Following decades of underinvestment, global attention has now turned back to agricultural and rural development as a result of the 2007-2008 food price crises. Now is the time to ignite the interest of the young and empower them to play a greater role in the advancement of this important sector.
Maureen Agena, a young development professional from Uganda, illustrates a perfect example of this. The story she tells was shared as part of a 2010 CTA competition inviting ACP youth to impart their ideas and experiences on the use of ICTs in the field.
She explains how a 25 year old small scale fruit farmer in Maruzi County has used mobile phones to secure success for his business. He accesses weekly market price updates giving him essential information on the best time to sell his produce. Social media has also provided him with an opportunity to enter new markets. In early 2010 he took part in a Web 2.0 training and subsequently joined Facebook and Twitter. He plans to use these tools to access a wider market for his fruit business.
New business opportunities
There is also evidence of similar proactive attitudes at a community level. Telecentres are no longer just a location to come to access communication tools. Thanks to the foresight and initiative of some young managers, these centres now provide a very valuable service. Using their experience and ICT know-how they are helping local producers to expand and develop new business opportunities. Sulah Nduala is a 35 year old telecentre support network coordinator from Uganda. In 2009 he met Sunday, a 32 year old migrant farmer from the Uganda-Rwanda border. After a decade of going from job to job, Sunday turned to farming but with little success.
[callout title=About CTA]
The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is an international nonprofit organisation established under a joint agreement between the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of countries and the European Union. CTA’s mission is to advance food security, increase prosperity and encourage sound natural resource management by facilitating access to information and knowledge, policy dialogue and capacity strengthening of agricultural and rural institutions and communities in ACP countries. CTA offers access to a wide range of products and services in numerous areas including youth in agriculture.
Raising youth awareness and building their skills in agriculture and rural development through ICTs, is the focus of the ARDYIS project established by CTA and its partners. The project contributes to the sensitisation of youth on the questions related to agriculture and rural development in ACP countries and to the promotion of opportunities for them. (http://ardyis.cta.int/). For more information on CTA visit www.cta.int.[/callout]
Sulah showed him how he could use his mobile phone to increase sales. The strategy was simple; develop mobile phone mailing lists from households in the area and send SMS updates about what produce was ready and available for consumption.
The result was life changing. Consumers came directly to his farm to buy fresh produce at cheaper prices. Many even used ‘m-money’, a mobile phone money transfer service, to pay. In one season alone, he made US$1,500 profit. With this money he has been able to expand his farm buying five heifers and additional land.
Need for new agricultural policies and curricula reforms
The opportunities are endless and the enthusiasm and resourcefulness demonstrated by young people to harness the potential of ICTs is exciting.
However, these individual activities are not enough on their own. A well supported agricultural industry is necessary if bright young people are to be attracted into it. At a youth exchange and training workshop on Web 2.0 for agricultural and rural development organised by CTA and partners in Accra, Ghana in March this year, some 30 young people from 18 ACP countries discussed this very issue.
In a communiqué, they called for stronger support for youth involvement in agriculture and ICTs. They highlighted the need for relevant agricultural policies, reform in the curricula to reflect necessary skills needed in agriculture such as business plans and how to use and develop ICTs. In addition, they recommended the piloting of a robust peer-extension, localised training on good agricultural practices and agro-processing with an ICT officer programme to help young and emerging farmers to master their trade and boost capacity in rural and urban areas. The establishment of regional ICT incubators to develop contextual and efficient technological responses to agricultural issues was also proposed. The group further emphasised that success was dependent on providing quality training to boost the capacity of farmers and trainers to ensure the effective applications of ICTs in this sector.
These sentiments were further underscored by one of CTA’s senior programme coordinators, José Filipe Fonseca, in a presentation on advocating for the involvement of youth in agricultural value chains at FANRPAN’s node common visioning workshop in Swaziland in February this year. He argued that while the agricultural sector needs youth for its knowledge and technology based modernisation and to increase its productivity, it must put in place holistic policies to attract young people.
Young people need a voice
ICT training on its own is not enough. Young people need to have a voice and a role in the development of conducive agricultural policies and policies on youth in agriculture. This will elevate the sector to a whole new level and will secure a new dynamic generation to become involved in shaping the future of agriculture and rural development in ACP countries.
This is really a good innitiative. We are working on the development of a functional value chain for agricultural commodiies with a view to effectively raising the standard of the rural poor. A lot of women and youths are being targeted. the response we get is overwhelming and will require support to develop the needed capacity to cope and build a viable institution to address the problem arousing the youth to take the lead to building a viable rural agricultural economy that will form the foundation for poverty eradication. Please expose us to opportunities to build the capacity of our staff and volunteers.
Greetings from Kenya!
I am delighted about your initiative to support young farmers. I work in the IT and e-Government field but my passion is for environment and agriculture. i have previously worked with the British Council in promoting information for development for women farmers.
I have recently acquired a small piece of virgin land 35 Kms outside Nairobi which i intend to develop into a purely and wholly organic farm. It is a semi arid area so my first project was to sink a well for irrigation purposes. I am now interested in establishing contacts with fellow farmers, practitioners and researchers to share information on how i can achieve my eco-farming as a business objective. i plan to do integrated farming to include fish, livestock, traditional food crops (tubers, vegetables, legumes, fruit trees) and tree nurseries. At a later stage, i will include a “farmer field school” concept to educate other farmers and visiting students about eco-farming. I have previously tried this out successfully in our family farm as part of my university project 10 years ago and now intend to do this on my own farm. One interesting outcome from my university project was that my experimental plots started attracting eco-tourists! so agro-eco-tourism will also be of interest as a sustainable business model for my proposed farm.
Looking forward to your response.
It’s nice to read about this. I have been a beneficiary of the ARDYIS CTA project and one of the East African Regional winners of the Essay Contest. Thanks to the elearning 2011 team for sharing this.