05 Nov

SCARA Symposium on ICT and Agriculture, September 2019

SCARA Symposium Participants

The SCARA Symposium on ICT and innovations in agriculture, “Creating the Future Together “organized by Egerton and BOKU University under the APPEAR project “Strengthening Capacities for Agricultural Education, Research & Adoption in Kenya (SCARA)”, took place from 27th to 28th of September 2019 at Egerton University, Njoro Campus. More than 70 participants discussed and deliberated on the topics ICT, digital agriculture, socio-cultural and gender issues and agricultural sustainability coming when the agricultural industry in Africa is experiencing a transformation driven by the increased adoption of technology on different frontiers. The symposium was sponsored by Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) under the auspices of Austrian Partnership Programme in Higher Education and Research for Development (APPEAR) in collaboration with Egerton University.

Key notes on mentioned topics were provided by Alexander Valento, CEO of YielderKE, Dr. Joel Onyango from the African Centre for Technological Studies and Dennis Tianta from Agrisolve Detawald. The participants, representing different stakeholder groups from farmers, extension agents, scientist, NGOs, developers, media and high school students used the opportunity of direct stakeholder interaction to develop new visions for ICT and youth in agriculture and find new and innovative ways for knowledge creation and sharing. In “Idea generation” and “decision making” sessions challenges and opportunities of ICT were identified which can show the way into a new digital age in agriculture. The role of youth was found to be of paramount importance in future as education becomes more and more important for both the youth and their parents. Young people are more interested in well paid jobs than getting their hands dirty. However, unemployment rates among young Kenyans are increasing.  Either food production has to intensify to meet the increasing demands of a growing population with fewer active people in the food production sector or new ways of agricultural production have to attract young innovative Kenyans. Youth in agriculture has to find their niche to be innovative. Youth are beyond for just being part of the labor force and to be successful in agriculture there are plenty of opportunities along the value chain in Kenya. On the other hand, a large group of Kenyan farmers, young and old, have a different more conservative perspective on agriculture.

Idea generation session

Only 28% of rural farmers in Kenya have access to a smartphone. What about those, among many of them are female farmers, who don’t have access? The digital divide is a major threat to those farmers. Feature phones and SMS is a solution but for rural farmers radio and TV are major sources of information on weather, market, laws and emerging trends. ICT include a wide range of tools to disseminate information to end-users and provides opportunity to interact between involved stakeholders. ICT platforms have the capacity to enable farmers to access information on product pricing and local markets, source for inputs and weather conditions. However, discussion cannot be solely about the use of ICT in agriculture which should enable farmers to access relevant information. Information has to be accessible but also in a format that makes it usable for users. But it is also a matter of trust. Farmers are questioning whether the information they receive is legit. Farmers prefer to have different sources and cross-check even with people they know and trust. Limited access to internet services and access to transport for important market access also keeps to be a big issue. The role of the Government is clear, and this has to include the provision of enabling environment, especially for marginalized groups, and support systems and policies that support innovations and ICT-driven ideas at small & medium enterprise and capacity building in ICT. Development of ICT for agricultural services requires a substantial budget and investment. Mindset of users is often “smartphone apps have to be free of charge” This is economically unsustainable for many developers and startups in Kenya.

Different generations exchange ideas and views

Research should be connected to solving actual problems and put into practice by practitioners in a multiple dimension context. Integration of ICT in teaching agriculture has been found to be effective in instructional delivery strategies in the aspects of crop production, livestock production, soil science, agricultural economics and agricultural engineering. Agriculture in Kneya is no longer just about crop production or livestock farming activities. Young learners must be prepared to deploy ICT in countering the challenges brought forth by ecological factors affecting the environment. Hence the role universities play in this area is important not only with a strong focus on research on ICT and agriculture and to produce specific sets of data but also integrate ICT, digital data management and the role of innovations in agriculture in their curriculum. Success of agriculture in Kenya also lies on the shoulders of tech savvy youth. Youth should take the responsibility and look for opportunities and knowledge and this is certainly a key role and responsibility of universities to create enabling environments as well.

Choosing Priorities

The SCARA symposium was organized with the intention to create a wider forum for stakeholders to share visions and challenges on ICT and agriculture in Kenya. It certainly laid the foundation for a platform for interactions on these pertinent topics. The main priorities identified by the “idea generation” sessions were “training of end-users on ICT”, “focus on small holder farmers”, “improvement of existing mobile apps by developers in cooperation with farmers”. All involved stakeholders are invited to join hands and forces to create a better future for all in the agricultural sector in Kenya.

12 Apr

Youth and Agriculture – A challenge for the agricultural sector and food security in Kenya

The are a multitude of arguments when it comes to the issues whether the agricultural sector in Kenya or Africa in general is a viable option for employment for the youth. Some, like Karen Brooks Director of IFPRI argue in a blog post, that agriculture offers a good option to move out of poverty and build satisfying lives if only leaders made policy and investment decisions that increased the competitiveness of Africa’s ‘local farmers’. Others like Jim Sumberg, research fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, says in a blog post that “upgrading employment opportunities within the agricultural sector (i.e. from preventative to promotive and/or transformative), may only come about through the fundamental restructuring of the sector”. Both positions implies that huge efforts are needed to create change at the policy level to have a wider impact on the agri-sector and the youth.

The Youth wants the change and they are on the way

While the debate is ongoing and changes through policy and investment decisions or  restructuring of the sector is most-likely to trickle in slowly, the youth is looking for opportunities and the market and the agribusiness is moving at much faster pace.

The SCARA APPEAR project gives young people the opportunity to explore options and challenges and look for solution from their own perspective. And that is what happened last week at Egerton University. 30 young people from young farmer, ICT experts, high school and university students met to discuss burning issues related to agriculture and youth. During the workshop organized as an open space, they had the opportunity to voice they opinions and look for solution from their own unique perspective. And this was only the beginning of an interesting journey.

The youth council – an advisory board by young people

As a major milestone of the SCARA project, a youth council was established. The youth council will meet on a regular bases to discuss issues regarding youth, agriculture, innovations, challenges, ICT, ICT4Ag and solutions that fit their unique needs. They will provide input to a Innovation Platform (IP) that will be formed to discuss the metioned issues on a broader multi-stakeholder scale.

Creating the agenda SCARA APPEAR open space ICT agriculture

Creating the agenda SCARA

Agenda of the youth SCARA APPEAR Egerton Kenya ICT agriculture

Agenda of the youth SCARA

Group discussion SCARA APPEAR Egerton Kenya agriculture ICT

Group discussion SCARA

High school student SCARA APPEAR Egerton Kenya

High school student SCARA

Group picture youth workshop SCARA APPEAR Egerton Kenya

Group picture youth workshop SCARA

Youth council members SCARA APPEAR Egerton Kenya

Youth council members SCARA