Thursday, 29 September 2011

Internet and Social Media for Agriculture kenya

Information and communication technology in agriculture is an emerging field in Kenya. This involves application of innovative ways to use Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for agriculture information sourcing and social media networking with collaborators and stakeholders in the agriculture value chain. ICT in Agriculture will facilitate dissemination of accurate, timely and relevant agriculture market and extension information as well as major government services to the community. This will create a good environment for competitive profitable agriculture, leading to self employment, food security, income generation and poverty reduction.

For the Internet to be an effective tool for rural farmers’ access to agriculture services three complementary things need to be in place namely, implementation of Government policies supportive to development of physical Internet access in the rural areas. Secondly the farmers  need support in learning how to use the Internet and interpret the information for application in agriculture. Farmers groups are an important resource to facilitate the adoption of e-agriculture internet innovation. Today the use of the Internet to source for agriculture information is a preserve of innovators in Africa. In view of this it will be more practical to measure the number of farmers with access to the Internet through community groups other than individual farmers’ approach. In rural Africa, community tele-centres are the realistic means of Internet access.

Majority of the Farmers in rural Kenya respond to information that has been tried and proven by the experience of innovators, in order to confidently make a decision to apply the same in their personalized situation. ICT will facilitate the farmers’ interaction with the innovators which will increase the speed of adoption of agriculture technologies. It is far much easier for the institutional developers of farmer’s information to broadcast a product to a mass audience, often derived from existing print material, than to contextualize it and enter into interpretive online conversations about it. Internet farmer’s education and online extension services will  speed up on-farm technology application due to interpretation of the information as happens during field days. Groups of farmers will find the advice on technology; help to interpret the advice as well as reference to other relevant service providers. A small number of specialized online extension workers could have a large impact on many groups. Facilitating online groups is a time-intensive, highly focused and skilled activity. online extension workers need different skills from face-to-face extension workers.

Online agriculture groups will be an important development which will help to make local sense of Internet services as they complement face-to-face groups. Both online extension services and online groups are important means of supporting the uptake of innovative farm practices. However, the potential for the use of the Internet to support farmers’ learning has only been partially realized in Africa. Mostly  farmers’ will require information designed for self-served clients working on their own. This calls for Information and Communication Technology skill development amongst farmers . Introduction of online facilitation skills into agriculture is necessary like in online education or commercial online communities.