Social media, mobile apps drive youth to agriculture

Watering a field of vegetables
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 [KIGALI] What are some of the most promising tools helping women and the youth to transform the face of Africa’s agriculture? Yes, mobile applications, social media and videos are the ‘in-things’ inspiring a new generation of happy farmers.

Enthusiastically and rapidly adapting to new ways of ‘harvesting’ information, women and to an even greater extent young farmers of Africa are using information and communication technologies (ICTs) to obtain the best market prices, keep records and find crops in high demand.

From the ICT4ag international conference held in Kigali, Rwanda, last week (4-8 November), I gathered that technology is taking more farmers into the next frontier of agriculture, raising hopes for a truly green revolution in Africa to eliminate food insecurity and help curb the acute poverty levels that bedevil the continent.

Young farmers are in the trenches of the war to achieve food security and are using ICTs to get information on pest and disease control, access to new farming practices and agricultural technologies, communicating with other farmers and raising awareness. These farmers are shaping a fulfilling future for agriculture in Africa,

“It is a socially connected world indeed and farmers are the real beneficiaries.”

Alberto Leny

The most used tools are MS Office (Excel and Word), Internet (also available on mobile phone) and social media, especially Facebook, Frontline SMS, videos, radio, TV and online media — newspapers, magazines and brochures. It is a new and indeed exciting world of agriculture gripping the continent.

This multi-directional sharing of information has partly led to an explosive growth in mobile phones. So why does social media matter in agriculture? Well, statistics indicate that by the end of this year, one-third of the global population will use social media tools every month.

Joseph Macharia, a farmer and extension worker from Kenya, says: “We started using social media in December 2012 with Mkulima Young (‘Young Farmer’) on Facebook targeting the youth. In January we had 50 likes. Responses from youth under-32 on where to sell and buy their produce led us to Mkulima Young Soko (‘Market’) and we hit 22,760 likes.”

They now have 10,000 members registered on Google, so they can monitor who is online. This clearly shows the youth are interested in agriculture.

Tanzanian software developer and farming instructor, Ernest Musanya, concurs: “Despite small challenges, we are helping enhance extension workers reach farmers using ICT tools. The youth get self-employment, downloading applications in their phones”.

It is a global phenomenon illustrated by National Ecological Producers Association (ANPE) of Peru, a network of agroecological youth using ICTs to bring farmers in remote areas together, consolidating and marketing their organic products.

 “Our 70 young agroecological members use social networks, social media, TV, Facebook, YouTube and Sound Cloud to promote youth entrepreneurship and leadership, resulting in increased sales at Eco-Fairs,” says ANPE project coordinator Jahve Mescco Condori.

It is a socially connected world indeed and farmers are the real beneficiaries.

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.