Can Social Media Help Kenyan Youth in to Farming?

Social media platform helps share and exchange farming information and provides a marketing avenue for young and upcoming farmers

(extract from an article in the Nairobi Business Monthly Sept 13)

LYF Kenya

Joseph in Kenya

Joseph Macharia is probably most well known for developing the hybrid of a stingless bee when he worked at the international scientific research institute ICIPE (International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology) in 2011. But he describes himself as a farmer, and asserts that his passion has always been  farming, whether socially, education wise or with work. And indeed he is one with three dairy cows and a small coffee plantation in Nyeri.

His enthusiasm for a sector that many Kenyan youth shy away from runs so deep that Macharia decided to broaden the appeal of agriculture among the country’s youth by engaging with them through the social media platform of Facebook.

He started the Mkulima Young Facebook page six months ago, and complemented it with the Mkulima Young website where farmers exchange information and market their produce. This, he says, was driven by the fact he wanted to pull the youth into farming because it is being viewed as an after retirement activity.

“The average farmer is 65 years old. In Kenya it is normal for one to be given livestock and other farming apparatus as retirement gifts. This classification of farming as an old man’s affair has to stop and what better way to do that than reach out to the youth via social media where they are most comfortable,” Macharia says.

Macharia, who is in his mid 30s, adds that young people might engage in farming if they were given the right information and inspiration. His decision to reach them through a social media platform, he explained, was because many of the youth were in their element when online or on Facebook, and as such would feel comfortable in seeking assistance and in sharing, selling and buy produce.

The Facebook page he set up, therefore, is aimed at reaching youthful farmers and those that aspire to venture into the field.

“The reason why I’m targeting the youth is because they are innovative and willing to learn. And also because I’m hoping that we can move away from conventional farming, embrace the use of technology and try to grow other crops apart from the traditional ones,” Macharia explains.

In just six months, the digital farmers’ hub has risen to over 17,000 members and is attracting graduates and school leavers into the agribusiness sector. On this same platform, success stories are shared to motivate members.

Macharia was surprised by the high interest that the page registered, but is confident that he will be able to provide quality information on these platforms because he can track the needs of these digital farmers and respond accordingly.

He works with a team of three who together track comments and questions and generate responses. The web page complements the social media page and creates an avenue for those that want to start a business and those who want to buy or sell agricultural produce. The two avenues together have seen youth who previously could not access markets earn thousands of shillings via the online platform.

Macharia also hosts a radio program called Mkulima Young on Kikuyu station Coro FM, in an attempt to reach the youth through broadcast media. The show is sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation

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