantation. The paddy field is made from terrace farming. The tradition of terrace farming is beneficial for soil, crops, and agriculture. I submitted this picture to the photo contest, hoping that judges would recognise the essence of traditional terrace farming. The picture was taken from my phone, so I was not  confident I would win, but was hopeful. My hope turned out to become a reality.

Pradeep: Certainly! My inspiration for the winning photo in the World Food Forum Photo Contest came from a mixture of my love for photography and a deep appreciation for the agrifood systems that sustain our communities.

The photo I submitted features a captivating scene from my village, where rolling hills, lush fields, and the hard work of three dedicated farmers take center stage. It is  a serene and picturesque landscape that encapsulates the heart of agrarian life. The backstory is just as compelling. I have always been drawn to the idea of capturing the interplay between agriculture and the environment, and this particular image presented the perfect opportunity. I spent time in my village, getting to know the local farmers and understanding their daily routines.

On the day I took the winning shot, I painted the landscape in a golden glow. The farmers in my photo agreed to let me document their work. As they walked through the fields against the backdrop of the imposing hills, I couldn't help but feel that this moment represented a beautiful harmony between human activity and nature.

My goal was to communicate that agrifood systems transformation is not just a global issue but something deeply rooted in the everyday lives of people in rural areas. It was about showcasing the hard work, dedication, and resilience of these farmers who are integral to our food systems and how their efforts contribute to climate action. In essence, my photo is  to tell a story of sustainability, environmental stewardship, and the vital role of youth in shaping the future of agriculture and climate resilience. I am grateful that the judges at the World Food Forum recognized this message and chose my photo as one of the top three winners in the contest.

The photos you submitted were breathtaking. How did you get into photography?

Achor: I often say that I did not choose photography; rather, photography found me. Back in my primary school days, I used to transform my notebooks into impromptu sketch pads. In my close-knit community, all my friends shared a passion for drawing. After school, we would eagerly gather to showcase our latest creations. We took our artistic ambitions to the next level, even drawing on the walls and, after the rains, crafting intricate sand drawings on the ground.

As I progressed beyond primary school, I came across my big brother's vintage Kodak camera. I could not resist swiping it, even though it was beyond repair. Then came the era of Java phones equipped with cameras. Recognizing a need for photography and videography, I ventured into the field, discovering a profound love for the art of creation. My dance journey began in 2006, shaping my creative vision and honing my artistic sensibilities. In 2015, I joined my church's media team to capture church services, while 2017 marked my participation in a filmmaking seminar. In the interim, I borrowed cameras from friends to document their small gatherings and celebrations, although my understanding of digital photography was rudimentary then.

Eventually, I confronted the fact that my true calling lay elsewhere. I approached my boss and informed him of my decision to resign and return home, which I did in March 2019. By September of the same year, I decided to fully immerse myself in the world of media. I purchased my first camera and embarked on a journey of capturing life through the lens. I photographed everything that caught my eye and ventured into the realm of wedding and event photography.

During one memorable event, I seized the opportunity to photograph a bride, and that single act changed my life. I acquired the bulk of my photography knowledge, an impressive 80-90%, through the plethora of online resources, especially YouTube tutorials. Fuelled by my passion for impact, community development, and the betterment of my surroundings, I began volunteering with organizations dedicated to these causes.

This unique combination of experiences has brought me to the remarkable point in my life where I find myself today—celebrated by prestigious organizations such as FAO and WFF.

Ganesh:  I started doing photography back in 2020. During the height of Covid-19, lockdowns occurred everywhere,  and we were all locked up in our own rooms. Back then, I started visualizing small traditional lifestyle changes in our surroundings. I planned to keep a record of them permanently. It was only possible because of the photography. This is how I started doing freelance photography.

Pradeep:  I appreciate the kind words about my photos. Photography has been a passion of mine for quite some time, even though I'm not a professional photographer. My journey into photography began with a simple love for capturing moments as they are, without any formal training or professional aspirations.

It all started with the desire to freeze moments in time and create visual stories from the world around me. I found beauty in everyday scenes, whether it was a stunning landscape, a candid moment among friends, or the charm of my village's agrarian life. I began using a basic camera, and over time, I learned to appreciate the art of photography as a way to document and share the world as I saw it.

My photography journey has been more of a personal exploration and a means to share my perspective rather than a pursuit of a professional career. It is a way for me to express creativity, celebrate the beauty in the ordinary, and connect with the world through visual storytelling. So, while I may not be a professional photographer, my passion for photography comes from the heart, driven by a genuine appreciation of capturing life as it unfolds.

Can you share your view of why youth’s voices matter and how do you think photography can contribute to raising youth’s voices in advocating for a more sustainable agrifood system?

