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The Facebook Farm to build young Kenyan farmers

With agriculture as one of the most dominant economic drivers in Kenya, Joseph Macharia set up "Mkulima Young" ("Young Farmer" in Swahili) to build and nurture a growing movement of young Kenyan farmers online. The Facebook page currently has 33,000 followers to discuss farming techniques, crop varieties, soil productivity and seasonal yields. It tells personal stories of success and grievances, providing photos and interviews - all taken by Macharia's team (who are also all young farmers). Mkulima Young created online market place to "trade" goods such as crops, livestock, fishlings, and seeds.

Photo of Jennifer Fong

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Check out Mkulima Young

Key learnings:

1. This example is proof that social media has been able to bring fragmented communities together and to engage young people in agriculture. 
2. Youth are the perfect teachers to train one another - they just need to platform to do so.

Questions this examples raises:
1. With the average Kenyan Facebook user at 19 years old, how can Facebook and other forms of social media be used to create dialogue and opportunities for enterpreneruship amongst youth? 
2. How else can the concept of an online trade platform be used? Perhaps an opportunity to spur business ideas, skills trading, equipment sharing, etc.
3. Some more food for thought - Would a similar project work best if it's owned by regional champions like Joseph Marcharia, or could there be a way to get the international community involved? Similar to " WeFarm" where rural farmers with no access to the internet send questions via text, volunteers translate this information in a centralized database, and farmers with internet around the world can respond to these quesitons.

17 comments

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Photo of Joanna Spoth

While their primary purpose is not information sharing and there's not a large online component, myAgro (http://www.myagro.org/model/our-model/) has an impressive retention rate, on the ground training element, and method for building economic stability in West Africa through agriculture. I wonder how their success would change if they tried to integrate a more virtual element, especially for young people looking into their career paths. Gamifying agriculture or sharing myAgro stories from around the world could engage a whole new customer base.

Photo of Jennifer Fong

Thanks for your comment & ideas Joanna! I'm looking at myAgro right now and it's very interesting! Though what do you mean by "gamifying agriculture?"

Photo of Joanna Spoth

With an online information sharing mechanism for local farmers, there's a lot of potential to take it a step further and provide rankings, incentives, and collaborations. Not necessarily in a competitive spirit, but a way for farmers around the world, or even in a localized area, to keep in touch with each other and keep track of progress in an interactive way. Does that help clarify?!

Photo of ANTONY ISWEKA

Creating online jobs direct tax free sales and marketing where by you upload your product with full details and your contacts to the client from agricutural products,electronics,clothing,land,machinery thus creating wide range of opportunities to trade and employment coming in in big numbers.the farmer,industry will employ more staff due to high demand thus empowering the youth positively financially where by they can be able to sustain their families too .

Photo of Jennifer Fong

Thanks Anthony! I definitely think there's room for online commerce platforms to play a role in youth employment opportunities in countries like Kenya. I noticed from your profile that you're from Kenya - where do young people in both urban and rural areas find out about job opportunities?

Photo of ANTONY ISWEKA

Mostly they are advertised or got through friends or relatives refferal,radio,notice board and internet job search engines like brighter monday in major towns

Photo of Hima Batavia

This is a really interesting example -- and illustrates potential opportunities for vertical "quora-esque" platforms. It makes me think of this social enterprise in India called Gram Vaani - which aims to be the "facebook of rural india." Its created a voice-based solution, where people can leave messages/questions on various channels, and then others can call in an listen to messages on channels -- and forward or respond to the messages -- creating both viralty and community. They've done some really interesting work over the years, but the challenge continues to be sustainability and finding monetization opportunities.

Photo of Jennifer Fong

Thanks for sharing this Hima! It's really interesting to see another great example of IVR being used to bring voice to those in rural areas. I like the emphasis on women using Gram Vaani. I agree that the challenges are in sustainability and monetization opportunities but perhaps there's a way to parallel what online job postings, online marketplaces, online networking can do to be incorporated into this Facebook-type platform. With a virtual meeting point in place, there must be a way to drive economic development through it.

Photo of Sagar Tandon

Thank you so much for such an awesome post because I can really link with what I believe in-bringing farms back and bringing these rural people back from urban areas.
I believe in what Freeman Dyson said in “Social Justice and Technology” that we need to reverse the movement of people from cities to villages. People should have free choice between village and city and this can only be possible if wealth come back to village. And we can bring prosperity to village only by making new technologies available to everyone, to bring hope to poor.

Photo of Jennifer Fong

Thanks Sagar! Great to hear your enthusiasm regarding technology in agriculture. With the majority of developing country populations in the rural areas, moving to the city capitals cannot be the only answer. I'm convinced that many of the secrets to unlocking economic prosperity lies in the rural areas themselves - it's just figuring out what these are. If you have any ideas, please share!

Photo of Luisa Fernanda

Jennifer,
This is a very interesting example of using technology to support young people working in agriculture. I wonder the effect it has had in reactivating local economy. Has it decreased migration of youth to urban areas?
Great share,
I am curious if there are other similar examples and further insight in the effects of this initiative.

Photo of Shane Zhao

Great point Luisa. The rise of new technologies and social media has created new support communities to revive interests in agriculture and other traditional trades. Instead of moving into urban areas to pursue mainstream job opportunities, young people can be incentivized to stay in their communities and revive the local economy. By adding a social element and improving access to resources, young people can also bring about new innovations to the trades and crafts of previous generations.

Jennifer, you've brought up a great point about how such trade platforms like the Facebook Farm can also involve an international community. You might be interested in checking out this post on how an arts campaign was used to re-brand rice agriculture and generate tourist dollars for struggling rice farmers. In addition to sharing skills and resources, I can also see how a trade platforms can broadcast similar campaigns to draw in the support of an international community. https://openideo.com/challenge/youth-employment-pathways/research/super-cool-program-using-art-to-increase-economic-opportunity-for-rice-farmers

Photo of Jennifer Fong

Thanks for the ideas! Luisa - from my research it appears that this has indeed decreased migration of youth to urban areas and has made farming more attractive. What's interesting is the "trading" area - sort of like a Craigslist for farmers. I'll have to do a bit more digging.

Shane - Thanks for sharing Rice Code! It's a fascinating idea. I'm now thinking about where this could actually be done, different industries it could be applied to, and where the international community comes into this process. Do keep posting if you have any further thoughts!

Photo of wekesa zab

Interesting post.. And land use beyond this coz we have slightly above 1.8million Facebook users in kenya and 50million + in Africa.. There is alot of dialogue happening around this space tho.. Mostly the connected young guys

Photo of Meena Kadri

Also super interesting because it leverages a platform that is free to use (unlike creating & hosting your own website) Awesome share, Jennifer!

Photo of Jennifer Fong

Yes! I was envisioning ideas such as a "craigslist" for Kenya. Here's a great example of small scale female traders who go through a 'broker' that posts their businesses on Facebook (in this case its a lady that bakes cakes). Just thinking about whether this can be done for job posts, business ideas, skill shares, etc. If you have any thoughts, please let me know! http://www.globalpressjournal.com/africa/kenya/small-scale-female-traders-kenya-learn-use/page/0/1

Photo of OpenIDEO

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