By Bernard Wainaina
CEO,Profarms Consultants®

Today, many NGOs and private agencies such as private commodity research institutes have their own
extension staff/system delivering more effective and relevant service.

Participatory research and use of
expert farmers and farmer research groups promise to partially replace, complement, or at least relieve
the conventional extension system.

Agricultural extension services have been decentralised in order to have
them well nested at the lowest level of government devolved units.

This is expected to make the services
cost-effective and responsive to farmers’ needs,while demanding accountability from extension staff
and other collaborators.

Public-funded extension service, which is facing many challenges, has a declining public support owing to financial crises and slow delivery of crictical information to agricultural systems in most African Countries.

Shift to private enterprise advisory services over government intervention as reflected in the. IMF & World Bank structural adjustment programs in Africa, and dissatisfaction with the perceived lack of impact by agricultural extension has led to the need to new ways of delivering information to our African farmers.

As I see it now, and in future, Social Media and Agriculture/Agribusiness can’t be separated.

They are firmly welded together as two sides of the same coin!

New development is going on such as the increase in use of Mobile phones in Africa continent, and along with it, the explosion of Social media use especially within our Youth in Africa.

The other great thing I note is an increasing use of Social media
By AGRICULTURAL PROJECT MANAGERS and CEOs in Agribusiness firms to broadcast their project ideas and exploit this new medium as a marketing platform.

They do this every day or once a week by posting or sharing some
useful information on new trends in agriculture as well as advertise their agribusiness products within Social Media Platforms.

They also call on suppliers to provide them with raw materials for value addition in their Agribusiness firms-providing market of agricultural products for a wide range of farmers and youth groups who have embraced Social Media as their main medium of communication.

One worthy and a professional step that these CEOs and Agricultural Project Managers have taken is to employ special personnel who will officially manage and operate their accounts in SOCIAL MEDIA and Forums or Hire Marketing and Public Relations Companies such so as to maintain and efficiency use
Social Media tools

They explore the best way to use Online Forums and Social Media to communicate and Connect
Professionals, Share best Practices, Innovation and other updates in Agriculture extension and Agribusiness Marketing.

Social Media platforms and community forums are becoming crucial in facilitating communication and access to information for agricultural and rural development.

Since agriculture is the national priority sector in most African countries, it is one of the potentially beneficial areas for the
application of Social Media platform for economic transformation in Agriculture and Agribusiness in Africa after collapse of government run extension services which have performed dismally in the recent years due to staff retrenchment and underfunding.

Development of special Social Media networks that use low-cost ICT tools such as mobile web based applications to enhance timely access to accurate and reliable information in agriculture and agribusiness is an idea that is now welcome in Africa.

It therefore calls for investment of part of the African Governments limited resources for ICT and Social Media development to promote agricultural extension and marketing through cost-effective channels as opposed to the traditional agricultural extension and marketing practices.

It is quite clear that a lot has been done in order to keep and promote Agriculture as the Back borne of
African Economy.

More should be done now within these new platforms in Social Media.

However we see other challenges and the slow growth of the agricultural sector ( small holder farmers) such as lack of enough access to INPUTS, LAND, MARKETS and these too are related to

The social networks and platforms such as Agri Hub
Tanzania,NAFIS Kenya could be such mediums in which
( enabling the platform to have a reasonable participants number without being overwhelmed with discussions outside the main topic, forums, success stories, innovations Science and technologies ,…….
etc etc)

The Big Question is, we ( PROFESSIONALS,CONSULTANTS and FACILITATORS) have a lot of MEDIA ranges from Social Media, Websites and other printed materials,
But do we REALY MAKE THE USE OF THEM for the benefit of our African Farmers and our now Social Media savvy youth?

YES it might be someone else’s job in your Organization(IT dept.) to update online presence, but do we HAVE THE SO CALLED a “Communication for Connection” with farmers as our main clients?

Do we really connect and maintain
the contacts with the other parties and stakeholders including the ones in related departments in and Outside organization?

If we can answer these two questions honestly,the we can be ready for a revolution in dissemination of technical information and market trends through the new age Social Media at a very low cost!

“The African Story as told by Africans”.©African News Digest®