Achor: In the evolving landscape of agriculture, technology is paving the way for a dynamic shift that's catching the eye of our younger generation. With its integration, technology is breaking barriers and encouraging the active involvement of youths in the agricultural sector. Currently, the majority of farmers are elderly and seasoned individuals. However, as technology continues to expand its reach, more and more young minds are recognizing the vast array of opportunities within this field. However, a pressing issue remains: the lack of compelling narratives surrounding young people engaged in sustainable agricultural practices.

To bridge this gap, there is a pressing need for comprehensive storytelling training and master classes that can be offered to young individuals on a global scale. This initiative can potentially empower our youth, especially the aspiring women farmers who are the future agri-preneurs, encouraging them to take actionable steps towards sustainable agriculture.

In essence, we need to amplify stories about young women, both in rural and urban settings, who are making significant contributions to sustainable food production at a smaller scale. This amplification can be achieved through the powerful mediums of photography, film, and art contests. Such stories will resonate globally, offering insights into the remarkable work being done by young farmers across different continents. These narratives will not only serve as a source of inspiration but also as a source of motivation for others to take up the challenge and strive for improvement.

Furthermore, by utilizing photography, we can shine a light on the untold stories of remarkable farmers in various corners of the world. These stories are not just tales; they are captivating, life-transforming experiences that can ignite a spark in aspiring farmers, propelling them into action.

In summary, the use of photography to tell these stories has the potential to create a global ripple effect, motivating and mobilizing the youth to actively engage in sustainable agriculture. Through these captivating narratives, we can illuminate the path to a future where our agricultural landscape is shaped by the energy, passion, and innovation of the next generation."

Ganesh:  Photography has the power to raise awareness. It can educate the youth about sustainable agriculture and food systems. A picture speaks louder than words and by showing the causes and effects of sustainable agrifood practices, we can make the youth aware.

Pradeep:  Certainly. Youth voices are a vital component in shaping our future, particularly in advocating for a more sustainable agrifood system. Young people bring fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and a deep sense of urgency to the table when it comes to addressing pressing issues like food security, climate change, and sustainable agriculture.

Photography, as a medium of visual storytelling, has a unique capacity to amplify the voices of youth. It provides a platform for them to express their concerns, aspirations, and ideas in a way that transcends language and cultural barriers. Through photography, young people can capture and communicate the realities and challenges faced by their communities, as well as the positive changes they envision. Photography serves as a powerful tool for education and advocacy. It can inform, inspire, and mobilize people on a global scale. In the context of a sustainable agrifood system, youth can use photography to document and showcase innovative farming practices, climate-resilient techniques, and community-driven initiatives. By sharing these visual narratives, they can raise awareness and influence policy makers, businesses, and the public to take meaningful actions toward a more sustainable and equitable food system.

Youth photographers can also engage in storytelling that humanizes the complex issues within agriculture, making them relatable and understandable to a broader audience. This approach has the potential to bridge gaps, foster empathy, and motivate collective action. In summary, youth voices matter immensely in the discourse of a sustainable agrifood system. Photography empowers them to be advocates, educators, and change-makers. It enables them to shine a spotlight on the challenges and solutions within agriculture, and it can inspire a global movement towards a more sustainable and resilient future in the realm of food and agriculture.

Do you have any last words for the readers?  

Achor:  "In the end, the world is our legacy, especially for our children, who will inherit the fruits of our actions. It is our shared responsibility to be stewards of Mother Earth, for everything I strive to do in my lifetime is to capture the stories of our relentless efforts to create a brighter world for the generations to come.Let us unite with one love, one life, and a collective commitment to protect our planet. Remember, water is not just sustenance; it is the essence of life itself. With our shared dedication and determination, we can leave a legacy of inspiration, a foundation upon which future generations can build, and a world that thrives for the betterment of all."

Ganesh:  Thank you for reading. Keep working hard and never stop believing on yourself. It doesn’t matter what you do, give your best.

Pradeep:  As we draw our conversation to a close, I invite you to embark on a journey to a place where magic and wonder intertwine. Nepal is a land where the Himalayas touch the heavens, and the hearts of its people reach out with warmth and generosity. It is more than a destination; it is an enchanting odyssey of self-discovery, where the breathtaking landscapes speak to your soul, and the myriad of cultures and traditions create a vibrant tapestry of humanity. Nepal whispers stories of spirituality and adventure, where you can find your inner harmony and explore the depths of the world's beauty.

In this mystical land, may you discover not just a country but an inspiration for a life lived fully. I encourage you to immerse yourself in the unique experiences, connect with the gracious locals, and leave with a heart full of gratitude and a longing to return. Nepal is a place where dreams take flight and where the extraordinary becomes an everyday miracle. Moreover, as I continue my journey and explore the world, I am on the lookout for a platform that will help me flourish. I hope to connect with like-minded individuals and organizations who share my passion for photography and storytelling, and  together, we can create something truly remarkable. So, as you embrace the magic of Nepal, I also hope that you will join me in this pursuit, and together, we can inspire and uplift one another. Nepal is  one chapter in our grand adventure, and the world is full of stories waiting to be told.