The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) together with other organizations recently organized an ‘ict4ag’ conference which ran from 4-8 November, 2013 in Kigali Rwanda, shows the power of ICT and social media on influencing and engaging the young to the farming business. November 4 was the Plug and Play Day which showed a range of ICT platforms and mobile apps developed to enhance agricultural development along the value chain.
Among many platforms and apps developed, my attention caught by a platform called Mkulima (a young farmer helping a young farmer) which is a social media platform to engage young farmers.
Joseph Macharia a small scale young farmer from Kenya also a promoter of youth in agriculture, said in his presentation, the youth are not engaged enough in agriculture, how do we engage them, how do we make agriculture as an interesting topic and that is when we start thinking to get the attention of the youth. We knew the youth is out there on social media that was our triggering point to establishing a platform where the youth can share, discuss and inspire each other through farming.
Joseph quickly realized the potential of social media to become a platform where youth in developing countries can market themselves and their products. Then he started the Facebook page in January 2013. On the page young farmer can ask question and promote the young farmers who are in agriculture by broadcasting their success stories so that they can inspire each other. Within eight months’ time he got about 22,700 views on the page.
Joseph said, when we develop the platform we realized that one of the needs for the young people apart from information sharing and inspiration is that they can market or buy agricultural commodities. Then we have developed online marketing page for people to sale or buy. In this page, you take a photo of what you sale with small description; register on the page, price, quantity and location. Within 2 minutes automatically will be posted on Facebook page. The platform is very easy and will be available on all computers, laptops and runs on a simple mobile phone.
We have realized that the youth can be engage on agriculture if they are promoted well, feel recognized and inspired that is how we managed to mobilized many young people. Our next challenge was how to make finance available and put them in a circle. Currently we are registering the circle as saving cooperative according to Kenyans law, we are in the process of having the certificate of registration and the youth will be able to save and manage. The other thing was a need to create marketing network for the youth to produce in bulk for local market or export. The platform has even become a springboard for the local microfinancing enterprise that is empowering youth in his community.
The main challenge of the youth for not marrying agriculture is that they are still seeing their parents are struggling with old farming technologies but if we give them a modern technology they will be easily inspired. Youth don’t want to invest on something which takes so long.
ICT can play a big role on engaging the youth to agricultural developments. What we need is create a platform that will attract the youth, engage and provide relevant information to their need and targeted to them.