ICT : Strengthening Youth Agribusiness

INFORMATION Communication Technology (ICT) offers an abundance of benefits to users especially in soci economic aspects, yet much of this potential remains untapped particularly in the case of young men and women who play a fundamental role in agricultural production but also face a triple divide: digital, rural and gender.

They often tend to have less access to ICTs, leaving them and their families at a disadvantage.

Thanks to the Vijabiz project, thousands of rural youth boast of such benefits. Youth groups participating now have access to more opportunities due to their superior ICT knowledge and compatibility.

From the aspect of competency, character, confidence, caring, to connection and contribution. From their success stories, they are in agreement that ICT training courtesy of the project implementers CTA and USTADI have changed the way they work, access information and connect with each other.

Digital technologies like social media and mobile phones, which are generally not available in rural areas, are increasingly being adopted by the youth in the project. Furthermore, the use of common but useful tools such as Excel (for record keeping) has also yielded impressive results.

The impact of ICT training sessions for youth groups in Kilifi and Nakuru Counties

Training sessions in Nakuru  and Kilifi Through 12 training sessions held between March and April 2019, the project has built the capacities of representatives of 163 youth agribusiness groups involved in the project on ICT and social media for agribusiness.

Leaders of youth groups as well as some of the members who can use ICT were targeted. The curriculum of the training was based on the award-winning Web2fordev and social media training curriculum developed and used by CTA.

Before the training started, a training of trainers was held on 20 and 21 February 2019 at Mash Pack Hotel, Nairobi.

Representatives of ICT for Development-Kenya (ICT4D-K) and Institute of Advanced Technology, the two firms that were selected to deliver the training in both counties, attended it.

They were introduced to the adapted curriculum developed for USTADI and CTA by a Kenyan consultant. Delivery methodologies were harmonised.

The training curriculum included the following units:

 •  Introduction to ICT for agriculture, social media concepts and principles

 •  Finding information on the internet (online search, Google Alerts, etc.)

•  Using social networking for agribusiness  (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

•  Collaboration using online conversation  (Hangout, Skype, etc.)

•  Use of Google Drive

“A baseline study undertaken by the Vijabiz project at its launch revealed that only 4% of the Vijabiz youth groups don’t use any digital technologies at all, though the main usage is mobile money (45%) and basic communication. Most of them were unaware that social media could be effectively used to promote their businesses and market their products” -USTADI FOUNDATION.

Against this backdrop, the Vijabiz project decided to strengthen the use of ICT by the youth groups as part of its activities. One of the key activities in this framework is the training sessions on ICT and social media use for agribusiness that the project organised.

Book keeping problems a thing of the past…

Wazo Jema youth group that initially struggled with proper financial keeping, has now adopted a mobile application called ‘My Cashbook’ which they currently use for efficient record keeping, proper filing and printing Excel sheets. Extensive areas covered:

•  Record keeping using spreadsheets

•  Remote collaboration using mailing lists in agribusiness

•  Mobile applications in agriculture (with Kenyan examples).

In Kilifi, a total of 93 youths (47 male, 46 female)  were trained while 223 youths (75 male and 147 female) attended the Nakuru training sessions.  These activities were organised in collaboration  with the county governments in both regions.

The knowledge and skills gained have captivated the majority of the youth groups to open social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter particularly) and advanced their use of WhatsApp for promoting their businesses and marketing their products.

Some youth groups, for instance the Grennthumb CBO based in Nakuru county, have even stepped up and created websites to further enhance the promotion and marketing of their businesses and products.

These initiatives and/or actions resulting from the ICT and social media training have improved the businesses of most youth groups cutting across dairy, cereal and fishery value chains, and produced diversified benefits.

For example, Wazo Jema, Umoja, Tiger Group, Eaglesight, and Greenbelt youth groups have increased their volume of sales and income by tapping the potential of Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp as online platforms for marketing products, creating market linkages and growing market reach beyond their communities.

The groups brand their products, take quality photos and along with descriptions of the products, post them on those platforms. Interactions with customers through such platforms enable them to get feedback on their products and services, improve them, and then gain trust which is relevant for further increasing their clients base, sales and for business growth.

Furthermore, some groups are now engaged in digital record keeping and enhancing efficiency and business management.

Specifically, the Wazo Jema youth group based in Kilifi county that initially struggled with proper financial keeping, has now adopted a mobile application called ‘My Cashbook’ which they currently use for efficient record keeping, proper filing and printing Excel sheets when needed.

 Also, Greenthumb CBO after training by a Google Africa representative, presently has a ‘Google My Business’ account by which the location of their business with coordinates can be traced through Google Maps, enabling them gain more visibility for their business and enter new markets.

Despite these benefits however, the youth groups are challenged by high costs of internet services (largely mobile data) and limited access to finance to offset such costs, poor network and connectivity particularly in the rural areas where most groups are based. The current low level of internet access in Kenya is also a limitation for the groups to rapidly increase their online customers.

Every problem comes with its own solutions-all we need to do is find it and work accordingly. In this case, VIJABIZ found two answers complementing each other-the Youth and ICT, the impact has shown now ICT can make agriculture ‘modern’ and  ‘cool’.

They may not have turned into savvy tech youth, but what is key is that ICT knowledge has made them better judges of their situations and most importantly, increased their ability to think-out of the box. The results can only get better!