Can Technology Entice Youth to be Farmers?
August 31, 2015 Editor 0
The rural-urban migration in the developing world has created a large strain not only on governments, but also on public infrastructure. Many urban areas are ill-equipped to handle the influx of people searching for work, stressing resource allocation, housing markets, and social welfare programs. Yet, agriculture can provide young people an opportunity to move out of poverty, if they are properly supported by decision makers and by policy.
The world is realizing that we need farmers and that we need young people to be farmers. At the ICTforAg conference, Nira Desai of the World Cocoa Foundation pointed out there are less cocoa farmers right now than a decade ago because cocoa farmers are not being replaced by a younger generation.
Youth are not drawn to backbreaking work because they don’t feel they have secure access to land, support of elders, or a career path that will lead them to a better quality of life. With high youth unemployment rates found in urban areas, rural agriculture is a possible solution. ICTs present the unique solution of connecting these young farmers to opportunities in agriculture in order to create a more knowledgeable and better-supported community.
Creating Connections and Efficiencies
ICTs cannot change the nature of farming – the physically tough work can’t be sugar-coated – but they can help young people to work more efficiently. Building platforms to share advice and technique across regions is a method that has found success.
Across South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, organizations are seeing positive effects of their video projects, which demonstrate and explain the best practices. Additionally, the videos can feature local farmers, helping to highlight and to support the featured farmer and to encourage engagement with the project. To build status in the community, many organizations also are introducing e-Mentorship programs that encourage exchanges of knowledge and support for farmers new to the field, which can help mitigate feelings of isolation.
Providing farmers with necessary information is another method for supporting young farmers, and ICTs also have built successful programs that can provide SMS subscribers helpful information ranging from market prices to best practices advice. In order to better serve rural Nigerian farmers, Bassy Archibong of Chemonics helped create a system of free phone calls to farmers that gives them detailed the weather forecasts around which they can plan their farming activities.
Moreover, ICTs can have unintended benefits, as well: Internet access centers built near farms have become hubs for young people to go online, connect, and socialize with other young, local farmers. These projects are working. Today’s rural farmers have vastly different farming realities than those of previous generations, and supplying them with current information enable them to be better decision-makers.
More Than Technology
While these projects are exciting, it’s important to recognize that ICTs can do more to support and, perhaps, entice the next generation of farmers. Organizations are working towards professionalizing the field in order to provide a career path for young people and, thereby, support the local communities. ICTs are reinforcing these efforts by seeking to engage and connect local farming populations with these organizers.
Leadership positions present a viable career move for young people wanting to work in agriculture, but in different capacities. It’s necessary to recognize the multiple ways that youth can engage with agriculture beyond land cultivation. Providing farmers with daily or technical knowledge is beneficial, but it’s essential that the younger generation understand the benefit of being more politically aware. Educating farmers about policy and governmental procedures through online courses, workshops in data centers, or distance learning are more ways that ICTs can support and expand the agricultural field.
ICTs cannot override the preexisting system that has forgotten and ignored rural farmers for too long, but they can educate, connect and create a community of young farmers who work smarter and who work together.
Cassiane Cladis is a Masters student at University of Colorado Boulder and an intern at FHI 360
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