Always on the phone: How communication technologies can link youth to agriculture

Technology offers young farmers a way to connect to markets, each other, and information. Photo: Centre for Sustainable Rural Development (SRD)

An online conversation asked participants about the role of communication technologies in connecting young people to agriculture in the run up to World Telecommunications and Information Society Day. 

In rural communities in developing countries, agriculture is often lauded as a solution to youth unemployment. However, young people shy away from farming for a variety of reasons, including a lack of access to land and capital in addition to unpredictable income, leaving the sector an aging one. Information and communication technologies (ICTS) could make agriculture a more promising career path for millions of young people. ICTs have the potential to increase market access, provide weather forecasts and link rural farmers to information networks and other farmers.

To explore the role of ICTs in youth-led agriculture and agribusiness, and in the run up to the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), in partnership with the Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network (CSAYN), held a month long online discussion on the Climate & Agriculture Network for Africa (CANA) Platform.

Participants responded to a range of questions, from technology as a tool to support youth-led agribusiness to discussing the barriers to ICT use. The use of ICTs to link young people to agriculture was a natural fit according to many contributors.

“Most people born since the mid-1990s have probably never known a world without smartphones” one participant remarked. Another continued this point, saying “youth tend to be tech-savvy and they can be involved in developing digital applications that can be used to enhance agriculture along different points of the value chain.”

While farming is a meaningful career path for millions, the online conversation also examined how ICTs help non-farmers support agriculture. One participant suggested viewing agriculture as an “ecosystem” where a range of job paths, from farming to engineering, linked by ICTs, support the sector.

Adding to this conversation, another user pointed to the reputation of agriculture, recalling “teachers would tell us to work hard or else we could end up toiling in the farms with meager payments.” They noted the ability of ICTs to reduce production costs and allow farmers to share data and knowledge as a method of reducing the drudgery often associated with farming and making it more profitable.

While the online discussion is complete, we’re not done with the conversation. Join us on May 29 for the webinar, "The Digital Revolution: Engaging Youth in Agriculture through ICTs,"  to further explore ICTs and their role in connecting young people to the agriculture sector.

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Kathlee Freeman is a communications consultant with the CGIAR Research Program on Cimate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).